Serving spiritual, community needs in Spanish
Churches in region offer services for Latinos
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
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.