In the 1990s, Bishop Jose Andres Corral Arredondo of Parral, Mexico, sent several of his priests to the Diocese of Nashville to help serve the growing Latino population in Middle Tennessee.
Over the years, his priests made a new home for themselves in Nashville. An in August, four priests – Father David Ramirez Argumaniz, director of Hispanic ministry for the diocese and a priest at Sagrado Corazon Hispanic Ministry Center, Father Alejandra Godinez Alcantar at Sagrado Corazon, Father Fernando Lopez Dominguez, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Nashville, and Father Jose Ramon Ayala Gomez, associate pastor at St. Philip Church in Franklin – were formally incardinated as priests of the Diocese of Nashville.
All four of the priests have been serving in Nashville for several years: Father Ramon for about 18 years, Father David 16 years, Father Fernando 13 years and Father Alejandro eight years. Nashville has become home, said Father David, who became a U.S. citizen in September 2015. The other three priests are permanent U.S. residents.
Although the Diocese of Parral in northwest Mexico was established in 1992 only several years before Bishop Corral sent his priests to Nashville, he was returning a favor other bishops had shown him by sharing priests to help him establish the diocese.
He told his priests, according to Father David, that even in their poverty, there were other dioceses in need. “He was very kind,” Father David said.
Bishop Corral died on Christmas Eve in 2011 and his successor, Bishop Eduardo Cirilo Carmona Ortega, CORC, wanted to bring all his priests back to Parral, Father David explained. But when Bishop Carmona visited them in Nashville he told them, “you know more about this diocese than your own diocese,” Father David said. The priests in Nashville had few chances over the years to visit their home diocese in Mexico, he explained.
Bishop Carmona offered to let the priests stay in Nashville and be incardinated as priests of the Nashville Diocese if they wanted and their host, Bishop David Choby, agreed.
“The bishop has had many years to know us,” Father David said. “He knows how we work.”
They worked on the incardination for about a year before it was formally approved on Aug. 8, Father David. With the incardination, the four priests are now under the episcopal authority of the bishop of Nashville.
“I think the people are very happy” that the four priests will continue to serve them in Nashville, Father David said. They have established a connection with the people here, he added.
The Latino community in the diocese has been growing in recent years. Our Lady of Guadalupe was established as a parish for those in South Nashville who speak Spanish, and Sagrado Corazon in 2015 moved to the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike, where its congregation has continued to grow.
Currently, Father David and Father Alejandro celebrate Mass at Sagrado Corazon at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sundays. The 7 a.m. Mass on Sunday draws about 1,000 people every week and the 10 a.m. Mass about 2,300, Father David said. He would like to add a third Mass on Sunday, he said.
From Sagrado Corazon, Father David and Father Alejandro also travel to other parishes around the diocese during the week to celebrate Mass in Spanish, including: St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Rose of Lima in Murfreesboro; St. Mark in Manchester; St. John Vianney in Gallatin; St. Luke in Smyrna; St. William in Shelbyville; Good Shepherd Church in Decherd; Holy Rosary in Donelson; St. Joseph in Madison; St. Ann in Nashville; and St. Catherine in Columbia.
They also are aided in their work by Father Jacob Dio, MSFS, pastor of St. Luke, Deacon Anselmo Ambriz, four Sacred Heart Congregation sisters from Parral, Sister Maria Hilaria, Sister Maria Paula, Sister Maria Magdalena and Sister Maria Viviana.