Roberto Gallegos has lived in the Green Bay area with his wife since the 1990s. He has been a member of St. Willebrord Parish since coming to Green Bay.
When I started going to the Spanish Masses, I felt very welcome because, thanks God, we have two people, Sr. Melanie and Fr. Ken, that were very nice. They were welcoming Hispanic people, so I felt welcome. Sr. Melanie is very friendly and has the charisma to invite people and bring them to church to participate. With her, we feel like we can be part of the parish.
I’ve been attending St. Willebrord’s for 25 years, and there has not been much improvement for us to be all together, the Anglos and the Hispanics. We’re still working at it. Some people are very nice and like to share with the Hispanics, but others not so much. It’s normal for us as humans that we have different feelings. There are some in the Hispanic community who are more interested in integrating. Others are less interested in integrating. We have some of both, just like the Anglo community.
I can tell some people want to be involved, to serve at the altar with Hispanics. But others not because when the Spanish Mass is going to start, they go to another door or go home to not be there when we come in. This makes me feel a little bit sad because I can see that they’re not too comfortable to share with the Hispanics. So in some ways, we are still two communities in one parish.
It’s important to have things in our language because so many things in the Catholic religion are very difficult to understand. We don’t always know it in our own language so we’re not going to know it in English. I like to go to English Masses, and I understand, but some words I don’t know what they mean. I understand more in Spanish because it’s my language. This allows me to profess more and learn more about my Catholic faith. And I feel part of it.
I’ve noticed a lot of racism out in the community. The way others look at Hispanics, looking down at us, like we are the second and they are the first. Many years ago, I was working somewhere, and I was on the elevator speaking Spanish, and one person said, “Don’t be speaking Spanish in America!” But I just said, “Which America – North America, South America, Central America?” Because here is America, Mexico is America. I thought to myself that this person needed to go to school to learn more.
These things make me feel sad because we all are sons and daughters of God. In God’s eyes, we are the same, no distinction in language or race or anything. It makes me feel sad because they don’t think about that. It’s important to talk about these things because there should not be preferences. But when we talk to people with the truth, they come to see the hypocrisy, that this is not right. It’s better to be honest and talk to people about what it is, because they will come to understand what they are doing.
To be a Mexican Catholic is a great thing because Mexico is where the Mother of God appeared. We make a lot of noise for our celebrations, especially the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, because we feel blessed to have Our Lady, Queen of the Americas. But I would like the Anglos to start celebrating with us too. Then they can know that we have tried to share the beautiful we have in our religion. We have things to offer that could strengthen others within the church. Come and see!