September 25, 2015
By Adrienne Anderson
The Catholic Parish of Fort Belvoir’s Spanish Mass is coming to an end after 32 years of service. The mass, the only Spanish-language Catholic service on post, will host its final Mass 9 a.m.-noon Sunday at the Fairfax Chapel, 5675 21st Street. The Mass is open to the Fort Belvoir community.
“It is a final reunion for all those who have attended in the past,” said Chaplain (Col.) Gary Gross, Fort Belvoir command chaplain for the garrison and priest for the Catholic community. “It’s a celebration for the many years they were able to come together as a community … in their own unique way.”
The service began in June 1982 at St. Martin’s Chapel.
“St. Martin occupied building Number 1025,” said retired Col. Victor Rodriguez, U.S. Air Force. “The structure was torn down a few years ago and the lot still sits facing the old gym.”
The idea came about when a Fort Belvoir chaplain noticed attendees of masses on post weren’t comfortable with a Mass not in their native language, Rodriquez said.
Rodriguez, a parishioner with the Good Shepherd Catholic Church at the time, helped in the establishment of the Spanish-language Mass.
Gross said the mass incorporates Spanish language and culture, and the final Mass is a good opportunity for others to learn about a different culture.
Latinos from places such as Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico attended the mass, Rodriguez said.
“Some Families were loyal to the mass from the beginning … to the present,” Rodriguez said. “The community was small enough so that attendees knew each other well.”
He said children who grew up going to the Mass went on to have their own Families who still attended the service.
“Everyone has the same option to be able to attend another mass in the same time frame,” Gross said about the other masses available. “We can still meet the overall needs of the Catholic community.”
Gross said the mass is a final reunion for all those involved and also “our outreach to all cultures and ethnic groups.”
The Hispanic service is being discontinued because of the Army’s downsizing, he said.
“While the Hispanic community is saddened by the loss, there is also a sentiment of gratitude to base officials for allowing Hispanics to enjoy the unique privilege of having such a special event,” Rodriguez said. “To the best of our knowledge Fort Belvoir was the only military installation in the U.S. to host such a gathering. Now that is also history.”
Source: Belvoir Eagle