Monday, January 5, 2009

Bakersfield, CA, pastor marries 40 couples in a single day

Bakersfield pastor solves mystery of why parishioners wouldn’t take Communion, marries 40 couples in a single day

Not long after Fr. Miguel Flores became pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bakersfield about a year ago, he began to notice a curious phenomenon. While his mostly Latino parishioners at the nearly 3000-family, 100-year-old parish faithfully attended Mass on Sundays, it was mainly their children who received Communion. Many parents opted not to take the Blessed Sacrament.

Fr. Flores decided to investigate. What he found, according to the Bakersfield Californian, was that a good number of the moms and dads were not married, either civilly or sacramentally. “The reason, Flores said, was that many of them -- the majority are farmworkers -- are undocumented and fear deportation if they petition to be married by the state,” the Californian reported. “The church assuaged their fears and provided a marriage preparation course that included a retreat and answered all their questions.”

On Saturday, Dec. 20, Fr. Flores rectified the situation for 40 such couples in a single, super-wedding at St. Joseph’s. “The idea is to have them be able to come to church proudly, with their head held high, feeling that both the Church and state support them,” Flores told the Californian.

In Mexico, the home country of many of the couples involved, the state does not recognize marriages performed by the Church, and the Church does not recognize civil marriages, so it is typical for faithful Catholics to get married twice – once by the Church, once by the state.

Fr. Flores told the newspaper that only around a third of the couples who were married at the parish on Dec. 20 had been united previously in a civil wedding, while the rest had lived as husband and wife without benefit of marriage by Church or state.

The community wedding, Fr. Flores told the Californian, had straightened out “the civil and ecclesiastical state of their unions.”
California Catholic Daily
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