Bishop Ruggieri celebrates Mass with the Hispanic community

Bishop James Ruggieri celebrated Mass for members of the Hispanic community on Sunday, May 26, at Sacred Heart Church in Portland.

Bishop Ruggieri is fluent in Spanish, and both Providence, Rhode Island, parishes where he served prior to being appointed bishop of Portland had active Hispanic communities. The bishop regularly celebrated Mass in Spanish when he was pastor there and was looking forward to having that opportunity here.

During the Mass at Sacred Heart, held on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the bishop joined in praying, preaching, and singing in Spanish, and afterwards, he enjoyed Latino food during a reception held in the parish hall.

Members of the community said they were pleased to welcome the bishop and said they believe his ability to speak Spanish will have a positive impact on their community.

"We thank God that we have a bishop who speaks Spanish. It’s very important for the Hispanic community and very important for everybody, because now everybody can pray together," said Ana Almanzar of Portland.

"We’re very grateful for the opportunity for the bishop to come and celebrate Mass for us," said Jonathan Majano, originally from El Salvador, who now lives in Topsham. "For us, it was very big. We’re very appreciative of that and very grateful to God that he allowed that to happen."

"I am happy because he speaks our language. That is important for us, because while a lot of Spanish people understand English, it is difficult sometimes," said Rita Sola, originally from El Salvador, who now lives in Saco. "I am happy that he wants to worship with our community  It’s a blessing for us."

"I'm very excited about our bishop," said Daniel Corona, Deputy Grand Knight of Council 249 in Bath, who sometimes travels to Portland for Mass. "Hispanic people will be able to communicate a little more freely with the bishop, and there will be a little more communication, so that is a good thing. And it might also bridge a little bit more with other non-English speaking communities."

Bishop Ruggieri said he set out to learn Spanish while in seminary because he felt a call to inner-city ministry and thought it would be a valuable asset. After his third year of studies, wishing to improve his ability to speak the language, he spent nine weeks serving with priests in Santiago, Chile.

“It was a great experience, and it stirred up this desire that I really want to engage in Hispanic ministry when I’m a priest," he said.

While Maine does not have as many Spanish-speaking residents as Rhode Island, it is a growing segment of the state's population. U.S. Census figures estimate 2.1% of Maine's population, or approximately 29,000 residents, are Hispanic. While the population is spread out, many live in the greater Portland area and regularly attend Sacred Heart Church, which has a Sunday Mass in Spanish and is where the Diocese of Portland's Office of Hispanic Ministry is located.

"This is a big day," said José Perez Lopez, an outreach coordinator with the Office of Hispanic Ministry. "I remember in one of our meetings in Hispanic ministry, we said we are going to be praying to have a bishop who speaks Spanish, and here we are. It’s really a blessing because now our people can interact with the bishop in our own language. I think it’s going to be good for Hispanic ministry. We are really thankful to God."

The Office of Hispanic Ministry regularly offers Mass in Spanish in eight different communities stretching from Brewer to Sanford and Cherryfield to Skowhegan.




Bishop James Ruggieri with Father Seamus Griesbach and other priests
Woman sharing the first reading.
Father Michael Seavey reads the Gospel.
Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Spanish-speaking priests including Father Phil Tracy, Father Michael Sevigny, Bishop James Ruggieri, Father Seamus Griesbach, and Father Kevin Upham.