KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)—Humberto Collazo began attending services at St. Dominic’s in English when he moved to Kingsport to work for Eastman in 1989.

Soon, though, the church began holding mass in the language of his native Puerto Rico.

“A group was formed because we have a lot of local workers, restaurant workers, [who] needed mass and they couldn’t go to normal mass times,” Collazo, now a deacon, told News Channel 11. “They came up with this mass at 3:00 p.m. in Spanish. Fifteen of us showed up. ”

Though there were fewer Spanish speakers in the Tri-Cities at that time, Collazo said a network formed.

“We suddenly found each other,” Collazo said. “In the malls…we just noticed somebody and said, ‘¿Habla español?’”

As the years passed, the group outgrew the small chapel on St. Dominic’s campus and into a thriving community that marks everything from holidays to baptisms.  

“Most of us migrated from someplace else, so our families are not with us,” Collazo said. “The community becomes a family. ” 

The ministry offers everything from Spanish bible studies to English as a Second Language classes, as well as sharing traditions from Central America with the English side of the congregation.

By observing those national traditions like Las Posadas, a reenactment of the holy family’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem, or the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Collazo said members connect to each other and to their past.

“When you see a mass, special mass, it connects you to your home to where you were,” said Collazo.

Spanish mass is held at 12:30 p.m.