Serv­ing spir­i­tual, com­mu­nity needs in Span­ish

Churches in re­gion of­fer ser­vices for Lati­nos

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By RICK BOYD rboyd@somd­news.com

Jes­sica San­tana Szym­czyk has lived in St. Mary’s County for three years. She and her husband have young chil­dren, a daugh­ter and a son, who are en­rolled at Leonard­town Ele­men­tary School.

“I would like to stay here,” she said re­cently. “I like it a lot.”

But she didn’t al­ways feel this way. Her husband’s work has taken them

around the United States for the last 11 years, and when she ar­rived in St. Mary’s she didn’t drive. She didn’t know any­one in South­ern Mary­land and for the first year she lived here, she said, she just stayed in the house.

For six months, she prayed to find a church. Then Julie Smoot knocked on her door.

“God lis­tened,” Szym­czyk said.

Smoot in­vited her to come to Patux­ent Bap­tist Church.

Szym­czyk is from Ecuador, and ex­plained that she was look­ing for a church that had ser­vices in Span­ish.

Yes, Smoot told her, her church had a Span­ish ser­vice.

Szym­czyk is among thou­sands of peo­ple in South­ern Mary­land, most of them from Latin Amer­ica, who speak Span­ish as their pri­mary lan­guage. And she is among hun­dreds who have found church homes in the re­gion, where they can wor­ship in their na­tive lan­guage and share fa­mil­iar cus­toms and tra­di­tions.

Masses in Span­ish are reg­u­larly cel­e­brated, and in some cases have been for many years, at Catholic churches in South­ern Mary­land in­clud­ing St. Peter’s and Our Lady Help of Chris­tians in Wal­dorf, St. John Vian­ney in Prince

STAFF PHOTO BY RICK BOYD

Lewis Dampier, left, Car­men Vega, Jes­sica San­tana Szym­czyk and Michelle Olmo gather at Patux­ent Bap­tist Church on an evening when chil­dren are en­gaged in va­ca­tion Bi­ble school ac­tiv­i­ties.

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