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September 21, 2012Celebrating Latino Catholics during Hispanic Heritage Month
Statistics show that as Latinos become more relevant in U.S. society and politics, they may help tip the results in a close race for the presidential election. But politicians and statisticians are not the only ones paying attention to us these days. Media moguls are making hefty investments in developing products that would attract those audiences. For instance, Discovery-En Español, just announced the release a new original production "Gen H" (Generación Hispana). Gen H is a documentary that follows three young Latino entrepreneurs and explores what makes them passionate and their views of the country and their community.
"Generation H" should be of especial interest to the Catholic Church as the percentage of Latinos in the younger generations of U.S. Catholics continues to grow. For example, an astounding 54 percent of all U.S. "Millenial Catholics" are Hispanic. The percentage of Hispanics in lay ministry formation programs has risen to an all-time high of 40 percent. And, although not keeping pace with the percentage of Hispanics in the total U.S. Catholic population, the number Hispanic college seminarians continues to grow and is currently estimated at 20 percent by a recent CARA poll commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.These statistics and other interesting ones have been compiled by the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church and can be found on the USCCB website , and on the newly launched Spanish-language Facebook page of the Bishops' Conference For Hispanic Catholics this is a year to mark anniversaries: 40 years since of the first National Encuentro for Hispanic Ministry (1972); the 25th anniversary of the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, and the tenth anniversary of Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry. These two key documents of our collective historical memory, along with several more, can be found in "A New Beginning, Hispanic, Latino Ministry—Past, Present, Future." The book, just published by the USCCB, is a bilingual Special Anniversary Edition that compiles the main U.S. bishops' foundational documents for Hispanic Ministry over the past 50 years.
But we celebrate more than documents and events that reflect our history as a people of faith in the United States. As Bishop Gerald Barnes, chairman of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, writes in his foreword to "A New Beginning":
"Today millions of Hispanics/Latino Catholics feel at home in more than five thousand parishes. Lay ecclesial movements gather millions through retreats, conferences, and thousands of small communities. And practically every year new bishops, priests, religious men and woman, and lay ecclesial ministers of Hispanic/Latino descent are added to the ministry of our increasingly culturally diverse Church."
Yes, we have come a long way. "However, never before has it been so urgent for all ministers to serve Hispanics/Latinos in parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions," insists Bishop Barnes.Nor has it been as important for Hispanic/Latino ministers to reach out to Catholics from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities in the spirit of the New Evangelization." The future awaits and "Catholic Hispanic/Latino leaders are keenly aware that their leadership is of the outmost importance for the present and the future of the whole Church in our country."
As Hispanic Catholics we unite ourselves to the rest of the nation in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. We celebrate those who have come before us. People who laid foundations, opened doors and built bridges of collaboration and understanding. We admire their creativity and persistence, fully aware that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. But we also celebrate those among us who, today, wear their Hispanic/Latino heritage with pride as they strive to serve and build up the fabric of Church and society in the United States.
Mar Munoz-Visoso is executive director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
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