How can the church serve the Hispanic community at a time of rapid change?

Xavier Albarran, 9, and his mother, Erika Albarran, pray during the Litany of Saints at a Mass celebrated July 27 by Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville, Tenn. (CNS photo/ Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register) Xavier Albarran, 9, and his mother, Erika Albarran, pray during the Litany of Saints at a Mass celebrated July 27 by Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville, Tenn. (CNS photo/ Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register)

During his visit to the United States last year, Pope Francis reminded Americans that it is a Christian duty to welcome immigrants and “offer them the warmth of the love of Christ.” Over a year later, many Catholics, like Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, have taken the pope’s call to heart. According to Archbishop Gómez, there is a “Latino moment” underway in the United States. “I think it’s even more clear to me, with the election, how important it is to help...the Latino culture to make a presence and influence in the United States,” the archbishop says.

The Hispanic population in the United States has long been characterized by rapid growth. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 1980 Hispanics made up less than 7 percent of the total U.S. population. By 2014 this population more than tripled to 55.3 million, or 17 percent of the total population. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, however, the growth and dispersion of this population has slowed. While immigration was the principal driver behind its growth during the 1980s through 1990s, the flow began to decrease in the mid-2000s. Between 2000 and 2014, over one million Mexicans and their families left the United States to return to their native country, citing reasons like a weakened U.S. economy. Throughout this same time period, birth rates among Hispanic women ages 15 through 44 also dropped, from about 95 births annually per 1,000 women to 72.1.

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Despite this statistical downturn, the Hispanic community occupies a vital place in the U.S. Catholic Church. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Hispanics made up 70 percent of the church’s growth in the last 50 years. Recent studies show that over 65 percent of Hispanics in the United States identify as Catholic. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that the retention rate for Hispanic youth is 71 percent, 10 points higher than for non-Hispanics. But while Hispanics constitute about 40 percent of the approximately 78 million Catholics in the United States, only 25 percent of Catholic parishes offer services specifically for them. Hispanics will continue to be a significant community for the church in the United States for years to come. What can the church do to serve these groups better?

One recommendation is to provide more financial resources to parishes that serve Hispanic communities. Pastoral leaders in these settings often have little money. A 2014 report produced by Hosffman Ospino of Boston College studied Hispanic ministry in Catholic parishes across the United States. Eighty-seven percent of respondents had “an annual budget to work directly on projects for Spanish speaking Catholics,” Dr. Ospino reports. Yet only 11 percent of the parishes studied had an annual budget over $200,000 for each project; 16 percent had less than $10,000.

Second, the church can encourage the inclusion of Hispanics in pastoral leadership. Only 10 percent of the pastors serving these communities identify as Hispanic, and just 4 percent list Spanish as a first language. Hispanic pastoral leaders should ideally possess linguistic skills and a cultural understanding of the people they are serving in the pews. Third, the church can work to increase pastoral outreach to Hispanic youth. According to the National Gang Center, 46.2 percent of U.S. gang members in large cities as of 2011 were Hispanics, many under the age of 18. Yet only 4 percent of the parishes serving Hispanic communities have developed outreach programs to help youth involved in gangs. Meanwhile, fewer than 3 percent of Hispanic school-age children go to Catholic schools. This number could be increased with targeted recruitment and a greater effort to hire Hispanic teachers.

Finally, the Catholic Church can help these communities become integrated without losing their sense of cultural identity. For many Hispanics, assimilation often leads to a loss of their heritage and faith. Archbishop Gómez describes this as a major challenge for the church “because the traditional U.S. culture makes it sometimes hard not to forget where you’re coming from: It assimilates people instead of integrating them.” The church can provide a way for these communities to retain their identity and culture in a foreign land. Following the lead of Archbishop Gómez, Catholic leaders can help the larger U.S. community better understand its deep roots in Latino culture, which date back centuries.

During his papal visit, the pope urged the church not to forget the pilgrims in search of a better life in the United States, many of whom possess an immense sense of faith, community and family that enriches our nation. As Christians, we must “not be afraid to welcome them”—and sustain them in a new land.

This editorial is also available in Spanish.

 

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William Rydberg
1 year ago
The increasing Hispanic and Filipino contribution like the Irish, Italian, Polish and French contributions have been prominently "out there" in Media, Movies, and in the general American "Hollywood" imagination. The reality is that ethnic Germans have been in the past and continue to be at present the majority American Catholic ethnic grouping. This fact has not been emphasized (likely due to two World Wars). Anecdotally, large ethnic German-American Monasteries were often headed by an Abbott with a distinctive "Irish" name in part, I suppose, to discourage complaints of Nativists and anti-Catholics... In my opinion, we are talking media "spin" not reality. in Christ, Blessed be the Holy Trinity
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
Mr. Rydberg, why the hostility? Why the defensiveness? I am not sure where you are getting your information, but it is quite out of date. Here is the reality. Currently, there are about 46 million Americans who have at least some German ancestry. Pew Research reports that there are about 57 million Americans who have Hispanic ancestry (all of Latin America), so there are now roughly 11 million more Americans of Hispanic descent than there are of German descent. .According to New Advent, of the original German immigrants to the United States, about 1/3 were Catholic and 2/3 were Protestant. Assuming the ratio is roughly the same today among their descendants, that would mean there are possibly 15 million German American Catholics, assuming that all stayed Catholic over the last 100-150 years since the bulk of the Germans who immigrated to the US came to America. This is unlikely, but that's your best case scenario. Even if a whole lot of German descended Protestants became Catholic (highly unlikely) and 50% of Americans of German descent are Catholic, that would still be only 23 million Catholics of German descent compared to 40 million, 70%, of 57 million Americans of Hispanic descent Most Americans whose ancestors came here 100 or more years ago have mixed ancestry. My paternal ancestry is German and my maternal ancestry is Irish. This is very common in America. My husband's maternal ancestry is English (Protestant) and his paternal heritage is German (Protestant). So, as a couple we are a fairly typical example of the mix of heritages and religion found in the United States. My German ancestor (who immigrated) went to Los Angeles around 1882; my Irish ancestor (second generation American) moved to Los Angeles around 1905. My parents were both born and raised in Los Angeles, as was I. I have been acquainted with Hispanic Americans since I was born, primarily Mexican because of being on the border with Mexico. Today, non-Hispanic whites are a minority in California. Archbishop Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles,was born in Mexico. Los Angeles is the largest diocese in the US. If you visit Los Angeles you might discover there is a very different church in the US than in Canada. My former parish on the east coast has offered a mass in Spanish for about 40 years. I sometimes went to that mass, even though I don't speak spanish. The mass is very vibrant, the congregation very involved, just as I witnessed it in Latin America when I visited. It will give you a glimpse of the spirit that we northern- euro-descended Catholics have lost. About 17.6% of Americans have Hispanic heritage. Only about 1.2% of Canadians are of Hispanic heritage. There are only about 600,000 Canadians with Hispanic ancestry v. 57 million Americans with Hispanaic heritage. The archdiocese of Los Angeles alone has more than 4 million Catholics of Hispanic heritage, almost 25% of the total number of Canadians.who are Catholic - in just one US diocese. . Your mis-perceptions of the reality in the US are probably distorted since you are Canadian. Being Canadian, you may not even have had the opportunity to meet nor worship with Hispanics, since there are so few people of Hispanic heritage in your country. CARA reports that of the generation of Americans born before 1943, 79% of Catholics are non-Hispanic white. Of those born between 1943 and 1960, 59% are non-Hispanic whites Of US Catholics born since 1982, 39% are non-Hispanic whites and 54% are Hispanic. http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2010/08/diversification.html Currently more than 50% of Catholics age 25 and younger are Hispanic Americans. They will be the majority of American Catholics within 20 or so years. This, Mr Rydberg, is reality, not spin.
William Rydberg
1 year ago
Ms Chapman, Maybe its your reality, but not for the rest of us. Please note my comment on ethnicity at bottom. Because I sense that you may erroneously believe that being Hispanic is an Ethnicity. Don't you find that should a person with German-American marry a person from South America, the kids are Hispanic. Plenty of German-Brazilians, or Italian-Argentinians, or Irish-Mexicans, One doubts if the methodologies take this in to account. No mention of Filipinos either? Did you know that Mitt Romney's people came from Mexico at one point, so for the purposes of statistics, Romney is Hispanic...We are talking ethnically... One speaks of Ethnic Germans. The Statisticians for years concealed this by including them as Hungarians, Ukrainians, etc.. The ethnic Germans were well dispersed in Eastern Europe. As for Hollywood, looking at many of the Vintage movies, one would assume that all Catholics were Irish-Americans. Even the guy who played the famous Priests - Bing Crosby was not full-blown Irish-American his father was English although his mum was part Irish. I think that you might be trying to do fine analysis using methodology which was deliberately skewed by Government to conceal the number of ethnically German-Americans in the USA. Using those tainted statistics is like using using a telescope. Not wanting to scare Americans in the World Wars became a well worn tool of government. Even today, there are close to 100 million unemployed Americans not in the workforce, yet the unemployment "official unemployment rate" does not reflect-more government sparing us using statistics... Did you know that if you work part-time 2 hours a week, you are iincluded in the "employed column". Which is why it's about time methodology was spoken about with respect to statistics... I urge you to go beyond the numbers... Just my opinion, in Christ,
William Rydberg
1 year ago
I will repeat my comment above for continuity: I am talking ethnic Germans... The U.S. Census Bureau defines the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino to refer to "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race" and states that Hispanics or Latinos can be of any race, any ancestry, any ethnicity.
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
And, your point?
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
Mr. Rydberg, I really don't get what your point is in all this. It is totally irrelevant to the points made in the blog. The discussion is addressing the need to better serve the growing Hispanic Catholic population. It is based on current, 21st century reality. It does not matter if the immigrants here from Latin America, including the Caribbean, are of European descent or are native Americans, whether their skin is white, black or brown.. ALL of them speak Spanish (except Brazilians), and they share a common religious cultural tradition, including such traditions as annual processions at local churches here to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. They have popularized Holy Week processions through the towns, and our Christmases are brighter because of their custom of using luminaria to guide the Christ Child to their homes. Many children's parties for children of all heritages, including German like my own children, include the tradition of filling pinatas with candy, blindfolding the kids, giving them a bat to swat at it, and waiting for someone to break it so that the candy rains down. They all love it. In my native state, California (and this is true throughout the entire southwestern US as well as Florida, many of the cities., towns, and major roads are Spanish names. As a result, I picked up some Spanish as a child just by osmosis. Mexican food is popular everywhere, but increasingly so is food from other countries of Latin America. If you've never had Peruvian chicken, you are really missing out. I am well aware of the fact that some Germans were embarassed about their heritage because of the wars. My father probably grew up speaking German in his home, but he never used it later. Neither my German family nor my husband's German family changed their names. I am fully aware of the dispersal of ethnic Germans in eastern Europe, in Prussia. My paternal grandmother's family came to the US from a part of Prussia that is now within Poland. They were not Slavic, but ethnic Germans who came to the United States VERY long ago. It's totally irrelvant to the point being made. The American Catholic church has lost more than 30 million cradle Catholics, mostly of European descent - German, Irish, eastern European, Italian, French etc. The empty spaces in the pews were filled by immigrants from Latin America, saving many parishes from having to close their doors. As their children grow up, with the millenials in the lead, the majority of Catholics in the US will be of Hispanic descent. The people who research the American Catholic church at CARA predict that this will occur during the next 20 years. Worry about Germans who came here a century or more ago, and about whether or not they are under-counted because of some kind of discrimination is not to the point being discussed. WWII was over more than 70 years ago. It's distant history. There are few "pure" Germans enclaves left in the US. Your comments sound sort of like when kids say to their friends about their favorite team v their friend's favorite team - We're #!. Then they grow up, and their favorite team that was once #1 now seldom even makes the playoffs. The point is the future of the American Cathoic church and that future is tied very closely to the Hispanic Catholic population, not the German Catholic popoulation. Bing Crosby died a long time ago. Most Catholics in the US who are younger than about 60 don't even know who he was, and they have never seen The Bells of St. Mary's. It's 2016, not 1945.
William Rydberg
1 year ago
Ms Chapman, I find your comments dismissive and disrespectful. I do not see anything alive in the deracinated background you seem to have espoused. For we Canadians rejoice in multiculturalism and celebrate our different backgrounds. For I am Swedish, Irish, English, Scottish and am enjoying it every day. No Vanilla melting pot for us! P.S. I wasn't surprised that you are German, I see it in you analytical approach-and that's not a bad thing.. Just my opinion. in Christ,
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
I find yours to be dismissive and disrespectful towards Hispanic Catholics. You seem to have missed the entire point of the article, bringing up the German Catholics. Why?
William Rydberg
1 year ago
Ms Chapman, "Why"-You seem to like the word. The answer is that I don't want people to find themselves in the position which you seem to describe yourself. I don't want them to be dismissive of their roots, to basically become detached from everything that brought them to America. I don't want them to be in the sad position of your father who never spoke His mother tongue to his children. To see their deracinated offspring. Vanilla "melting pot" Americans. Likely ones that think going to Church on Sunday is part of their Spirituality. Rather than an encounter with the living God. The God of their Ancestors... in Christ,
Egberto Bermudez
1 year ago
Thank you for this editorial, and as a way of celebrating our Hispanic and Catholic Heritage, I would like to share the following reflection: Don Quixote: A Novel on Mercy Don Quixote is the story of a country gentleman, almost fifty years old, who is obsessed with reading books of chivalry, to the point of driving himself mad. Therefore, he decides to become a knight-errant who because of the love of his lady, the desire to increase his fame, the service to his country, the righting of wrongs, sallies forth, in the company of his loyal squire, Sancho Panza, throughout the world in quest of adventures on behalf of the distressed. The advice that Don Quixote gave Sancho before the latter left to become governor of an island (even though this is a mockery by a duke and a duchess) comprises a complete program of government and human and Christian virtues. (II, 42) Don Quixote, in a quiet voice, “gives thanks to God” for the governorship of his squire. Then he lists a series of advice: “First of all, O my son, fear God, for to fear Him is wisdom. Secondly, consider what you are and try to know yourself, which is the most difficult study in the world. From knowing yourself you will learn not to put yourself up like the frog that wished to rival the ox.” Also, “consider it more deserving to be humble and virtuous than proud and sinful. […] Never let arbitrary law rule your judgments” and apply the law equally to rich and poor, and “not the whole rigor of the law press upon the guilty party, for a rigorous judge has not a better repute than the one who is compassionate.” Finally, show more “pity and clemency” than rigor with the guilty because “though one attribute of God is as glorious as another, His mercy shines more brightly in our eyes than His justice. With the advice given by his master, Sancho governs with common sense and wisdom but he has also been beaten and stepped on and decides to resign his governorship because he has acquired self-knowledge. At the end of the novel, we find a Don Quixote who has been defeated but conqueror of himself. He recognizes himself as Alonso Quixano the Good and acquires the knowledge of death as an essential truth of life. He has been unable to find complete fulfillment in this life due to the imperfections of the world and his own weakness. Unable to achieve total justice and happiness in this temporal universe, he is, at the same time, able to find fulfillment through the awareness that death is the door to a transcendent horizon. The same person who was Don Quixote of La Mancha is the one who now knows himself to be Alonso Quixano. He is grateful to God for this extraordinary transformation and cries out: “Blessed be the Almighty for this great benefit He has granted me! Infinite are His mercies, and undiminished even by the sins of men.”(II, 74; 1045) At this point, it becomes clear that the whole novel has been a humble but profound and optimistic tale of learning and redemption. The act of charity and mercy of the Good Samaritan Cervantes who rescues the old fool and madman in patches, revealing that “behind the foolishness of the fool there is still the dignity of a basically good and decent human being—a human being who does not quite know what he is doing.”(Cesareo Bandera) Even the playful and benevolent irony of Cervantes, his genial sense of humor, contributes in a subtle way to this act of salvation, transforming it into the most eloquent expression of compassion, solidarity and empathy. Therefore, by creating a novel on mercy, Cervantes is exercising what Jacques Maritain aptly calls: “The apostolate of the pen,” and Bishop Robert Barron would identify as an evangelical strategy that is capable of moving the reader from the beautiful to the good and finally to the true. Egberto Bermúdez http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/668/article/apostolate-pen http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/evangelizing-through-beauty/459/ P.S. Since you mentioned Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles your readers might be interested in the following articles: 1) http://www.angelusnews.com/articles/new-challenges-to-life-and-liberty 2) http://www.angelusnews.com/articles/immigration-national-identity-and-catholic-conscience
William Rydberg
1 year ago
Its important to remember that I am referring to Ethnic Germans. Note the following: The U.S. Census Bureau defines the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino to refer to "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race" and states that Hispanics or Latinos can be of any race, any ancestry, any ethnicity.
J Cosgrove
1 year ago
Some comments: 1. There is no such thing as Hispanic as a ethnic/cultural/racial classification. It is artificial. Now, it is true that Spanish speaking immigrants will tend to associate with each other and may develop some distinct cultural characteristics because of this, Each Latin American country is different and has their own culture as well as sub cultures based on various indigenous groups. Then there is Brazil which has a very unique culture (those who watched the Olympics will understand) and in no way could be called Hispanic. Maybe Latin but the people of Brazil and Argentina are as different as night and day. Are they both Latin? 2. There is a tendency in those countries south of the United States to not speak anything but their own language. Since most countries speak Spanish, this is not a problem amongst themselves. It is hard to find English speakers in these countries. Yes you will meet them because that is who you will be in contact with if you go there. We work with academics from Latin America and they nearly all want to speak only Spanish. This means that those who come here from these countries will generally not speak any English even if educated. Not true of India and the Philippines where most will speak English. 3. What do the authors mean by advocating that the people speaking Spanish not losing their culture and not assimilate into the society? Why should they get a pass on this? Should those from India, Vietnam, China and the Philippines not try to assimilate. It is a formula for chaos. This is a problem and the Bishops should be all over new parishioners learning English and learning what living in the US means. They should want to assimilate eventually.
Sam Sawyer, S.J.
1 year ago

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Richard Miller
1 year ago
Firstly, it is important to make a mindful selection of language when conveying concepts, especially when dealing with an issue such as race, culture, ethnicity, etc. This leads me to my second point: assimilation, as I understand it, is a loss of cultural/ethnic identity predicated by the ideas of cultural imperialism. Acculturation, on the other hand is a concept that is based on respect for the culture of a person who may be experiencing such. With acculturation, an immigrant or refugee learns to function as a responsible citizen of the United States, but this in no way requires a loss of cultural or self-identified ethnicities. Engaging diversity and social justice in our society is a moral and ethical obligation, especially if one aligns oneself with Christ's teachings. "Othering" people is a basic tenet of racism and xenophobia. If we are devaluing another's life experience or cultural heritage we are culpable of such. The Church is a system of major support for many ethnically diverse persons whether citizen, immigrant, refugee, or asylum seeker. It is a place to belong and not feel othered. What can we do to elevate the respect for our brothers and sisters whom even our Lord stretched himself in the gospels to embrace. I am reminded that the woman who sought Christ, but that was not an Israelite, was told that it wasn't right to give the children's food to dogs. She retorted and wowed our Lord who said, yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table. Who are we treating like dogs today? Will we look with the eyes of Christ and see that all are human, all are worthy of love?
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year ago
A non-Hispanic person can go to the shopping mall in McAllen, Texas during the summer and perhaps be the only non-Hispanic there. In the winter months, the mall is full of northerners escaping snow and bitter cold. One non-Hispanic northerner I knew from high school moved to McAllen and all but one of nine siblings soon followed. Even his folks moved. Further west, Fr. Carlos Pinto, known as the Apostle of El Paso, was the most prominent of a group of Jesuits from the Naples Province of Italy. Under his leadership, the Jesuits built 14 churches and seven schools between 1892 and 1917. Spanish has been an integral part of many US cities along the Mexican border for over 300 years. Shoppers and those visiting family back up border crossings for hours on weekends and holidays.
Joseph Guiltinan
1 year ago
One poster notes that few Hispanic children attend Catholic schools. In my parish, at least, it is a cost issue. Few have the resources to pay tuition, and the Diocese does not have the funds to provide scholarships. What does this augur for the future of Catholic grade schools? What are the real issues about enrollment in Catholic grade schools? Are they just demographic issues?

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