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The Many Tongues of Catholics in L.A.: Mass in 42 Languages

In L.A. there is a place of worship on every corner: Baptists, Jewish communities, Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses compete for members, attention, and, of course, money. Not a week goes by in which we don't get mail from some more or less known congregation: the Hrock church's flyer assures me that I "don't need to be afraid"; the First Baptist Church Pasadena invites us to a community breakfast; the La Canada Presbyterian Church talks about learning what joy means.

According to the Wikipedia entry on Los Angeles the city is home to the second largest population of Jews in the U.S. (with 621.000 Jews in the metropolitan area and 490.000 in L.A. proper), and the large number of immigrants from Asia make it the city with the greatest variety of Buddhists worldwide. My own cultural background is monoreligious and I find this diversity refreshing.

Hardly surprising for an Austrian of my age, I was baptized Roman Catholic. In 1961, the year before I was born, 89 percent of Austrians belonged to this denomination. Their number has been going down since the seventies but Catholics still make up around two thirds of the Austrian population though only around twelve percent of them attend mass on a regular basis. (Data based on information published by statistics Austria and the website of the Catholic church in Austria.)

Here in L.A. Catholics form the biggest religious group too. The archdiocese of Los Angeles which comprises the counties of L.A., Ventura, and Santa Barbara is the largest in the United States, and as of 2005 about two in five people living in the area were Catholic. Though I could not find specific numbers for the region it is safe to say that L.A.'s Catholics attend mass more diligently than their Austrian friends in faith (according to a Gallup poll around 45 percent of Catholics in the U.S. worship on a weekly basis) and they definitely do it in a more diverse manner. Catholic masses are held in 42 languages every Sunday in the L.A. area. Carolina Guevara from the archdiocese's media department named some of them in telephone interview: Sri Lankan, Hungarian, Cambodian, Nigerian, Arabic... You name it, they offer it.


Mark said…
42 languages?! I worry enough about getting the time right at a new church. Would need to triple check the language in LA. I wonder if part of priest training now is a required second (or third) language?


P.S. Reese & I were about to respond, and agree, to your comment about UNESCO, but noticed it was gone. You were spot on with your views. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Mark. You're funny.

Many priests in L.A. speak at least a second language because they come from Asia or Latin America. The priest at our church is from India. He says mass in English and Spanish. If I remember correctly he speaks
Portugese too.

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