Parish identity crisis
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Hey all- it’s been awhile! I’m wondering if anyone else is experiencing a similar demographic shift in their parish- the population has changed so much that we are now almost totally Mexican (approx.10-1). That’s not an issue in and of itself- the larger picture is that the singing has virtually stopped. Since we transitioned to more sacred music and less fluff over the last decade, well the (mostly American) population that was singing that music died off; now almost no one can sing anything. My vocal chords are too damaged to carry off soloing the entirety of 4 hymn sandwich and the propers and ordinaries. On alternate Sundays, a lovely Mexican woman sings 4 Sp songs and a Glory to God- even fewer sing with her. We also are still accompaniment-less and that makes it difficult. In short, we went from a parish that sang less desirable guitar music with gusto, to pretty fair chant and better hymns, to this. Anyone have any thoughts? Thanks much!
    Thanked by 2GerardH CHGiffen
  • Bri
    Posts: 7
    A few questions and musings:

    You mention being accompaniment-less? So is there no instrumental support at all?

    This may be a bigger issue than the demographic switch or the choice of music.

    Has your diocese had reduced singing due to COVID health and safety guidelines? Are folks still masked? Have hymnals been removed?

    These could be factors too.

    You mention using the chant propers and 4 hymns. Is this all in the same Mass? Is it expected that the congregation sing the propers and the hymns? Or just the hymns? Does the congregation know what they are supposed to sing?

    Maybe just the hymns would be more manageable.

    Are the hymns ones that are familiar? If not, maybe work on developing a small core repertoire of hymns? And maybe find ones that are both beloved by the community and appropriate for use in Mass (not just, say, Spanish translations of German hymns).

    I've also heard that one cultural difference between Anglos and Latinos is that many Anglo communities prefer to use hymnals or worship aids while many Latino communities prefer to pick up the music aurally. (I'm not sure whether this is grounded in hard data, but it could be worth exploring.) If this is true, the using hymns with a singable refrain could be one way to encourage singing.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,276
    It depends on where your "Mexicans" are actually from. At another parish here, there are people who are South American and their tastes in music are not bad. It isn't German Protestant hymnody to be sure. But the actual Mexicans are pretty well educated and have some rather sophisticated tastes. At another parish I retired from, the "Mexicans" are actually from Guatemala and they are among the poorest of the poor, not well educated, and their music revolves around what is actually a bar band of terrible musicians with music that the South Americans from other countries look down on. The two groups hate each other and will not worship in the same parish. Many of the Anglo Catholics have abandoned those parishes and go elsewhere to get away from the Hispanics. As one told a priest at one of those "y'all come" parishes, if you want to run the United Nations here, you pay for it. Unfortunately for those parishes, the Anglos are the ones who are actually capable of funding the parishes.

    I don't know if any of this will work in your parish since there really is no uniform Hispanic culture and the people from different countries are not the same. Some decent hymns with good accompaniment, even organ, can encourage singing. However, throwing something new at Hispanics every week can be a problem since you are correct, they like singing the familiar from memory rather than hymnals. I would say keep it simple and keep it singable. Take one of their hymnals and see what you can extract from it that will work in your situation. And yeah, Covid has turned the world upside down. I have no answers for that.
  • How solidly Catholic is the priest?

    Does he use a microphone?

    What has already been done to cultivate devotion?
    Thanked by 1Jani
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Thank you both - it’s a weird situation all round, but basically: yes, we have no accompaniment except for when I can beg a piano player for Christmas. The priests in my diocese are Mexican, Central and South American- the parishioners are central to northern Mexican. Most are relatively literate in Spanish but they are really reserved and have a hard time mixing in and mingling with Whites. There was never an issue with singing no matter what I threw at them; all the responses were sung, we sang the Glory to God in Latin and absolutely nailed the chant version. The Spanish songs that are chosen seem to be local to where this woman came from and only a smattering seem to know them. Yes, singing unaccompanied is an issue but we have done it for so long that that wasn’t a major problem per se. Also there is no Sp hymnal- we use OCP Music Issue and there seems to be little interest in those Sp songs. I am at a point in my life where this is all getting to be too much. I just can’t bear the thought of this last vestige of my culture -at least the music- being replaced with another, with me at the helm. I can’t do that.

    COVID wasn’t much of an impact, believe it or not.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,276
    Best of luck to you. I had reached the age where I was looking forward to retirement, anyway. I just have to look at it all from outside and say that it is no longer my problem. However, I wish everyone well and hope it all works out for them. I also hope it works out well for you.

    Thanked by 1Jani
  • https://domenicozipoli.org/
    Here you can find resources in both English, Spanish, and Latin

    Thanked by 1Jani
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Thank you CharlesW. Always so kind and charitable to me:)
    Monasterylit - thank you.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,378
    First of all, sorry about your vocal chords! Are you where you can find a voice teacher to address the issue? Good music programs are always fragile things and sometimes we leave with only the hope that seeds will be watered by someone else in the future. The two transitions you describe, anglo-guitar to sacred to Spanish w/o-guitar, when you look at the endpoints seem a better fit for the current congregation except for the issue of participation. Our parish in Richmond California added a Spanish Mass which has grown quite a bit over a few years, though mostly at the expense of neighboring parishes. A problem is that 4 volunteer bands have been rotating, and a core repertory has been slower to emerge. How have you tried to tackle this with your colleague?
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Thank you, Richard. In the past she and I have sung a mix of music together. We can each sing the other’s language with relative ease and she actually likes to sing with me in English or Latin, but again, it ends up just the two of us. Neither of us can handle the obligation of planning and singing every week, so we do the best we can- it has gotten to the point where we both feel like this is a Sisyphean task. Btw, yes I have access to a voice teacher, thank you!
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    Question...does your priest sing? What resources do you have available in the pews? I have found that when the celebrant sings, the congregation follows suit. You might also try to find out what particular part of Mexico your congregation hails from. It will help you to choose music that will touch them.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,079
    Perhaps relevant: my parish's singing has dropped to near-zero participants since we are back to in-person Masses. Music leader plays piano (occasional organ) just like before, there is usually a 'song leader' in the loft, amplified........but very few followers.

  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,154
    @dad29 Last Sunday we had a record of 30 in our small loft, 16 members of our children's schola on one side, and the adult choir on the other. We have also gained quite a few members.
  • Tom,

    Your choir loft fits 30 and you call it small? Oh, wait, you're in England. Never mind.
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores tomjaw
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,571
    Chris

    We have at least thirty every Sunday in our loft and we are in America.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,727
    There is at least one view of that choir loft if you click 'see photos' on this page (third from last photo).
    https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=st+bede's+clapham+park
    It seems to be about three times the size of ours, which has two pews of five or six each.
  • Are you augmented with hauptwerk?
  • Francis,

    That's an impressive loft.
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Kenstb- yes he sings. But he sings so.off.key. that no one can follow him. I mean, sooo off key. Plus he plays his guitar poorly while processing, and at the altar for the Glory to God. As for resources, we have written sources available. What we do not have is “human Resources.”

    I am really, really frustrated. Since I wrote that post almost a month ago, things have gotten worse, if you can believe it. Reality has met Wits End.
  • Processing and singing the Gloria at the altar while playing the guitar says about all you need to know. Do you have anywhere else parish-wise to seek spiritual nourishment? It seems doubtful you'll find much in your current parish, sadly.
    Thanked by 3Jani tomjaw CCooze
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Trentonjconn- I’m in rural Utah. Next closest parish in any direction is 100 miles. I’ve been with this parish for 30 years. We’ve seen lots of pastors, lots of parishioner turnover, lots of ups and downs. This suddenly seems insurmountable and I think it’s largely due to the influx of immigrants. Not blaming them; it’s just a fact.
    Thanked by 1trentonjconn
  • Carol
    Posts: 695
    This is a very sad situation. At one time, the parish I have been part of for 50+ years had an organist so bad that my husband whispered to me, "This is musical malpractice!" (It was more of a stage whisper, actually.) It mortified me but he was correct. Thank goodness we had a change of pastors and ASAP, a change of organists, too.
    Thanked by 1Jani
  • My one experience of attending a Spanish-language Mass that was clearly intended for, and largely attend by, Mexicans, left me with the indelible memory of singing a setting of the Gloria, the melody of which sounded exactly like that of “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me”. I’m not saying that to insult...just to point out that the concept of using “approachable melodies” can sometimes backfire spectacularly!

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!
    Thanked by 3CharlesW mattebery Jani
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 145
    After the Franco-Prussian War, France became a republic because that was the form of government which divided them the least.

    I have always thought that in mixed language parishes, using Latin as the text for the ordinary and the dialogues would be the language which would divide the parish the least. The risk otherwise is creating what amounts to two parishes which share the same physical building.

    It is also what the Second Vatican Counsel wished - that the people be able to say their parts in Latin.
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    RMSawicki - we have a Spanish song that is regularly sung to “Blowin’ in the Wind.” I don’t even know what that one is about.
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Chaswjd - that was precisely our thought and intent. But as the Anglos or USA Americans (geez what are we supposed to call ourselves?) died off or moved away, the support has really diminished. I think there was a lot of b******g on to the various pastors, who then stopped incorporating Latin.

    I don’t think the V2 participants had this “duolingo” in mind when they promulgated Mass in the vernacular. But the result is that in more parishes than mine, immigrants have insisted on hearing the Mass in their tongue, not the true vernacular.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,378
    Anglophone is what I call myself; would a 'true vernacular' be Greek as opposed to Aramaic?
    Someone was once telling me about the Berlin Synagogue and all the moaning in certain corners about the ways of the Russian immigrants, without whom however there would be no viable Jewish community. It's not always easy, being grateful for what one has.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 145
    Jani - I have no problem with having a mass primarily in the language of immigrants. But I think that the core, the ordinary and the dialogues should be in Latin given the bilingual situation.

    I recently attended a parish which has three English masses and one Spanish mass. My experience there was that are essentially two communities sharing the same parish. I have no idea what the parish does during Holy Week when there can be only one liturgy for the entire parish. But by having the Ordinary and dialogues in Latin, all could participate at a mass to a certain extent even if the mass was in not a language that they understand.
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    The problem we are experiencing is not that there are 2 cultures sharing a church - it’s that the local culture is being consumed by sheer numbers of immigrants. We only have 1 Mass per weekend. This parish was built by and has been sustained at no small cost to a very small group of people and is still maintained by that group, but with difficulty. There is no effort to become part of the local community because there own is so large.

    I’m stopping here because I have a feeling that this is going to devolve into me being labeled something I’m not. I have been and in fact am grateful we have mass at all, and I have said it over and over to others here. Thanks everyone for the input.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,276
    No labels. I subscribe to W. C. Fields who said, "I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally." I have thought that some escapees from 3rd world countries bring their 3rd world cultures with them and try to turn their new homes into duplicates of what they left. With others, not so much. It depends on where those "cultures" are from and what they do once here. I have seen some from African countries who are model citizens and a real asset to the church and the country. The south of the border group can go either way.

    This parish was built by and has been sustained at no small cost to a very small group of people and is still maintained by that group, but with difficulty.


    I have seen the same situation. A good argument for letting the new folks pay the costs themselves and putting your resources elsewhere.

    It has occurred to me that priests and socialists are one and the same. Both exist to spend someone else's money. Notice that "charity" gets the blame for every financial scam they dream up.

    We always seem to hear from our priestly class, welcome the stranger in your midst which means you pay for it. Scripture also says, (2 Thessalonians 3:10) For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." We could apply that to some of our own people, too.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,378
    Not doubting you evident goodwill, Jani. When I examine my own conscience though it's easy to be surprised by how insidious prejudice can be. Learning to sneer at Archie Bunker is only the easy part.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,276
    Archie was misunderstood and probably had a bad childhood.
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    I admit to a little prejudice towards bad manners ;-)
  • Maybe the 'vernacular' vision of the 60s didn't imagine the very chaotic communities of the 2020s were in many places there are constant movements of people from hither to yon? With no ill judgement of anyone, movements of people from one region to another is naturally socially disruptive and stressful. I don't think things are likely to calm down in the decades to come. I wonder if the church will come up with structured approaches to helping us worship together or split into little subcultural groups? The latter seems to be the current tendency, but isn't a good long-term trend?

    Jani - that sounds very frustrating. I'd probably quit and move... but that's not advice, just my knowing myself...
    Thanked by 1Jani
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 145
    CatherineS - the church has already come up with a plan for dealing with the constant movement of peoples:

    Sacrosanctum Concilium para. 54:

    "Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."

    If all people could say or sing the ordinary of the mass and the dialogues in Latin together, one could go to a mass anywhere in the world and participate to some extent.
  • davido
    Posts: 516
    People sort themselves by associating with others similar to themselves. The whole mass was in Latin when the European immigrants came to the US, but in the northeastern cities, you still end up with separate Catholic parishes for every ethnicity. A foreign people is still a foreign people.
    Thanked by 2Jani tomjaw
  • Davido,

    I think you missed Chas' point.

    EVEN THOUGH people will separate themselves or find themselves forceably segregated, Mass in one language wherever you were in the world formed a kind of glue which allowed a travelling Catholic to participate both externally and internally to a degree which, Mass being in a local vernacular, is less possible.
  • I completely agree with Chas— I have been to mass in the United States, Portugal, Spain, France, and Austria. I cannot tell you how annoying it is to not be able to participate when I know exactly what’s going on… If everyone just said the pater noster… it would’ve been a total non-issue.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 640
    I have the same frustration when traveling. Even in Portugal, versus Brazil, the translations are different, so I had to relearn everything.
  • You be fair it was probably like that in the past, too: if external participation requires active understanding of the language. In 1500 a pilgrim from, say, Warsaw to Danzig to Le Havre to Bayonne to walk along the camino to Santiago, would hear five vernaculars at least, but also five or more pronunciations of Latin all rather less than comprehensible. But he knew what was going on at Mass or in the Office all the same.
  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 358
    I completely agree with Chas— I have been to mass in the United States, Portugal, Spain, France, and Austria. I cannot tell you how annoying it is to not be able to participate when I know exactly what’s going on… If everyone just said the pater noster… it would’ve been a total non-issue.


    What stopped you from saying the prayer in your language, while others said it in theirs? I do that frequently with the translation I grew up saying the Our Father in.
  • The point is that we weren’t in fact sharing a common liturgy in the fullest sense. Of course I quietly prayed in English. But it was very sad to me that I couldn’t pray the pater with everyone. It’s not the same when you’re very oddly singled out and the only one incapable of praying the universal prayer being prayed aloud by everyone else in a foreign tongue. The liturgy used to transcend such boundaries (and in fact, technically still should).
    Thanked by 1trentonjconn
  • Jani
    Posts: 405
    Just coming in from Mass at a Carmelite monastery. I don’t really have words- except I feel nourished for the first time in a long while. Anything less is denying souls what is rightly theirs.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen a_f_hawkins