Lupita Muñoz lives in Appleton where she has attended St. Thérèse Parish since the early 2000s. She has two adult children and a granddaughter.
One of the things that has most helped me feel connected with my parish is the Spanish Mass. Of course, the Mass is universal and everywhere I go, in Spanish or English, the church is my home. When I go to other parishes, yes it’s my home, but it’s different. But when I go to Mass at St. Thérèse, it’s in my language and everything about the Mass embraces my Hispanic culture. Singing the traditional songs that I sang when I was little, seeing the fervor and passion of the Hispanic community has helped me feel welcomed and more connected with my parish.
Growing up, my father, who never learned to speak English and never learned to read and write, would encourage us to learn English, since we lived in the United States. But he also reminded us, “Don’t forget your roots.” My mom, too, would always remind us that we are Mexicans. Our Mexican culture is a beautiful culture. I’ve been here most of my life and I love the United States. I think I am more from here than from Mexico, but I love my Mexican heritage, the food, the music. I think it’s important to have an identity and remembering my roots and embracing the Mexican culture helps me to feel that sense of identity. Being a part of St. Thérèse, I have felt that strong sense of identity, that sense of this is who I am.
Within our parish we have three communities — the Hispanic, the Micronesian and the Anglo community. It’s a really nice community, very welcoming! These communities blend well together into one parish, which we celebrate each year through our feast days, especially the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
That feeling of acceptance helped bring about my conversion. Fr. Bill Hoffman was the priest when I had my conversion, and he was more than a priest; he was like a father. When I spoke with Fr. Bill, I felt no judgment. When I was feeling bad about something I did, he would just laugh a little and say, “OK, let’s start all over.”
Fr. Bill’s experience working in the Dominican Republic when he came to St. Thérèse was very, very important. I have gone with him on mission trips to the Dominican Republic and the Masses are very energetic and lively. I think that helped him embrace the idea of bringing our culture to the Mass. So when we asked to include the Aztec dance as part of our celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he supported it. This was right when my family started going to church and that made a difference for us.
If I could give a message to Christians about being welcoming to all people regardless of their race or culture, I would say if you’re living your faith, it shouldn’t be a problem. This is true in the church and outside the church. Our faith teaches us that we are all children of God, and there’s no reason why we should be racist. Live your faith and love!
Editor’s note: This is part of a special Compass series featuring photos and narratives from the “Open Wide Our Hearts” photo exhibit. For more information on the exhibit, visit gbdioc.org/openwideourhearts.
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