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Spanish congregation buys church

December 29, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Three years ago, a group of Spanish-speaking Seventh-day Adventists began meeting at the Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church on Robinwood Drive, conducting their services in the language of their birth.

"We started looking for a church to rent two years ago and we found the Wesleyan Church at 17805 Sherman Ave.," said Pastor Juan Carlos Sicalo through an interpreter, Linda DeLeon, a member of the congregation.

In early December, the congregation - which now numbers about 70 - took the final step and bought the building. In Spanish, the name of the church is Iglesia Adventista del Septimo Dia.

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Sicalo, a native of Argentina, also pastors another Spanish-speaking congregation which meets in a small chapel on the grounds of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Frederick, Md. That congregation has 60 members.

"I have been in the United States for 14 years," Sicalo said through the interpreter.

Sicalo, 60, has been a pastor with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination for 39 years. "There is a large Seventh-day Adventist presence in Argentina including a hospital and a university," Sicalo said through the interpreter.

When he arrived in the United States, Sicalo was in the Washington, D.C., area and then in Denver, Colo. The last three years, he has been in the Hagerstown/Frederick area.

"The Spanish-speaking population is growing in this area, mainly because of work," Sicalo said through the interpreter. "A lot of people come to the Washington, D.C., area to work and as they become more affluent, they want to buy homes in this area because it is more tranquil."

A Miami native, DeLeon met her husband, Walter, in Uruguay when she was working in the church's office there. They have been married 31 years and have one son who is a missionary in Africa.

"I'm retired now but I was working in the church's main office in Silver Spring," Md., DeLeon said. Now a Washington County resident, she serves as organist and teacher of the early teen class at the church.

Sicalo said the congregation in Hagerstown is a mix of people from Mexico and many different countries in Central and South America.

The congregation currently consists mostly of young couples with young children, he said. There are camp programs and retreats and as more children become involved, Sicalo said, activities will be provided for them.

The church building on Sherman Avenue consists of a sanctuary, a fellowship hall and several rooms that need refurbishing before they can be used. But that is in the works.

For more information on the church and its mission, call 301-824-7882, or e-mail JCSicalo@aol.com.

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