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Fri Dec 2, 2016, 09:23 PM


Marshaltown, Iowa, and the Virgen de Guadalupe

Preparing The Way: Hispanic Ministry And Community Transformation In Marshalltown, Iowa

Anne C. Woodrick
Department of Sociology ,Anthropology, and Criminology
University of Northern Iowa

ABSTRACT: Recent anthropological studies of new immigrant destination communities recognize Marshalltown, Iowa, as one of the unusually successful U.S. towns in its accommodation of recent Latino immigrants. This paper examines the crucial role that Rev.John Allen of Elim Lutheran Church played in establishing the foundation for a Latino community identity and forging an integrated and diverse Marshalltown community. One person, with a vision and passion for his work and respect and empathy for others, made the difference. However, Hispanic ministry can never be static, and over time others more effectively built upon Allen’s foundation. Hispanic ministry is a process that must evolve in order to effectively respond to changing social, cultural, and advocacy needs of the immigrants it serves.


The Rev. John Allen, pastor of Elim Lutheran Church (E.L.C.A.)in Marshalltown, Iowa, and his family were enjoying a Chinese dinner in Wong ’s Restaurant a few weeks before Christmas. Their after-dinner conversation engaged a couple of young Latino men who were bussing tables. Until this moment Allen had not really had a chance to speak with some of the Latino newcomers who had been arriving in Marshalltown during the past year. An inquisitive Allen discovered that none of the men had plans to celebrate Christmas in church. The Latinos explained that they wished to attend mass, but wanted to participate in a Spanish mass. All worship services in local churches were in English. In response to their dilemma, Allen invited them and any other Latinos to a Spanish mass at Elim on Christmas Day afternoon.

On Christmas Day, 1990, Rev. John Allen, assisted by a translator, celebrated a Spanish Christmas liturgy for 15 Latinos, and began an 18-month Hispanic ministry in Marshalltown. The Latino congregation grew to more than 250 registered families. A choir was formed. Baptisms and First Communions were performed. Padre Juan, as John Allen was affectionately called, and the mostly Mexican immigrants worked together to create a dynamic Latino congregation. Many Elim parishioners were supportive and appreciative of the new ministry.

However, the Elim Hispanic ministry also had its challenges. A few vocal individuals were not supportive of Allen’s ministry to the Mexicans. Catholics worshipping in a Lutheran church raised concerns among Anglo-Lutherans and Catholics alike. And the expanding Latino congregation expressed to the Elim Church Council their desire that a Spanish-speaking priest be hired by the local Catholic Church.

In July 1992, the Archdiocese of Dubuque appointed Father Paul Ouderkirk as the Hispanic Minister of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Marshalltown. This was the first Hispanic ministry appointment in the Archdiocese. That summer John Allen accepted a call to a church in Wisconsin and was to leave town in early August. The two clergy overlapped a month in Marshalltown. Father Paul attended the Spanish masses held at Elim, and the priests worked together to plan Padre Juan's final Spanish worship service. On a Sunday afternoon in late July, Rev. John Allen began his last Spanish mass at Elim. Immediately following the benediction, Padre Juan and Father Paul, dressed in full vestments, the entire Latino congregation, the choir and guitar players, and the statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe processed from Elim down the sidewalks of Marshalltown to St. Mary’s Catholic Church. In the basement of St. Mary’s Rev. John Allen passed his Hispanic ministry to Father Paul and bade goodbye to his Latino friends.



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Reply Marshaltown, Iowa, and the Virgen de Guadalupe (Original post)
stone space Dec 2016 OP
stone space Dec 2016 #1
stone space Dec 2016 #2

Response to stone space (Original post)

Fri Dec 2, 2016, 09:31 PM




Raid came as Hispanics honor a symbol of hope

Federal immigration agents raided a Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown Tuesday on the day that many Hispanics pay tribute to a symbol of hope and protection.

National icon: The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic liturgical holy day, was celebrated Tuesday. For Mexicans, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a national symbol as well as a religious icon. Hispanics in the United States turn to her for spiritual support in an anti-immigrant climate.

Her story: The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Aztec people at a time when they were powerless to sustain their culture under Spanish colonization. Legend has it that on Dec. 9, 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, 57, a native Indian and recent Catholic convert. The apparition spoke to Diego in his native language, telling him to tell the bishop to build a shrine to honor her, "Ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God." At first disbelieved by the local bishop, Diego appealed to the lady for a sign three days later. She told him where to find a garden of flowers blooming in the snow. Gathering the flowers in his tilma (a long cloak made of coarse cactus fibers worn by Mexican Indians), he took them to the bishop to prove he was being truthful. When the flowers cascaded from his tilma, the now familiar depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe remained on the cloth.

Influence on church: The miraculous event had a powerful influence on the growth of the Catholic Church in Mexico. In 1737, Our Lady of Guadalupe was officially designated as the patroness of Mexico City. She was named patroness of New Spain in 1746.

- Shirley Ragsdale, Register religion editor



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Fri Dec 2, 2016, 10:00 PM

2. Raid was 9/11 moment, say Marshalltown's Mexican teens


Raid was 9/11 moment, say Marshalltown's Mexican teens

Marsalltown, Ia. --- The mood was somber and agitated among Mexican students who streamed into Marshalltown High School this morning.

They remembered Tuesday as clusters of students cried in the halls and in class, hearing that family and friends had been arrested.

They more acutely noticed police cars roaming school grounds today. And some wondered aloud if authorities could show up and arrest them.

Watching busloads of family and friends being arrested will be a watershed moment in their lives.

“When 9/11 came along, everyone remembered it,” said Isis Diaz, 14, and a freshman. “I think everyone will remember this.”

School started at 8:30 a.m. for most Marshalltown High School students, many who made it to school shortly before that time, lugging backpacks, talking quietly with friends, and some simply keeping their hands stuffed in pockets and heads down.

Diaz said many students left school early yesterday to gather documentation for parents who were detained.

Diaz said many people she knows have already left the state, on their way back to Mexico.

“A whole bunch of kids didn’t come to school today,” she said.

Aaron Murillo, 15, said he knows more than 20 people affected by the arrests Tuesday. His uncle was hiding from federal authorities at Swift yesterday, and wasn’t caught, he said.

Rafael Ramirez, 17, said he was most worried about young children, with both parents arrested.

He said he hoped they could stay in the United States, where the quality of education was better, and going to school is required.

“I don’t know what they are going to do in Mexico,” he said. “They don’t have the same chances.”

Paranoia swept through families as well, Diaz said.

“My mom wouldn’t let us go outside, because she thinks something is going to happen to us,” she said, shortly before leaving the school parking lot and walking into the school.


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