WASHINGTON (USCCB)— Convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, the leadership of 15 national and regional Hispanic Catholic organizations met at the Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) in San Antonio, Texas, September 26-28, with the purpose of identifying emerging leadership as well as strengthening collaboration and reinforcing existing structures that have been particularly helpful to the growth and development of Hispanic ministry in the country. A special emphasis was given to helping these organizations to achieve financial stability, internal capacity and organizational development.
The dialogue also included other church management, youth ministry and social service Catholic organizations, as well as higher education institutions, and foundations that already are playing an important role in assisting with the development of Hispanic ministry leadership.
“Today Hispanic ministry is present in more than 4,500 parishes across the U.S. and 85 percent of the 195 dioceses in the United States have an organized Hispanic ministry,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin in his welcoming remarks. “There is no doubt that Hispanic Ministry is an expanding reality in the local churches.” Bishop Vasquez is a member of the Subcommittee and the leading bishop for advancing the subcommittee’s priority on “strengthening the Hispanic ministry network”.
“These two days we gather at MACC once again to discern the most effective ways to move forward. The contributions of your organizations, both individually and collectively are key to the future of Hispanic Ministry and to the entire Catholic Church in the United States,” Bishop Vasquez said.
“The demographic shift taking place in our country and Church requires the Hispanic/ Latino community to come forward; it means leaders need to be identified and a vision communicated if the Hispanic Latino community is to really develop its potential,” said Jesuit Father Allan Deck, USCCB Executive Director for the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church. “Our hope is to help strengthen the organizations that are serving the needs of Hispanic Latino people better and build relationships among the leaders as well as with other cultural groups.”
Marilyn Santos, president of “La Red” National Catholic Network of Pastoral Juvenil (Hispanic Youth and young adult ministry) expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to meet with other leaders from Hispanic organizations. “As many of us do, I have a full plate, but I knew I had to attend this gathering. I can’t think of any other thing in the Church with this much urgency and importance.” U. S. Census and Pew Research Center numbers show that, while 35 percent of Catholics in the U.S. are Hispanic, among those 35 years and younger Hispanics already comprise 50 percent of the U.S. Catholics.
The participants shared successes and struggles and were invited to discern steps needed within their own organization to measure up to the new challenges and realities. After the dialogue, a clear need for a more strategic and deliberate collaboration emerged. Presentations by Robert J. McCarty, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) and Michael Brough, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, helped set the framework for the subsequent discussion by the Hispanic organizations about their own structures and how to improve capacity building, leadership development, board development and fundraising.
Consideration was also given to the role that universities and foundations may play on this endeavor and how they can collaborate more closely with Hispanic ministry structures. Barry University, Notre Dame University, Boston College, and Loyola Marymount were represented at the dialogue. They shared challenges and opportunities they face on recruitment and retention of Hispanic Catholics in theological and ministry fields. Loyola Marymount announced that is convening a Symposium on Hispanic Ministry in 2014, in close collaboration with other universities.
An urgent sense of the need for a coordinated approach, a nationwide process, arose at this meeting. The need to engage in a more direct dialogue and partnership with the apostolic movements and other grassroots organizations was also expressed.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, expressed the need to also engage and work in collaboration with organizations outside of the Church and to identify Hispanic leadership that can be invited to serve on a professional or advisory capacity on Church structures, boards, bishops’ committees, etc.
After the meeting, Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, director of the national Office of Hispanic Affairs, under the USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity, said that “This meeting marks a new beginning in Hispanic Ministry. Our organizations are committed to closer collaboration and a more strategic organizational development.” Aguilera-Titus, coordinator of the event, added, “The National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry and (NCADDHM) and the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM) and La Red are key organizations that will play an important role in strengthening Hispanic ministry and its evangelizing mission.”
Recommendations and ideas generated at this meeting, and in subsequent discussions within each participating organization, will be presented at the next meeting of the Subcommittee for Hispanic Affairs on November 13. Bishop Gerald Barnes, the subcommittee’s chair, stated that “the strengthening of Hispanic ministry structures is a priority for the New Evangelization of millions of Hispanic Catholics that await to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in each of the 195 dioceses in the United States.”