The Tufts University Chaplaincy announced that they will begin holding masses in Spanish on Oct. 16.
Lynn Cooper, the Catholic chaplain at Tufts, explained the timing of the decision.
“Over the years, we have celebrated bilingual masses at Goddard Chapel,” Cooper wrote in an email to the Daily. “They have been driven by student energy and student leadership, often creating meaningful opportunities for folks to share traditions and songs from home.”
According to Cooper, student leaders were a driving force behind making Spanish mass available.
“It is a privilege to accompany our student leaders as they create a service that speaks to them so intimately,” Cooper wrote. “What a joy to sing favorite hymns, knowing how important they are to members of our community and how their families at home quite possibly are singing that hymn the very same day.”
Sebastian Fernandez, a junior who currently serves as the beatitudes coordinator for the Catholic Community at Tufts Executive Board, helped revive Spanish mass at Tufts.
“I'm the only native Spanish speaker on the [Catholic Community at Tufts] e-board, [so] I'm helping Lynn [Cooper] organize the mass,” Fernandez said.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, chaplaincy activities were severely impacted.
“With the pandemic and changes in student leadership, we took about three years off, but we are thrilled to be restarting this important part of Catholic life at Tufts,” Cooper wrote. “This year we felt that it made the most sense to offer a full Spanish mass and to center that experience.”
Many international students were not only physically isolated from their homes throughout the pandemic but also spiritually isolated. Since Goddard Chapel was unable to host Spanish masses, some students lost their religious connection to their home.
Senior Paloma Velasco detailed how some things in the English masses did not translate the same feelings of comfort and spiritual rejuvenation that the Spanish ones did.
“Going to the English mass was really hard for me,” Velasco said. “I didn't understand a lot of cues … the songs are very different from Spanish.”
Although the basic outline of the services was familiar, Velasco said it did not reflect mass at home.
“I think for a lot of Latinos, the Spanish, Catholic mass is a part of day-to-day life,” Velasco said. “[It’s] not necessarily part of their identity or what they believe in but it's definitely part of our custom and habit.”
Cooper said that a significant factor in the decision to reopen the conversation around Spanish masses was the fact that having services in English presented a language barrier to many Catholic students at Tufts. While the services are a few times a semester, Cooper said it is important for students to feel they have a spiritual home at Tufts that respects and values their first language.
“I hear students say they struggle to feel connected to the service at a resonant level — deep in their bones,” Cooper said.
Velasco hopes Spanish mass will help foster a sense of community for Latino students.
“I'm not trying to feel back at home,” Velasco said. “[I’m] trying to create a home at Tufts for the Latinx community.”
Fernandez will help run Spanish mass services at Tufts.
“The whole thing is very exciting because I didn't think it would be possible to do a Spanish mass,” Fernandez said. “It never had occurred to me that we were going to be able to do something like this. And I'm excited to see how the community will react to these events … I'm very glad I will be able to sing some songs that I grew up hearing.”