Arlene De Guzman-Ortiz Duarte
Arlene is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Newton. She is originally from Nicaragua and lives in Mishicot with her husband and three children.
At St. Thomas the Apostle, we are two communities that are not united. We have the Anglo and the Hispanic community. We’ve been told we are borrowing this space within the parish. I have tried to integrate myself into their lives. I became a Eucharistic minister and my kids serve at the English Masses. This way people could see me, meet me, and get to know me. I created some great relationships and there are a lot of people who want to integrate the church. But it also feels like some people want to keep us separated.
Something that really affected my family was that the Hispanic community was not invited to the inauguration of the new church. Our family is very involved in church, but we didn’t find out about the inauguration until two weeks before, and everyone had already signed up for everything. No one in the Hispanic community was included in anything. Towards the end, they decided they would let us have a few roles. But it was a very bittersweet moment.
Yet, in all of that happening, when Bishop came in for the Mass, he did this amazing thing. He came inside and went into the prayer room where the Virgin of Guadalupe was, and he invited us to pray with him. And within that action, we felt worthy all over again. That was really, really something.
The Hispanic community is evolving. These children that we brought are not just Hispanic, they’re American as well. They speak English for the most part. They live in both worlds, and that is something that is very important for anyone to understand. Anyone who immigrates here or is of Hispanic descent is fighting an internal war of belonging. They live with one foot on each side, and it’s really hard for them when they come into their church, and it’s the one place we’re supposed to be one, and they’re still being judged and put aside there.
I have experienced racism in the church. My husband is Mexican, but he looks kind of white, and someone came to him, in front of me and my children, and said, “With all the white girls in the world, you have to marry a Hispanic one.” Another time I read at one of the Masses, and I was told that it was incredible that I could read, being that I was Hispanic.
In order for us to be able to talk about these issues at church, we need to gather in community where people can ask each other any question. I’ve done this in other settings, and I met people who changed their mindset because they understood just a little bit better how things they said or did were offensive. But until there are people that are willing to cross those lines in church, not a lot of things will change.
My reason for doing this project is to help people see that we’re not there to take away anything from anyone but to partake in what God has given all of us. God didn’t create a race of different people, he just created people, and we’re the ones that decided to divide ourselves and as a community we can also choose the opposite. My thought is, if we were to integrate, the assets that the Anglo community has, integrated with our devotion and our faith and our eagerness to become one, we will merge into something much greater.