By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — When Father Chris Young was assigned in solidum to St. Peter-Buffalo, St. Alphonsus-Davenport and St. Mary-Davenport, his residence was placed at St. Mary Parish. That parish is about 65 percent Hispanic. Fr. Young said he knew a little Spanish. “I had Spanish in high school and college. I could comprehend and read some. But I was just a beginner.”
With a growing Hispanic population in the Diocese of Davenport, he decided it would be a good idea to learn more Spanish.
So from Jan. 9 to Feb. 6 he participated in a Spanish immersion program in Nicoya, Costa Rica. The institute caters primarily to North Americans, from university students and business people to teachers. “It wasn’t set up for priests in particular, but they did align me with a local parish,” Fr. Young said.
The trip was financed by a grant from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
Fr. Young spent six hours daily in the classroom Monday through Friday. Afterward he had homework. Everything in class and in the home stay was conducted in Spanish, he noted. Through the parish he was able to concelebrate Mass, witness a wedding, help support high school mission work and participate in the Feast of St. Blaise. “It was a major feast for them.”
There wasn’t much spare time to sightsee or do anything else, Fr. Young said. A group of boys from Nicaragua came through the area and he played a game of baseball with them.
“I’ve improved my Spanish,” he said upon his return. He is now able to answer the door and phone and reply in some Spanish. “I can celebrate Mass, baptisms, quinceaneras and hear confessions in Spanish,” he said. But he admits he can’t converse the best in Spanish. “I can read it moderately now.”
Fr. Young and Father Guillermo Trevino, who is fluent in Spanish and also serves in solidum at the parishes, attend the monthly Hispanic ministers meeting. They can’t commit to attending all meetings or meetings together but try to rotate.
Recently the Knights of Columbus Council at St. Mary’s asked Fr. Young to be their chaplain. “I am honored. Their meetings are conducted in Spanish, so it will be some good exposure for me.”
He continues to do homework in Spanish that was assigned from his immersion program. It’s home study work now. His constant companion is his book “501 Spanish Verbs.”
“My experience helped me have a broader understanding of the church,” Fr. Young said. He will now be able to pray and focus energy on encouraging vocations within the Hispanic community. He hopes to encourage some to consider a vocation to the priesthood.