Spanish Mass fills the body as well as the soul


ST. HELENA ISLAND — The Blessed Sacrament, two baptisms and barbecue were all a part of a special Saturday evening Mass and fiesta for migrant workers and other parishioners of Holy Cross Mission on St. Helena’s Island June 7.

Organized by Sisters Shelia Byrne and Stella Breen of the Franciscan Center, the event began with a Spanish liturgy celebrated by Father Jose Antonio, a priest from Columbia who has served in the Diocese of Charleston three months.

He serves an area encompassing North Charleston, Charleston, Beaufort, and Hilton Head, and works as a spiritual director for the Spanish-speaking immigrants, conducting Bible studies for adults and youth, listening to Confessions, training leaders for RENEW, and forming small Christian communities, “comunidades de base.”

After serving in Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario in Canada for the past 10 years, Father Jose relocated to South Carolina due to the large need for Spanish-speaking priests.

He said that his current assignment entails “different things in different areas,” as Puerto Rican immigrants make up a large percentage of the Spanish-speaking population in Charleston, while persons from Mexico are predominate in the southern part of the state.

The South American cleric is also looking at ways “to network parishes to work together.”

In the Beaufort area, Sister Shelia said that many of the 200 people attending the Saturday gathering had arrived on the island just that day to work during the tomato harvest. However, she added that 15 to 20 farm worker families reside in the area on a permanent basis, and more were starting to settle there as their children grew older. “They (the migrant workers) are getting younger and younger,” the nun acknowledged.

The early June Mass and fiesta was the first in a series of future community get-togethers at Holy Cross. The barbecue, coordinated by parishioners and Bill and Lynn Meyer, was in the planning stages for three weeks, with most of Saturday devoted to cooking and other preparations. The feast headed up by the two San Antonio natives featured 128 pounds of Texas brisket, 38 pounds of cole slaw, several trays of beans, and over a dozen coolers of soft drinks.

The Meyers were asked by Father Jose and the sisters to head up the effort because they had done a similar function for migrant workers at their former parish in Ohio.

From the looks of the faces of the many volunteers and their satisfied diners, its a strong possibility barbecue sauce will again figure prominately in the next fiesta.