Every year, the United States marks Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Nearly 60 million U.S. Latinos can trace their heritage to countries throughout Latin America and Spain, and a majority of Catholics under 18 are Latino.
Still, about one in four U.S. Latinos are former Catholics. With that in mind, America asked its readers how the church is already serving Latino Catholics and how it can do better.
In what ways is the church helping Latinos live out their faith in this country?
Over the past several years I’ve been moved by the way in which many Catholic Universities and Catholic-inspired nonprofit organizations are inspiring Latinx Catholics to grow as disciples and lead in prophetic ways. In my city of Chicago, I see this through the vibrant work with Latinx students at Dominican University’s Campus Ministry department and at Loyola University of Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, which has led the nation with enrolled DACA medical students.
The emergence of grassroots Latinx Catholic leaders in our parishes and public life is of the utmost importance in our country at this moment and I see that happening in places such as El Paso, Tex. through Hope Border Institute. In Chicago, I am deeply grateful to be involved with the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership, where we seek to center the leadership of Latinx and African-American Catholic leaders who are living out their faith through their work for justice and social transformation.
If you have Latin America roots, do you feel your culture is welcomed by the church? Please explain.
There is no such a thing as “the church” and “Latino Catholics.” Latino Catholics are the church along with Catholics from other cultural backgrounds. Parishes where Latinos gather to celebrate and grow in our faith are de facto welcoming spaces. There, our many Latino and Latin American cultures meet, not without tension of course, and are often affirmed as we all come together to celebrate the joy of being disciples of Jesus Christ. Supporting multicultural parishes is very important. Training pastoral leaders to serve well in these communities is even more important.
Hence, it is important to look closely at how seminaries, houses of formation, universities, theologates and pastoral institutes prepare the next generations of leaders to serve in a church that is culturally diverse and majority Hispanic/Latino. Beyond multicultural communities, more work needs to be done to prepare Catholics who are not Latino or Latin American to learn about the gifts and contributions of the Latino community in this country. Once again, much of this responsibility will fall upon the shoulders of well-trained pastoral leaders with the appropriate intercultural competencies.
How can the church improve? Out of 267 active bishops and archbishops, only 25 are Hispanic/Latino. That is only 9 percent of the U.S. hierarchy. From all estimations, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics will be Hispanic/Latinx by 2050. It is time for the American Catholic Church hierarchy to improve the leadership structure and resemble the lay reality in this country.
Milton Javier Bravo
Jersey City, N.J.
More resources need to be invested in formation, youth and young adults. We need less administration staff and more people in the trenches.