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“The great thing about the Catholic Church is it’s universal”: Cultural clubs, ministries offer foreign language Mass

| Friday, August 24, 2018

Around 80 percent of Notre Dame students are Catholic — a statistic that has persisted for years, remaining a fixture of the University’s Catholic identity. In celebration of the faith, a multitude of weekly Catholic Masses are held for the community across campus at differing times and days.

There are some Masses, however, that are geared towards specific cohorts of students; held weekly, monthly or even yearly, these differ from most by being conducted in a variety of foreign languages — including Spanish, French and Chinese.

“It’s really difficult to praise God in a language that’s not your mother tongue, so we’re offering that opportunity,” Fr. Joe Corpora, the presider of Campus Ministry’s weekly Spanish Mass, said.

The Spanish Mass is celebrated in Dillon Hall’s chapel every Sunday at 1:30 p.m. by Corpora, who lives in Dillon and also serves as chaplain to Latino Student Ministry. Corpora said the Mass has been in place at Notre Dame for around 25 years.

“There are students at Notre Dame, plenty of them, whose first language is not English [and] who are more comfortable praying in another language, so I think [having a Spanish Mass] speaks a little bit to Notre Dame becoming more and more diverse,” he said.

Other than the Mass being celebrated in a foreign language, Corpora said it differs from most weekly Masses at Notre Dame in that attendees aren’t from the same dorm — instead, they come from “15 or 20 different halls.”

“We usually get 100 kids a week, sometimes more, sometimes less,” Corpora said. “I would say at least 25 of them have never been to Mass in English their entire life [and] they always say the same thing: I don’t know the prayers in English. They’ve always said ‘Y con tu espiritu’ — they’ve never said, ‘[And] with your spirit.’”

Other students attend because they studied abroad in Spanish-speaking countries and want to maintain their Spanish, Corpora said, while the last segment attends to fulfill cultural immersion requirements for Spanish classes. The majority, however, consists of those who feel “more comfortable praying in their mother language.”

“I have asked every two or three years if people would rather have a bilingual mass and they all say no,” Corpora said. “It’s interesting. People whose first language is English don’t want to deal with Spanish, people whose first language is Spanish don’t want to deal with English.”

Fr. Greg Haake, an assistant professor of French, is the usual presider of French Mass, a monthly occurrence geared towards French students on campus. This year, however, Haake is on academic leave — bringing the Mass back to its roots with Fr. Michael Driscoll.

“I remember going to French Mass when I was an undergraduate at Notre Dame back in the late 1990s,” Haake said in an email. “Fr. Michael Driscoll, a professor in theology, was the presider back then, and he did so until I took over in 2016. […] While I’m on academic leave this year from Notre Dame, Fr. Driscoll will be substituting for me.”

Mass attendees usually come from both Notre Dame and South Bend, Haake said, representing a wider French community in the area.

“Other than an encounter with Christ in Word and Sacrament, the best part of French Mass is the chorale,” he said. “We have a wonderful group of singers [whose] transcendent harmonies and lively music make for a beautiful and solemn celebration.”

Haake said the Mass is usually advertised through the “Le Cercle Francais,” the French club on campus, and through the Campus Ministry website — generating a “pretty solid crowd” of about 30 to 40 people.

“The goal of French Mass is twofold: to give students studying French a cultural opportunity that speaks to their life of faith,” he said. “Since Catholicism is so much a part of France and its culture and history, it’s only natural.”

A newer addition to campus, Chinese Mass was brought to Notre Dame in 2017 by senior Isabel Chan, president of the Taiwanese Student Association.

“There had been other language masses like Korean Mass, Vietnamese Mass, Filipino Mass and Spanish Mass, but I had never heard of a Chinese Mass on campus,” Chan said. “I actually ended up asking our family friend, who was a Taiwanese priest and part of the Matteo Ricci Fellowship, a Chinese Catholic Group, if they would be interested in organizing one with the club I was in, Taiwanese Student Association.”

The Chinese Mass will be celebrated in Cavanaugh Hall on Saturday at 6 p.m. by Fr. Francis Li, pastor of St. Therese’s Catholic Church in Chicago Chinatown.

After observing “around 50 people” attend the first Mass, Chan said she’s aiming for an even bigger turnout this year by partnering with different culture clubs and religious organizations and providing English translations.

The great thing about the Catholic Church is it’s universal,” Chan said. “Even though Masses around the world are in different languages and the customs may be different, the liturgy is still the same. That’s what makes the Chinese Mass so great. You can celebrate Mass while still learning more about the Chinese language and culture.”

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About Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith is a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she serves as Associate News Editor at the Observer and is pursuing a double major in political science and television with minors in journalism and computing.

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