Controversy in Catholic communities of Parmer County

A controversy in two Catholic communities in Parmer County were brewing over the weekend.

On Sunday, May 20, Father Henry served the Catholic communities of Friona and Bovina for the last time.

The problem was Father Henry wasn't leaving on his own free will.

According to parishioners, Father Henry was relieved of his duties due to the fact that he didn't speak English.

During his final mass he described the letter he received informing him of his removal.

"He talked to us this Sunday about how he felt and he actually even cried, and it made it more sentimental for every one of us seeing our pastor have to leave for this reason," said Joana Ramos, a parishioner of Friona's St. Teresa Catholic Church.

Father Henry had been serving Friona and Bovina for five-months and was practicing English in his spare time with one of his parishioners.

More than 75-percent of the population in both towns are of Hispanic descent.

"Our community is mostly Spanish speakers," said Ramos. "One of the ladies who started the protest did mention that there is not one person who attends this mass that is just a Spanish speaker. So it doesn't make sense as to why they would want father to speak English if it's not going to be practiced in mass."

When Parishioners got word of this happening, they tried to reach out to Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo.

"My reaction right now is just feeling unheard," said Eduardo Rojas, member of St. Teresa Catholic Church.

When letters and phone calls didn't seem to work, parishioners got together and protested after mass on Sunday.

Videos gained attraction on Facebook.

"Not everyone knows what exactly is going on. Everyone has questions," said Rojas.

Bishop Zurek did visit with the St. Teresa Church council Monday afternoon, but did not have time to speak with the community.

"As a leader, Bishop Zurek, you need to address the community. Let them know what is going on. Be the true leader of the community of the whole diocese of Amarillo. We are here and we want you to hear us out. This priest is loved here, he is really loved."

According to the church council, Father Henry will not be reinstated.

We did try to reach out to Biship Zurek for a comment on the decision, but never received a call back.

Parishioners are unsure of what will happen moving forward, such as who will be their new priest?

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