Wisconsin diocese’s programs help Latino families put faith into action

By Sam Lucero
Catholic News Service

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) — Juanita Fiscal and her husband, Julio Zuniga, enrolled in the "Discipulos de Cristo" (Disciples of Christ) lay formation program, sponsored by the Diocese of Green Bay, three years ago. As members of St. Willebrord Parish, they wanted to learn more about their faith.

"We were lacking so much knowledge about our Catholic faith, especially about the Mass," Fiscal told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. "We are here almost every Sunday, and not knowing exactly what was happening or the meaning of certain things. That was embarrassing."

As they prepared for graduation from the program in early May, along with 16 other Latino Catholics from around the diocese, Fiscal said the program not only taught them about the Mass, it inspired them to start a youth program with other parents at St. Willebrord. The "Amigos de Jesus" (Friends of Jesus) group helps children learn about the Mass and participate in liturgical roles.

As part of the Discipulos de Cristo program, young participants are asked to return to their parishes and find a way to put their faith into practice.

"We noticed that we needed some type of program that would bring those kids who made their first Communion" back to church by getting them involved in Sunday liturgies, Fiscal said.

"Another person said, ‘What if we also teach those kids the sequence of the Mass, like everything that happens during the Mass"’" she noted. While the Mass is covered in religious education classes, the adults wanted to explore the liturgy in more depth, Fiscal said.

"We decided to do both things: to teach them how to serve during Mass and then to teach them about the celebration of Mass."

Amigos de Jesus started in October. Eight adults (including five in the Discipulos program) and 38 students, from 4 to 13 years old, meet at the church for two hours every other Saturday. Fiscal said the group uses books about the Mass, written in Spanish and provided by the parish, as well as ones she has purchased. Instructors also use materials, revised for children, from the adult program.

After studying, the children practice their ministry roles, which include altar serving, lectoring, ushering, singing in the choir and presenting the eucharistic gifts.

Norbertine Father Andrew Cribben, pastor of St. Willebrord Parish, said he is delighted to have the parents take an active role in preparing their children for Mass and getting them involved in the liturgy.

"Juanita and her collaborators from Discipulos de Cristo … wanted to use their growing knowledge of the sacraments, theology and their spirituality for the good of others," he said. "They had heard my desire, as pastor, that the children might be more attentive and participative at the Eucharist. The group prepares the children first to know and appreciate the Eucharist, and then to know and fulfill the ministries of reader, usher, greeter, singer and member of the assembly."

Their first service at Mass took place in December. "Then Father Andy told us to participate in the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe," said Fiscal. The Amigos de Jesus now participate at the Spanish Mass the fourth Sunday of each month.

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