Casa San Benito — a center for Latino ministry — is the name of a new program under the umbrella of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville. But not everything about it is new. In fact, one could argue the whole concept dates as far back as the mid-1800s.
“Our monastic community was founded in 1856 to be of service to the Church, especially to the German settlers in the area,” said Benedictine Abbot John Klassen. “Over time, the missionary effort expanded in many different directions, in a variety of manifestations, including our commitment to parish ministry, to publishing materials for theological reflection, catechesis, liturgy and spirituality, and the educational apostolates of prep school, university and the School of Theology and Seminary.
“In our time, there is a strong need for ministry to the Latino community,” he continued. “We want to make sure we do a really good job of listening, of understanding the variety of needs this community has, as well as collaborating with the Diocese of St. Cloud and others who are involved in this ministry.”
In 1997, both St. John’s Abbey and St. Benedict’s Monastery formed a hub with St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring to minister among the Latino population in Central Minnesota. There was an established presence of Latinos in the area, and it was a natural center for outreach, expanding to communities near and far including: Montevideo, Rockville, Melrose, Willmar, Pelican Rapids, Waite Park and St. Cloud.
The ministry evolved over time, and an organization called Casa Guadalupe was formed. It served thousands of Latino families in Central Minnesota through its location in Cold Spring. The organization closed in 2014.
According to Benedictine Father Efrain Rosado, even though the doors closed, the mission of Casa Guadalupe has continued. For nearly a year now, he has been working on relocating the services that Casa Guadalupe provided to the Abbey. Therefore, its new name is Casa San Benito, or House of St. Benedict. His primary goal as coordinator of the program is to revitalize the ministry to Latino persons, mainly immigrants, who need support for spiritual, economic and social needs around Central Minnesota.
“One of the great values of the Benedictine order is hospitality. We are not considered a missionary order. … Our monasteries are like magnets that are attractive to people to seek spiritual formation, to receive sacraments, to get an education, to get a job. We, the monks, are to provide for the needs of others, to offer hospitality and to receive all guests as we receive Christ. That is what Casa San Benito can do,” Father Rosado said.
As a monk of Tepeyac Abbey in Mexico City, Father Rosado was sent by his community to study at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary. There, he was introduced to the work of Casa Guadalupe in 2008.
As an immigrant himself, Father Rosado saw the need for ministry to Latino immigrants in the area and requested a transfer from his home community in Mexico to the community in Collegeville. He was granted permission and received a permanent visa which allows him to be a member of St. John’s Abbey.
“As Benedictines, this type of outreach fits very well with our charism, our mission. And also for myself. I realized that there was a great need for someone who could understand the language, the culture, and minister and serve these people here,” he said.
Abbot Klassen noted that the community is “strongly supportive of this ministry because the needs of the Latino community are so compelling.”
“In a matter of years, Latinos will comprise over 50% of the Church in this country,” Abbot Klassen said. “This is an astounding transformation. And the migration of Latino people into this country is as complex as the migration of European immigrants 100 and more years ago. We have to listen and learn, so that we are aware of the nuances. Why do this ministry? Because it is exciting to open ourselves in the Church to a whole new group of peoples.”
This center will grow slowly, Abbot Klassen said, in order to fit with everything else that is being done in the parishes, in the cooperative effort between the Diocese and the School of Theology and Seminary, and in their schools.
“It will require new learning and a transformation of our multicultural abilities,” he said. “Our resources are slim but our desire for moving in this direction is strong. This initiative is reaching back to our roots, to our earliest days. We will have to be brilliant at collaboration.”
Father Rosado invites everyone to be part of this project.
“This program is for the benefit of every community. It is a blessing to live in a multicultural environment. Immigrants enrich our lives in every aspect — culturally, technologically, economically as well as in our religion and spiritual life,” he said. “We are helping the immigrants to become productive in every way for the whole community. We are not only filling up the pews, we are building up the Church.
“If you give a donation of even $10, you are not just giving some extra money that is in your wallet. You are becoming part of the same endeavor, the same work that we are doing. Come visit us or ask us to come visit you. We can work together. We are all part of the same family.”
CASA SAN BENITO SCOPE OF SERVICES
- Providing ministerial assistance for Sunday and holy day Masses and other sacraments and prayer services for Latinos: choir at Mass, liturgical feasts, groups of prayer at church and at homes, groups of lectors, acolytes, altar servers, eucharistic ministers.
- Assisting with sacramental preparation classes.
- Assisting with retreats and faith formation classes for adults, children and youth, and offering financial assistance for the SOT Youth in Theology and Ministry (YTM) program and other educational programs of the diocese.
- Supporting adult ESL classes for Spanish-speaking immigrants.
- Providing charitable assistance for individuals (clothes, food, etc.), translation services for filling out health care and legal forms and applications, and guidance for persons in need to contact appropriate charitable organizations.
- Supporting the education of Latino/a teenagers who want to attend classes at St. John’s Prep School.
- Promoting the integration of the Latino community into local parishes and schools, with a goal of interculturalism, in which groups of people come together in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation for who they are and the gifts they bring.