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St. Charles County Churches Welcome Spanish-Speaking Community

St. Charles honors its Spanish heritage in many ways. The Spanish language community celebrates its faith and continues to grow in fellowship and community.

It was my first Las Posadas. I was fortunate to find Virgil Heinle of St. Ann standing at the corner of Main St. and Boone’s Lick last Saturday evening. This was number 12 for him, the fifth one for his daughter and the first time for her friend. As we were talking, an event official came right up to Heinle and the girls and asked, “Would you help pull the Yule log in the procession?”

“I’m your good luck charm,“ I said as the three of them left to join the main event.

St. Charles boasts multiple ancestral lineage: French, German and Spanish. For a number of years the Christmas Traditions festival in St. Charles has included Las Posadas, a religious celebration of Spanish origin that is also praticed throughout Mexico.

Las Posadas translates as “the inns” or “the shelters” and the idea is to re-create the journey Joseph and Mary took to Bethlehem and their experience of being turned away by so many innkeepers because all the inns were full.

Yes, there was a real donkey, and a very authentic looking Mary and Joseph going from inn to inn along historic Main Street asking for a place to stay. Even in the pouring rain, many people followed behind them,along with the Yule log, the carolers andthen hundreds lined the 10 blocks to see the procession go by.

The event ended on the stage in  with a live Nativity scene, shepherds, sheep, angels, and even a crying baby Jesus; there was a nice assist by Santa Lucia handing a bottle to mother Mary to calm her child.

As I waited for the procession to begin, I heard one Spanish-language conversation. Since 2000, the Hispanic population in St. Charles County has grown from 4,176 to just under 10,000 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In St. Charles City and County I have discovered that there is a Spanish language and heritage faith community active beyond what this re-enactment begins to suggest.

Roman Catholic

It has been 10 years since St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church offered its first Spanish language mass, Sept. 9, 2011. Father Richard Tillman was senior pastor of the church then and he took the initiative to arrange for a Spanish-speaking priest from St. Alphonsus Rock Church in St. Louis to come out to Borromeo to offer Mass for residents of Hispanic descent.

This ministry has grown in the decade since, said Fr. Don Schramm, senior associate pastor at Borromeo. Schramm came to  in June 2006. He had spent the previous 12 years in Bolivia and Chile where he told me he learned to speak Spanish.

Schramm said there are two Spanish language Sunday “catechesis” or Sunday school classes of about 20 students each and that preparation for the Sacraments of First Reconciliation (First Confession), and First Communion are offered in Spanish or in bilingual classes.

Schramm gives the Misa Espanol, the Spanish language Mass, each Sunday at 11:30 a.m. When he is away, Schramm told me that he seeks out those very few priests in the Archdiocese of St. Louis who are able to fill in for him. 

In Wentzville, St. Patrick's Catholic Church also offers a Spanish mass on the first and third Sundays of the month. Rev. Donald A. Glastetter, senior associate pastor, was approached by persons in the community who asked if a Spanish language mass might be provided. Glastetter told me that he learned Spanish serving in South America for many years, and agreed to provide a Spanish language mass now into its fourth year.

Protestant

According to a press release, as of Nov. 27, 2011, the first Spanish congregation of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has formed in St. Charles County. The San Carlos Branch meets at 9 a.m. on Sundays at , 2245 Old Hwy 94, St. Charles, MO 63303. 

Jaime Castro of Harvester Christian Church, St. Peters, has been the pastor for their Spanish service since 2004. There is a fellowship group, called a “Life Group” on Tuesday evenings and Castro told me that a Youth Group has started to meet on Thursday evenings.

The Spanish service is Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel at Harvester Christian Church.

“People come from all over to attend,” Castro said. “From St. Ann and Bridgeton to Wright City and Warrenton, some travel an hour to be here.”

Those who come to worship on Sundays linger for community and fellowship.

“Sometimes I don’t leave for a long time after worship is over,“ Castro said with a smile. This is their church, a place of welcome and belonging. As a pastor, Castro offers counseling, support, visits the sick and is a leader to this flock.

I attended the service Sunday, Dec. 4.  I was there mostly for the photo opportunity, but I clapped at the joyous music, especially at offering time.

Halleluia! The joy of giving!

Castro is a passionate preacher. Even though I do not understand Spanish, I understand emotion.

I can participate in prayer. Even though I do not comprehend every word, I understand "Gracias, Jesus." 

And I understand "Feliz Navidad, amigos."

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