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My Town: Bolivian priest offering Spanish masses at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish | Arts & Culture

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My Town: Bolivian priest offering Spanish masses at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish
My Town: Bolivian priest offering Spanish masses at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish

GRAND HAVEN, Mich.-- After traveling 4,516 miles from Potosi, Bolivia to Grand Haven, Michigan,  Fr. Angel Florez Espinoza is now serving St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish at all 6 p.m. Sunday evening Spanish masses through September. 

He has arrived, ready to fully offer his hands and heart to the local Latino community.

St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish is located at 920 Fulton Street in Grand Haven.  Fr. Angel, as he is called at his native parish at San Juan Bautista de Vitichi in Potosi, Bolivia, is no stranger to travel.  The small church in his hometown finds him serving and traveling to 60 different communities in need.  His assignment as summer priest at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish represents his fifth mission away from home.  He has served in Africa, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other Bolivian locations.

Fr. Angel completed his theology studies in Colombia, South America.  He was ordained into the priesthood in 2000 in Bolivia.  He feels his mission involves taking his own ability, will and hunger to help others from the divine grace and strength he gains from God.

“My first mission was in Angola, Africa.  I was there for two years and it was a real tough mission.  As if the language and the weather were not difficult enough, I unfortunately got sick,” said Fr. Angel.

After being in a coma for six days suffering from a cerebral form of malaria, Fr. Angel thanks God that he is still here and alive.

“Serving is a word which best describes my essence.  Regardless of the risks, I have always placed the gifts I have received from God toward service in the needed communities,” said Fr. Angel.

One of his self-described strengths is his ability to quickly adapt himself to new cultures and changes as he travels to the various missions he serves.  His everyday challenge is bringing new people he finds into his missions, so they can become closer to God.

Fr. Angel feels this new assignment at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish is a “reward” for his dedication and hard work, after serving in all of his previous mission experiences.  His friends from Bolivia express pride in his ability to become the first Bolivian from his community to make it all the way to the United States for mission work in the local community.

Church for Fr. Angel represents a “community of communities.”  His message for those who attend the Spanish masses at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish is to “keep working for God’s kingdom, living our community as a family.”                                                                       

The general public is invited to attend weekly Sunday evening Spanish masses at 6 p.m., worshiping with Fr. Angel and others at St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish.  For further information, visit the St. Patrick - St. Anthony website at www.stpatsgh.org.  Those with questions should contact Jose Astua, director of mission and ministry by telephone at (616) 842-8230 ext. 133 or by e-mail at  joseastua@stpatsgh.org

St. Patrick Parish began as a mission site in 1857 and the first church was built at the current location of 920 Fulton Street in Grand Haven in 1872.  In 1911, St. Anthony’s Church was formed in Robinson Township and became a mission parish of St. Patrick’s.  The current church was opened in 1957 after the old church was torn down to make room for Route 31.  The Family Center was added in 1973 and in 2012, both parishes merged into the St. Patrick - St. Anthony Parish.  Rev. William Langlois has served as pastor for 18 years with the parish and celebrated his 40th anniversary of Ordination in the ministry in May 2014.