The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

10 priests to immerse themselves in Spanish

Bishop Taylor: 'Every parish needs to take care of its parishioners'

Published: July 11, 2009   

The Diocese of Little Rock has implemented a plan to start training more of its priests to speak Spanish.

Starting in June, diocesan priests began language immersion for one to three months in three different Mexican schools and the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio. So far 10 priests have been assigned to the training through February 2010. At least one priest is on the waiting list to go in 2010. Two former pastors, Father Thomas Arackal and Father Pius Iwu, have been relieved of pastoral assignments and will fill in for many of the priests while they are gone.

Msgr. Scott Friend, vicar general, said there is a greater need for Spanish-speaking priests. He said it is estimated that 50 percent of the Catholics in the state are Hispanic.

"There are places where we don't have Spanish Mass and we need to," Msgr. Friend said.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, who learned Spanish while serving in Oklahoma, said he recognizes that it would be helpful for many of the priests to be immersed in Spanish language studies.

"It's certainly a need we have got. The guys that are going recognize the need for it and they are happy for the opportunity to do it," Bishop Taylor said. "Every parish needs to take care of its parishioners. If there are a significant number of people that need a ministry of a certain sort, whether it's in Spanish or whether it's other type of ministry, we need to do what Jesus would want us to do."

Two priests and two seminarians are already studying at Our Lady of Guadalupe Hispanic Seminary (Seminario Hispano de Santa Maria de Guadalupe) in the Archdiocese of Mexico City. They are Father Joe Marconi, formerly of Helena, the new pastor of St. Joseph Church in Tontitown; Msgr. Scott Marczuk, formerly of Little Rock, the new pastor of St. Stephen Church in Bentonville; Martin Siebold of North Little Rock; and Robert Cigainero of Texarkana. Father Bill Elser of Benton is studying at MACC in San Antonio. They are scheduled to return July 31.

The other priests are:

  • Father Norbert Rappold of Mena, Aug. 3-Oct. 2

  • Father Jack Vu of Van Buren, Aug. 3-Sept. 4 and Jan. 11-Feb. 12

  • Msgr. Jack Harris of Stuttgart, Sept. 7-Oct. 2

  • Deacon Eddie D'Almeida, who will be ordained a priest July 11, Aug. 3-Oct. 24.

  • Msgr. David LeSieur of Rogers, Oct. 2-Nov. 14

  • Father James West of North Little Rock, Nov. 9-Dec. 14

  • Msgr. Francis I. Malone of Little Rock, Jan. 11-Feb. 12

    The remaining priests will study at Cuernavaca Seminary or The Center for International Resources in Guadalajara. The seminaries and schools offer courses to priests and seminarians who need to improve their Spanish language skills and understand the Mexican culture.

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