By DOUG WELLER
SALINA, Kan. — Sister Esther Pineda sees her role as director of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Salina as helping pastors and parishes welcome Spanish-speaking Catholics.
“Folks are waiting to avail themselves of the Sacraments,” she said, but the pastor or other leaders in the parish might not know enough Spanish to serve as the bridge.
Only four of the diocese’s 86 parishes offer regular Spanish-language Masses, but Sister Esther says there likely are Hispanic Catholics in nearly every parish.
The 2012 Census estimates show 23,000 Hispanics living in the 31 counties of the diocese. They make up 6.7 percent of the total population of 340,000.
Not surprisingly, the four parishes with Hispanic ministries are in counties with the largest Latino populations:
• Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Goodland is in Sherman County, which has 721 Hispanic residents. Three neighboring counties have another 550 Hispanics.
• Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays is in Ellis County, which has 1,481 Hispanic residents.
• Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish in Salina is in Saline County, which has 5,766 Hispanics living there, and in neighboring Dickinson County there are 869 Hispanic residents.
• Seven Dolors Parish in Manhattan is in Riley County, which has 5,587 Hispanic people. Neighboring Geary County reports another 5,245 Hispanic residents.
Those four parishes, Sister Esther said, “have done well” developing Spanish-language ministries.
She said part of her job will be determining “how can we help coordinate them.”
“I’ll be visiting the parishes to see what they have, what they need and how this office can help,” she said. “It’s also important that we encourage the Hispanic leaders who are in these parishes.”
A native of New Mexico, Sister Esther joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 1973 and this year celebrated her 40th jubilee. She earned degrees from Western New Mexico University, the University of New Mexico and Fordham University, taught in Nebraska, worked in campus and parish ministry in New Mexico and directed her community’s postulancy program in Texas and Concordia.
After serving eight years on the congregation’s Leadership Council in the 1990s, she worked for Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va., and for NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, in Washington, D.C.
She moved to Salina in 2006 to coordinate the sisters’ Justice and Peace Center, where she will continue to work part-time.