By JOEY REISTROFFER
GAFFNEY — The Hispanic community here found a home at Sacred Heart Church recently, and all it took was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe to welcome them back to the fold.
That, and Father Gary Linsky’s promise to say this special Saturday service in Spanish. The pastor was nervous, being his first Mass in Spanish, but the outpouring of love from the Hispanic worshippers pulled him through and made him proud to be a part of it. “I was only expecting 15 or 20,” he said.
Instead, the pews were packed and the church was full. These Spanish-speaking parishioners were aching to here the word of God in their own language, and Father Linsky delivered.
“It was wonderful,” said Gay Woodall, parishioner of Sacred Heart. “It was very moving and heart-warming. We had so many Spanish people here, and they participated so fully.”
The spirit of the church was alive and thriving that Saturday, and many have Benigno Bazan to thank for it.
The parishioner was the first to approach Father Linsky with the idea of a Spanish-language service.
Father Linsky agreed, but there was much to do. For starters the pastor had to brush up on his Spanish and Bazan offered to translate. Then the message had to be spread throughout the town.
Bazan and friends hung signs all over the community, urging people to come. Word of mouth around Gaffney contributed to the service’s success.
Father Linsky was amazed that so many found the church because the parish is tucked away and not an easy place to find.
Nevertheless, they found it and they came. “Some of them walked in the rain to get here,” Woodall said. And they were fed, both spiritually and physically.
Some had been away from the church for a long time, because “they could not participate in the Eucharist,” said Woodall.
The had much to be thankful for because on this feast day these Spanish-speaking Catholics discovered that language no longer was a barrier to their faith.
“He is reaching out to the needs of our Spanish-Mexican community, who have really not felt comfortable because they have not understood the Mass in English,” Woodall said of Father Linsky.
The pastor agreed. “This is the first time we’ve really reached out to them,” he said, adding that the church is for everyone. “No one has a corner on it. It is our church.”
Then, he gave credit to Bazan. “He’s an integral member of the parish,” the pastor said.
Not only did Bazan request the special Our Lady of Guadalupe service, but he organized the fiesta afterward. And this language barrier breakthrough was well worth celebrating, so the tables were filled with traditional fare and everyone enjoyed the Hispanic feast.
To ensure that he feeds his flock in the future, Father Linsky said he wants to offer at least one Spanish-language service each month. The next one will be held at 1 p.m. on Jan. 10.
“And depending on the response,” said Father Linsky, “we will increase the schedule.”
Somewhere Our Lady of Guadalupe had to be smiling. Her Spanish children finally had come home to pray. Prayer, after all, is the universal language of the Lord and nobody should feel left out.