Crossing the Language Divide
A practical, simple way to be able to give homilies in languages besides your mother tongue.
"Our Hispanic parishioners, over 30% of our parish, are not distracted and enjoy the fullness of the liturgy... We also are performing more baptisms because we are able to offer the sacrament in Spanish." Reverend John Zimmerman
The need it meets
Addressing a parish community's different cultural and linguistic needs can seem overwhelming. The practical, simple approach offered in this Best Practice helps cut the challenge down to size by streamlining homily preparation in languages where you lack fluency.
Where it came from
After spending time in Guadalajara to learn Spanish, Fr. Zimmerman was named pastor of a parish which needed one weekend Mass in Spanish. He needed to prepare a Sunday homily in a second language without losing the meaning of the original in English.
How it works
Fr. Zimmerman reports:
"Practicing it is important as I learn how to pronounce properly the Spanish words. As a result, our Hispanic parishioners, over 30% of our parish, are not distracted and enjoy the fullness of the liturgy.
"We also are performing more baptisms because we are able to offer the sacrament in Spanish. People come up to me thinking I am proficient in speaking Spanish because of my ability to read the homily in Spanish. However, it is much easier for me to read than it is to hear and translate what Hispanic parishioners are trying to say to me after Mass in Spanish.
- The desire to unify the parish as "One Faith, One Family" hastens the impetus for improved bi-lingual Masses.
- Imagery in the homily helps make it relevant and applicable to one's current situation.
- Marriage retreats & missions need to be bi-lingual for the unity of parish.
- Do not assume the English words we use properly translate into another language.
- To learn sufficient basics of a foreign language it is not necessary to travel. Many self-teaching programs are available at bookstores and on line (e.g., http://www.pimsleur.com.au/ and http://www.rosettastone.co.uk/.
How to implement it
Find a trustworthy person within the parish or community who speaks Spanish and is knowledgeable of the Catholic faith and vocabulary (check with your diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office if there is no one in your immediate parish). This translator should represent the predominant dialect in the parish as vocabulary can vary from one Hispanic culture to another.
The priest needs to remain faithful to his side: preparing his homily far enough in advance and sending it to his translator on time. The priest should then practice it with someone who will help with pronunciation. Reviewing the homily in English and Spanish helps the priest learn the vocabulary.
Note: epriest.com's Homily Packs also include a brief homily in Spanish each week, including an English translation and a Spanish recording with proper pronunciation.
Rev. John Zimmerman is pastor of
Our Lady of Peace.