Parishioners protest new leadership at St. Paul’s Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Twin Cities

On the west side of St. Paul, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church no longer houses a regular food shelf and clothes closet for families in need, which used to happen two or three times a week. Sports programs for children have been abolished.

With the stated purpose of recruiting young men for the seminary, altar boys have proliferated, but altar girls have been banned, although the girls continue to collect offerings. Music in Spanish at funerals is no longer allowed at all.

“At my sister’s funeral he asked ‘How wonderful you are.’ He wouldn’t allow that to be played out, ”said Larry Lucio, 71, a former principal of Humboldt High School whose family helped found the church nearly a century ago.

The “he” in question is Reverend Andrew Brinkman, who began serving as the parish administrator of the parish in November 2016 and became pastor in the summer of 2018.

With the support of some of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s young immigrant families and much to the chagrin of many longtime parishioners, Brinkman has overseen a range of changes since the start of the pandemic, ranging from banning Aztec dancers from the nave to the launch of a $ 1.9 million remodel. campaign that some fear will leave the church in debt.

Brinkman, after a brief telephone conversation, declined to be interviewed.


The church – established as the state’s first Spanish-speaking mission at the behest of the Catholic Women’s Guild in 1931 – has served as a beacon for the Mexican-American community and draws heavily on immigrant history of St. Paul’s West Side.

In the early 1960s, a few years after the Mississippi floods severely affected the Latin community living along the West Side Flats, the St. Paul Port Authority razed the frame houses to build an industrial park. Families scattered around the subway, but many retired professionals still return every Sunday to Concord Street to worship together under the stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary appearing to Mexican peasant Juan Diego some 500 years ago and bringing Catholicism to the masses.

Over the past five years or more, young Mexican-American and Central American immigrant families have also looked to Our Lady of Guadalupe from Forest Lake, South St. Paul and the city’s East Side, and many newcomers adopted Brinkman’s evangelical style.

Gilbert de la O is not one of them.

“It’s a bit disturbing, mainly because the church is like the soul of our community,” said de la O, a former member of St. Paul’s School Board who has been active at Our Lady of Guadalupe since the early years. 1940s. “A year and a half ago things started to change. He started talking about not having Mexican music at the funeral, some songs that were traditions from the 1930s. Traditional music was really important to us. He moved away from making shelves of food and clothes for families. Very quickly, people started to get angry.


Some of these rules have since been relaxed following complaints. On December 12, after a busy Spanish-language Mass, Brinkman announced he was selling his own car to fund a $ 5,000 raffle. Flower vendors were selling roses in the lobby. A group of mariachis held court in the Social Hall, where families enjoyed large cups of pozole – a traditional Mexican stew – and coffee with sweetbreads during the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“I’ve been attending for years. Things are normal, ”said Porfirio Castro, an East Side resident who took his family to mass.

“Since COVID, we have had four parking lot food distribution events organized by parishioners that have gone very well,” Deacon Luis Rubi said in an email. “Last month we organized a coat drive. “

Miriam Castro Franco was more worried. Over the past year, Brinkman has started incorporating Latin into parts of his Spanish Masses, with the stated goal of adding full Latin Masses at least every two weeks.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Castro Franco, walking his 63-year-old mother through a snow-covered parking lot towards afternoon mass. “It is a conflict that must be resolved in peace and love, because we are talking about God, faith and culture. When people love it here, they feel like they are right back at home in Mexico.

During his 71 years, Lucio was baptized at Our Lady of Guadalupe, served as an altar boy, married there, and buried his family. In October, he and others were surprised to learn about the major changes to the church’s written mission statement, which now ends with noting the importance of “worship, service, and tithe. “.

Until then, “we’ve never talked about tithing before,” said former church administrator Cecilia Jackson, noting that many immigrants give of their time rather than money. “He wants money.”

When Jackson and others approached Brinkman for an explanation, “he said he had done it, God spoke to him and that’s what he wrote,” Lucio recalls. “He asked how we could question God.


Then came the announcement in the church program that a $ 1.9 million fundraising campaign was underway. The aim was to reshape the church and make it more worthy of its new title of the official diocesan shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which, according to believers, appeared several times in Mexico in 1531 and initiated a vast conversion to the Catholic faith.

The church is the only diocesan shrine in the archdiocese.

Considering the number of nearby churches closed due to insolvency, the prospect has made some parishioners nervous. “We need to fix the roof, we need to fix the plumbing before we can start talking about renovations,” de la O said.

Jackson, a former Minnesota state financial official and former church finance board member, said, “We’ve always been a pay-as-you-go church and have cut back on our spending. We use local talent, as a large part of the local Mexicans are artisans. There was no coordination. We were not asked if we wanted this. He just doesn’t answer us at all.

Renovation plans appear to have been scaled back after the initial fundraiser attracted limited dollars, but the renderings are still in place on the church wall near the entrance to the nave. On December 15, a member of the parish finance council said in an email that the church would launch a fundraising campaign of $ 600,000 for a debt and maintenance fund.


Jackson, who lives in North Oaks, said she and many former West Side alumni attend 9 a.m. Sunday Mass, the first of three Sunday Masses, and these are the members Brinkman seems to watch the most. cautiously because they are the most difficult to influence.

“We are ‘the 9 o’clock people’. We were educated and retired, ”she said. “We have this new group of people and we’ve always been able to help them get by and connect them to social services. A friend of mine is a banker and she helps me with home loans and car loans. He doesn’t like any of that.

On a busy Sunday morning at the end of November, a few dozen parishioners braved the cold to protest in front of mass with pickets demanding respect for traditions and the voices of the elders.

Following the protest, Lucio helped organize a December 9 meeting between the congregation and Archbishop Bernard Hebda, where Lucio expected several parishioners to have the opportunity to share testimonies. Instead, the Archdiocese moved the three-hour meeting, which drew some 250 parishioners, from the social hall to the church pews, with Hebda leading the discussion from the stage.

“We were told ‘this is the Archbishop’s meeting, and they are going to lead the meeting,” Lucio said. “We said, well, that’s not what we planned.”

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese released a written statement from Reverend Michael Tix, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Parish Services.

“I am grateful to be part of the ongoing dialogue between the leaders of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in St. Paul and the parishioners,” Tix said, “some expressing concerns about a range of changes and others expressing their support for their pastor and their enthusiasm for the direction the parish is taking in continuing to serve not only long-standing parishioners, but also recent Latino immigrants. Bishop Hebda is also aware and involved in this dialogue. It is through a open and honest conversation that concerns will be best addressed and solutions found for the benefit of all involved.

Tix, in the written statement, said archdiocesan leaders continued to meet in person with affected parishioners.

Marcus Troy is not a Catholic, but the longtime West Sider has enjoyed visits to Our Lady of Guadalupe since his childhood sleepovers with friends in the 1970s. He attended the church reunion December 9th and left after almost two hours frustrated and disappointed.

“It was the older Mexican generation compared to the younger Mexican generation. It was pretty much a divide and rule by the church, ”Troy said. “It was pretty sad, man. This guy does a pretty good job of dismantling most of what the original parishioners built. A woman stood up and said we built this church taco sale by taco sale. (Another) lady mentioned that “you had a speaker and everything was in English, and nothing was in Spanish”. She received a round of applause.

“I know how important a church has been to all of us,” added Troy. “It’s like I come over to your place and take over, and tell you if you don’t like it, you can go.”

On December 12, Miguel Ramos de Roseville arrived at afternoon mass thinking of his parents in Mexico, both of whom have COVID. A parishioner since the mid-1980s, he has seen nothing but positive change.

“This is the house of God,” Ramos said, noting that his faith in the church had helped heal his own ailments in his youth. “Not everyone agrees with everything, but we are all human beings. We may have differences of opinion. We come to pray.

Jerry B. Hatch