ST. BONIFACE — The only Spanish parish in Manitoba, Nuestra Senora de la Asunción, offers more than 30 opportunities of various types for the faithful of all ages.
Nuestra Senora de la Asunción in Winnipeg encompasses no fewer than 33 different groups, including the Knights of Columbus, catechetics, the Nueva Jerusalen Charismatic Prayer Group, the liturgical committee, Equipos de Nuestra Senora (Our Lady teams) for couples, F.A.C.E Youth Ministry, an Arise group, and the Neocatechumenal Way, among others.
Pastoral co-ordinator Melvin De Paz, who is one of those responsible for youth evangelization, explains, “This all started with the charismatic prayer group. We now have five catechetical groups for children three years and older, as well as for adults, a liturgical committee, six different choirs, and many other groups! In addition, we have one of only five Spanish Knights of Columbus Councils in Canada.
“Here, everyone, from the age of three to the elderly has the opportunity to participate in parish life,” he emphasizes. “Our parish priest, Father Jorge Mario Londono, is extremely open to new ideas; he is not afraid to take risks!”
But how do these groups function in harmony? “The key is communication,” states De Paz. The group leaders meet every two months to share their activities and challenges. That is how they are active and dynamic, having so much to offer!”
A relatively new parish, Nuestra Senora de la Asunción, with its 220 families, remains very active, while nonetheless welcoming many recent immigrants.
“In 1986, a group of people requested a Sunday mass in Spanish in the Diocese of Winnipeg’s St. Ignatius Parish, but soon realized something more was needed, and in 1992 the charismatic prayer group Nueva Jerusalen was born,” explains Laura Garcia, co-ordinator of the charismatic group.
“The need and growth continued, and we joined the Archdiocese of St. Boniface in October 2006, where a Spanish mission was being opened, and then in October 2010 we became an actual parish,” she continued. “As a parish, we could then have a full-time Spanish-speaking pastor,” states Laura Garcia, who is originally from El Salvador.
The Charismatic Prayer Group meets every Friday at 7 p.m. in the church, and every year organizes a New Life in the Spirit seminar. Over time more than 800 people have participated in the seminar and many of them now are leaders or active members in other groups of the church. This seminar is the basic Christian Initiation and a game changer for anyone seeking a “new start” a “new life” or simply to have a personal experience and relationship with God.
One of the reasons for this success is that it is an immigrant’s personal parish (not geographical). As the only Spanish-language parish in Winnipeg, it welcomes the faithful of 21 countries from all over the city, who find here a sense of community and family.
“Our parish is a family for many immigrants,” states Rev. Jorge Mario, who is originally from Colombia.
Nowadays, however, along with the important sense of community and the use of the Spanish language, first and foremost, the parish in answer to Archibishop Albert LeGatt calling to be witness in a secularized society, wishes to open itself up to the Manitoban milieu dominated by the English language.
“This year, a group of young people have asked to work in English and have an English mass, so we bought English Bibles and have started reading them. It was like falling in love with Jesus all over again!” said Melvin DePaz, who is originally from Guatemala.
Since May 2015, the parish offers two bilingual English-Spanish masses twice a month. “It was important to take this approach because, even though the immigrant parents speak primarily Spanish, their children who grew up in Canada communicate more easily in English, and the parish was losing touch with their young people,” said De Paz.
“Because of the use of English, and that they will be able to invite their English-only speaking friends, we will be able to keep them,” he concludes.
What’s more, many people who were unreachable because they didn’t understand Spanish, will now come to appreciate all our activities. It’s a change which inspires hope for our parish!”