We need to stop treating Latinos as if they were new to Catholicism

Fr. Manuel Dorantes with Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles during the 2016 opening Mass of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders annual conference in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) 

This week’s guest is Hosffman Ospino, an associate professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education at Boston College. His latest piece is “10 ways Hispanics are redefining American Catholicism in the 21st century.”

“We tend to think of Hispanics as newcomers,” says Dr. Ospino. Yet, “we need to keep in mind the long history of the Latino Catholic presence” in this country. The last few decades have brought an estimated 20-25 million migrants from Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, most of them Catholics. The hispanization of the Catholic church comes as a result of these Catholics settling in American neighborhoods, looking for local churches, and asking for Hispanic ministries.

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Though Hispanic immigrants and their children account for 71 percent of the U.S. Catholic Church’s growth since 1960, Hispanic children are underrepresented in Catholic education. “If we were to build 20,000 Catholic schools, we would barely be able to educate half of the Hispanic population that is school-aged,” explains Dr. Ospino. He offers three approaches: In the places where there are Catholic schools, we need to strengthen them and recruit more Hispanic students. Second, we need to build Catholic schools in the places that have a high percentage of Latino residents. Finally, we need to think creatively about how to provide Catholic education and faith formation outside of Catholics schools.

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