When the 2018 Diocesan Synod came to a close, an important priority became clear – building vibrant parishes, with evangelization and communication as fundamental elements.

Father Yvon Royer, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Parish in Bristol, emphasized that his parish, like all others in the Diocese, have taken the results of the Diocesan Synod and the subsequent Disciple Maker Index Survey seriously.

The survey, conducted by Catholic Leadership Institute, helped parishes, among other things, to understand parish communities as well as identify the ways in which the parish effectively supports spiritual growth and look at opportunities to support that growth more in the future.

“It was from these discussions that we realized one of the main groups of our parishes that were not being ministered to were our Spanish-speaking migrant workers. This led to forming a committee to work on meeting the needs of these, our brothers and sisters,” Father Royer said.

The committee’s first action was to meet with Addison Allies, a group of volunteers whose goal is to build a stronger, more diverse and inclusive community by teaching English, providing needed services and hosting social opportunities to migrant farmworkers in Addison County.

From this meeting, which included several migrant workers, “we learned what needs were being met and which ones were not,” said Father Royer, who explained the parish is focusing, in part, on those needs not being met totally, including supplying rides to the store, banks and church, and supplying work clothes.

What also came to light during the meeting was that none of spiritual needs of the migrant workers were being addressed. Father Royer outlined how that is changing. “I have visited several farms and plan on continuing to visit others to introduce myself, share ways that the parish can assist them and share the Sacrament of Reconciliation with them,” he said.

The parish has also created bilingual booklets to assist them in their Mass participation and organized a complete Spanish Mass which was celebrated for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Mass was followed by a meal and entertainment.  “We had over 70 Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters join us,” Father Royer said.

“We are working on celebrating the Good Friday service in Spanish. And finally, 30 members of our communities are taking a 10-week conversational Spanish class,” he added.

Looking toward the future, Father Royer expressed his hope that the parish will grow in offering opportunities “for our communities to become much more diverse in our celebration, allowing the customs of our Spanish brothers and sisters to play a bigger part in our gatherings.”

There are currently plans to continue to offer Mass in Spanish once a quarter and to create opportunities for the varied communities to interact with the migrant workers in social activities within the parish.

“This is one of the reasons we are working on our conversational Spanish,” Father Royer pointed out, “so we can truly interact and not just be two groups of people in the same room. We trust that God will continue to bless our efforts.”

Mary Clifford Morrell

—Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.