Pittsburgh church communities expanding outreach to Latinos

The Diocese of Pittsburgh is expanding its pastoral outreach to Latinos, adding Masses in Spanish and Portuguese, strengthening faith formation programs and finding new ways to support such a diverse and growing group.

Latino faith communities are flourishing in the city of Pittsburgh, North Hills, East Hills, and Butler and Washington counties, according to Jorge Vela, diocesan coordinator of Latino ministry. More than 40,000 Latinos live in the diocese, and nationwide nearly seven in 10 Latinos are Catholic.

Made up of professionals and service contractors, new immigrants and second-generation families, Latinos come from a variety of backgrounds and nations.

Spanish language Masses are celebrated every Sunday at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Meadow Lands, St. Catherine of Siena Church, part of St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, and at St. Rosalia Parish in the Greenfield section of Pittsburgh. Mass was moved last month from nearby St. Regis Parish for improved meeting space and parking.

“The Latino community is a vibrant, important part of our parish grouping,” said Father Kris Stubna, administrator. “The response to our Spanish Mass has been encouraging, and we are working hard to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for the Latino community.”

A Spanish-language Mass was added at SS. John and Paul Parish in Franklin Park, celebrated on the first Sunday of every month by Father Jay Donahue, administrator, who learned to speak Spanish while serving as a missionary in Mexico City.

“Latinos have a deep devotion to our church, the sacramental life and to Mary,” Father Donahue said.

Masses also are offered in Spanish monthly at St. Paul Parish in Butler and St. John the Baptist in Plum. A Portuguese-language Mass is celebrated at St. Catherine of Siena, where there is also a bilingual Spanish-Portuguese Mass. Spanish-English Masses are offered at St. John the Baptist (Plum) and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, where Julie Cosentino recently was named coordinator of Latino ministry by Father Carmen D’Amico, administrator.

“Hispanic ministry at the parish level is important for building community, connecting cultures and celebrating the diversity of holy mother church,” she said.

Marina Osthoff, faith formation coordinator at the St. Catherine of Siena site, leads nine volunteer catechists and three aides. Last year they helped teach the faith to more than 80 children.

“We have many new families from Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela and Puerto Rico,” she said, crediting Father James Bachner, pastor of St. Teresa of Kolkata, for his strong support.

Funding from Our Campaign for The Church Alive! has helped to train eight volunteer catechists, as well as promote religious vocations and improve communications, according to Vela. The Pittsburgh Catholic publishes Spanish-language articles monthly, and Spanish articles can be found in parish bulletins in Latino faith communities.

Last year five Masses and processions were held to mark the solemnity of Corpus Christi. Nearly 1,000 people attended.

Bible classes are available in Spanish in Plum, Butler and Meadow Lands, a marriage ministry program is being launched and a diocesan Latino Council was formed, made up of representatives from the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru.

“The pastoral care of Latino people is a high priority,” said Auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid. “They are a faithful, generous people from many different cultures and traditions who enrich our diocesan church.”

Latino Catholics with questions or in need of assistance can contact Vela at jvela@diopitt.org. Los católicos latinos que tengan preguntas o necesiten asistencia pueden comunicarse con Vela en jve-la@diopitt.org.