Joseph L. Harris, Sr. (ghandiavelli) wrote in columbus_photo,
Joseph L. Harris, Sr.

Bringing the Sisters to Columbus

In 2007, I asked my sister (who is very plugged-in to all thing Catholic in Columbus) about the Hispanic tradition of the religious procession, specifically, if there was somewhere in Columbus that I could go experience one. Coincidentally, she knew just the place: St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church on Columbus' West side, where her friend Father Thomas Buffer is the pastor. St. Stephen Church has one of the larger Latin congregations in the Central Ohio area, with over 1000 people attending their weekly Spanish mass, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was approaching, which is an important feast celebrating a miracle that acted as the catalyst for the conversion of the people of Latin America.

I made a wonderful, colorful series of images from the procession and the mass and party afterward.

 (2007-12-09) Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession 0210 (2007-12-09) Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession 0670

I have always been interested in how immigrant communities assimilate into American society, and either hang on to or lose their ethnic identities, so I've tried to be aware of what's going on in the St. Stephen parish for other opportunities to photographically record how this particular immigrant community lives and worships.

Last year, I became aware of a new project in the parish. They had become aware of a problem, second generation Latin Americans falling away from the church. To make a long story short, they began the process of bringing some Mexican nuns from the reasonably new order, The Servants of the Word, to establish a community (a convent) in Columbus to minister to the people on the West side, particularly the Spanish speaking population. The Servants of the Word's purpose is to evangelize, to go out into the community and talk to people and invite them to Bible study sessions and that sort of thing. To reach out to them and try to keep them involved with the Church. So for Cinco de Mayo (because in the US, Hispanic = Mexican and Cinco de Mayo is seen as "the Mexican holiday" even though it's only celebrated in one state in Mexico) they had a fundraiser dinner with silent auction to raise money to buy a house to be made into a convent for the Sisters, to pay for their transportation here, and their expenses for their first year here. I decided that this was an opprtunity to tell a story. In my first PJ class, I think we were told you can't go wrong with photos of nuns, so.... :)


 (2009-05-05) Bring the Sisters to Columbus Fundraiser - 0037 (2009-05-05) Bring the Sisters to Columbus Fundraiser - 0018

The fundraising has been successful, and last week they closed on a house across Clime Road from the Church which will be renovated and prepared for the Sisters' arrival on August 18th.

(2009-07-10) Bring the Sisters to Columbus - 0006 (2009-07-10) Bring the Sisters to Columbus - 0227

Renovations began last Saturday morning, and volunteers will be working over the next month to get the house ready. So this is where I am, I've set out on my first long-term photo documentary project. I'm hoping that it will turn out to be something interesting and educational for people, and that it might help the people of St. Stephen parish. At the very least, I think it's an important historical record. I don't think there are communities of real, habited nuns around here anymore.
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