Saint Peter Canisius Catholic Community
Sun Valley, NV 89433
Catholic church is always soothing to me. All those years of Catholic school and the similarities among services mean I usually know what’s going to happen in the church before it happens. I can just sit there and zone out in a climate-controlled, easy-on-the-eyes room among people who aren’t going to intrude on my space. I like going to Spanish services because I already know the context, so the translation is pretty easy for me—and, to be honest, the sermon is the only thing I have to concentrate on.
Not at Saint Peter Canisius Catholic Church. (By the way, Peter Canisius fought the Protestant Reformation in Europe around Germany back in the 1500s.) First of all, I was only 15 minutes early, so I had to stand in the foyer where there are no speakers, and the clarity of the sound wasn’t good enough that I could ever get on a roll. Second, I had all these wonderful little kids pulling on my camera, looking at my big bald head, sitting on my feet, generally running around having a good time. And third, there was a Santo visiting, a statue of the Virgin Mary—Evelia Zuniga was kind enough to write “Purisima Concepcion” on my pad, essentially “Immaculate Conception.” She explained that the figure only comes to the church once a year. So there were out-of-the-ordinary things going on that undermined my contextual ability to understand the language.
It was a blast. There was a tall young man named Juan who looked like a high school student and who occasionally offered translation when I was lost. At the end of the service, he shook my hand and thanked me for visiting the church.
In case you missed it the first time, I should point out that the church was standing room only. My friend Juan said that if you want a seat in the sanctuary, you’ve got to arrive an hour early. My guess is that the red upholstered chairs would hold about 230 people, but I’ll bet there were 350 in the church and spilling out the doors. Other than the fact that this isn’t the most opulent Catholic Church in Northern Nevada, there was little in the décor to distinguish it. And yet, with the traditional-styled Mexican choir (again, I couldn’t see, but it sounded like a guitar, drum, tambourine and maybe six or seven singers), it was like I crossed some international border. (On a side note, I wonder if a greater percentage of Americans are monolingual because most Catholic churches went to English-language instead of Latin.)
The readings were from Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-27; and Matthew 20: 1-6. The sermon Father Guillermo Arias gave was about self-sacrifice—at least I think it was.
The Santo was carried into the church by an entourage, slightly before the service began, and left at the same time as the priest did, down the center aisle.
I briefly met the Padre outside after the service. He seemed like a genuine enough guy, taking his time to talk to the very young and very old in his flock. He didn’t seem surprised that the press would show up to his church.
“In the paper, please make sure you say that we need a bigger church,” he said with a humorous glint in his eye.