The Church Offers Livelier Services for a Growing Constituency of Charismatics
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 7, 2007; A01
NEW YORK – For a glimpse into the future of the Roman Catholic Church in America, peek inside St. Benedict’s in Queens on a Sunday after the Matsons, Mays and Cassidys have all gone home and Joan Overton has shut down the pipe organ following the sparsely attended 8:30 a.m. Mass. That’s when the pews fill up with the Durans, Lopezes and Fernandezes and the spiritual thermometer turns up a notch. “Everyone on their feet!” cried Gladys Cardenas, a stout and fiery Puerto Rican, as a band struck up behind her. “Come on,” she shouted in Spanish. “Get ready to celebrate God!”
On cue, Monsignor John O’Brien emerged in brilliant white robes for the 10 a.m. charismatic Mass – the most popular in a parish where attendance has declined for every other Sunday service. As the band played a hymn tinged with a merengue beat, Aurora Duran, an 82-year-old Dominican, fell to her knees in throaty “hallelujahs.” A man in the front row lifted his hands toward the heavens and began to speak in tongues. Shouts of “Glory!” and “Christ lives!” echoed through the church.
Such scenes were once rarely witnessed in any language inside U.S. Catholic churches, long known for relatively solemn celebrations that eschew the more vivacious religious devotion of evangelical Protestantism. But as waves of Latin American immigrants alter the fabric of life in much of the United States, they are leaving one of their biggest imprints on the Roman Catholic Church.