In the Bronx, Faith in Five Languages for a Multicultural Parish


Second of a series

St. Lucy’s parish in the Bronx offers Mass in five languages. That’s correct, five: Albanian, Creole, English, Italian and Spanish. Albanian since 2009, Creole since 2015, Spanish since the 1980s, and English and Italian since the parish was established in 1927.

“We serve them in their native language, so that they can worship God in the language they understand best,” Father Nikolin Pergjini, the pastor, said last week about how he reaches parishioners of his multicultural parish.

“This is most important during the homily. Many of them speak limited English.”

Father Pergjini, who was born and raised in Albania, added, “This is about attending Mass in the language that you speak at home. It is important because they listen to the message of God in the mother tongue, and it’s crucial for the homily, so that we can feed their minds and souls.

“And they are grateful, very thankful. They feel blessed, and we are blessed to have them here.”

The pastor said the priests who serve at St. Lucy’s are fluent in the language in which they celebrate Mass.

“We’ve had no complaints,” he noted, adding that parishioners are able to understand the clergymen’s words, even when the priests are speaking in a language that is not their first.

Father Pergjini celebrates Mass in Albanian, Italian, Spanish and English. Father Urbano Rodrigues, parochial vicar, celebrates Mass in Spanish, Italian and English. And several priests come from outside the parish to assist, including Haitian clergymen who offer Mass in Creole.

Father Pergjini, 63, has been pastor of St. Lucy for nine years. He immigrated to the United States at age 35 and was ordained for the archdiocese in 1999 by Cardinal John O’Connor.

“I speak French, too, because I lived in Geneva before I came to the U.S.,” the pastor noted.

St. Lucy’s is in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx. The parish community is mostly Hispanic, mainly from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Others hail from Puerto Rico, Ecuador and other Latin American countries.

The parish offers three Masses in Spanish, one on Thursdays and two on Sundays. Sunday Spanish Masses are often filled to the 400-seat capacity.

The next best-attended Masses are the four liturgies offered in English on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, which draw 250 to 300 people. There is also one on Saturday morning.

On Sunday, there is an 8 a.m. Mass in Italian, and a 1 p.m. Mass in Creole. The Saturday Vigil Mass in Albanian is offered at 5:30 p.m.

There is also a weekday Mass in English, and another in Italian, as well as one on Saturday morning.

Finding Mass in a language they understand well is a comfort for parishioners.

“We have a large Latino community, and so this is very important, that we have Mass celebrations in Spanish,” said Alicia Paulina Gomez, a parishioner since 1995, who has served as parish secretary for 10 years.

The native of Ecuador has a son and daughter in their 20s. “These are very difficult times that we are living, with the troubles faced by immigrants, with the societal violence in general and with problems in families,” she said.

“We are in need of seeking God, and doing so in our native language helps a great deal.”

Anna Failla, 85, who is vice president of the parish council and also a member of the Altar Rosary Society, said, “The important thing is that it brings together people of the parish as one. They can worship in their own language. Father Pergjini does a marvelous job in bringing people together. This is all about unity.”

She added, “I’ve been a member of the parish all my life. I was born and raised right here in the Bronx. My father and mother came over from Italy, but my two brothers and me, we were born here; they were older, they’re deceased.”