This is the new face of St Patrick’s Church in Lawrence, MA. Until recently, St Pat’s was a bastion of Irish-American culture. But Lawrence is a changed city — it’s now overwhelmingly Hispanic. In 2001, Father Paul O’Brien was dispatched there with orders to extend outreach to Lawrence’s Dominicans and Puerto Ricans — its native Spanish speakers. He increased the number of Spanish language masses, started Spanish Bible study groups and raised money for a community center that offered free meals to the city’s poor. What happened next wasn’t pretty. Some old-time parishioners left the church; others contented themselves with leaving messages of hate on Father Paul’s voicemail. But nine years later, things have improved. Far more Spanish speakers worship at St Pat’s. And among the old-timers who remained, there’s acceptance, if sometimes grudging, that two languages, two cultures and two styles can co-exist in one church. All this — and much more — is documented in Scenes From a Parish, a film by James Rutenbeck that’s currently showing on PBS’s Independent Lens. (Check your local listings for repeats etc.) We play some excerpts, and talk to Rutenbeck and Father Paul.
Also, how do you say Neptune and Uranus in Hebrew? The answer used to be: Neptune and Uranus (yes, it’s Uranus in the picture). Now the two planets have Hebrew names, thanks to the votes of interested Israelis, The Academy of the Hebrew Language and a panel of experts. We English speakers are still stuck with Uranus but Hebrew speakers can now call that planet Oron. Neptune will now be known as Rahab.
Finally, a New Year’s Day hangover courtesy of the good people of Denmark.