[...] Five years ago, Audrey Stafford of Richfield's Assumption Parish said, “we were all white. We didn’t have any African-Americans and no Hispanics to speak of.”
Now Stafford and her husband appreciate the parish’s diversity. Many of the new Hispanic parishioners are young families, who she said bring new life, beautiful customs and strong devotion to the once-aging parish.
Like many parishes in the archdiocese, Assumption has become the spiritual home to a growing number of Hispanic Catholics moving to the Twin Cities area.
But what sets Assumption apart is its success at integrating the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities.
In 1994, when the traditionally German parish closed its school, the aging parish population started to decline. However, Assumption began to change dramatically in 2001, when former pastor Father Michael Tix added a Spanish Mass.
About 200 people attended the Spanish Mass in that first year. Over the last five years, that number has more than doubled. Now the parish has two weekend Masses in English and two in Spanish.
The influx of Hispanic parishioners “has been a real shot in the arm for this parish,” said the current pastor, Father Thomas Merrill, a Conventual Franciscan.
A great ‘coming together’
Recently, Assumption unveiled a million-dollar renovation of its 1954 church building and facilities. Both the Spanish-speaking and the English-speaking communities contributed time and money to the project.
Many Hispanic people supporting the renovations were using envelopes for the first time, said Father Merrill. “It showed a real sense of ownership.”
However, Father Merrill used different approaches for the project with members of the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities.
“With the Americans, I said we’ve been here for a long time and we want to continue to be proud of our church and continue to make it beautiful,” Father Merrill said. “And with the Hispanics, it’s more the idea that you’re recipients of a great tradition and now you’re going to have to take care of it. . . . The torch is being passed to you.” [....snip] Read the Rest in the Catholic Spirit