YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WOIO) - Members of the Santa Rosa de Lima community gathered to stand up against what they see as discrimination from the Diocese of Youngstown.
“No one wants to hear the word discrimination, but that’s what it is,” Felipe Gonzalez, one of the organizers of the protest said.
The community gathered in front of the Cathedral of Saint Columba to protest the relocation of their group from St. Lucy Church in Campbell, their home for the past 13 years, to St. Dominic Church in Youngstown.
Protesters also expressed other grievances, such as a policy by the Christ the Good Shepherd Parish that no Catholic education classes may be taught in the Spanish language.
“How in the heck can we develop priests or young kids to the vocation when we don’t even have a chance, when they want to deny us the right to teach our children in Spanish,” Felipe Gonzalez argued.
Father John Jerek, administrator of the Christ the Good Shepherd parish, says this is not an instance of discrimination.
“We’re doing the very best we can to provide Hispanic ministry to the families of Mahoning county,” he explained. “I think that the problem is, they’re used to getting their way, and now they’re being asked to make a sacrifice.”
Felipe explains that there are as many as 250 families that are a part of the Santa Rosa de Lima community. Mary, Felipe’s wife, used to be a pastoral minister for Santa Rosa de Lima. She says reaching out to members of their community in Spanish is a necessity.
“We have the right to our faith in our language," she said. "We have so many Hispanics coming into the area and we want to administer to them...and we feel like this is being taken away from us.”
Participants of the protest such as Dolores Ocasio hopes this can be the start of change, especially the ability to praise in they way that they choose.
“I hope in God that He finds us, hears us, and provides us with a Spanish mass,” she said in Spanish.
As part of their demonstration, protesters waited in front of St. Columba as afternoon mass ended.
“They’re Catholics just like we are, they belong here,” Bill Arnaut, an observer to the protest, said. “It doesn’t make any sense, what’s going on.”
The community’s final mass was observed last Sunday, September 13th.