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placeholder October 23, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA

Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of Hispanic Ministry and Religious Education at Boston College, whose research focuses on Catholic parishes' Hispanic ministry.

Church's urgent need to reach out to Hispanic Catholics

There must be a critical urgency to reaching out to Hispanic Catholics for the future of the US Church, speakers advised a meeting of Oakland diocese priests.

The two main speakers both emphasized the cultural and generational differences between the Hispanic community, which will soon dominate the US church's demographics, and the need to reach out to the community. The speakers were Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of Hispanic Ministry and Religious Education at Boston College, whose research focuses on Catholic parishes' Hispanic ministry, and Armando Cervantes, director of youth and young adults for the Diocese of Orange. They were among a half-dozen speakers on different topics at the fall study day of the diocese's priests at Santa Maria Parish in Orinda on Oct. 12.

by the numbers

7% of US population in the '50s

43% of US population today

52% of population in Oakland diocese

71% growth since 1960

64% are US born

50% are younger than 30

50 average age of white Catholics

50% of Catholics between
18 and 38

60% of Catholics younger
than 18

83% foreign born Hispanic priests in US
All the speakers stressed the importance of being involved in the V Encuentro, a fifth nationwide initiative of US bishops at making more missionary disciples. Of 70 million US Catholics, 32 million are Hispanic.

"The Encuentro is a process," explained Rev. Alexander Castillo, newly named director of the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization in the diocese. "It goes both ways. How do we commit Hispanics to the work of the Church?"

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, repeated the mission of the Diocese of Oakland: Its three priorities are improve the Sunday Mass experience, focus on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and encourage people to become missionary disciples.

"Mass attendance is declining," the bishop said. "We can't sit back and watch it decline."

Father Castillo explained for the last 18 months, Encuentro team members and clergy have been working to organize and train parish teams. Of the 41 diocesan parishes with Spanish-language Masses, 33 are involved in V Encuentro. A diocesanwide meeting will take place Oct. 28, followed by 230 regional meetings and one big national gathering.

Why an Hispanic Encuentro and not say, an Asian or multicultural meeting, so everyone could be included, Ospino asked, because the Hispanic population dwarfs other ethnic groups and has an historical and cultural presence with deep roots.

In the 1960s, a picture of US Catholics would have shown they were 90 percent white, European-Americans, Ospino said. From 1900 to 2000, these German, Polish, Irish, Italian and other Catholic immigrants went from 10 million to 71 million. They made their own schools and eventually cohesive communities. They became the middle class and achieved the American dream.

But decades of turmoil in Latin America resulted in a tsunami of immigration. In the 1960s, there were 7 million Hispanics here; now there are 32 million.

Most of these immigrants are Catholic, so they are mostly affecting the Catholic Church.

"The gift and blessing of Hispanic Catholics is that they are reshaping our Church," Ospino said.

While the non-Hispanic white population is now 47.5 percent of the population, down from 90 percent, he said, the Hispanic population is 43 percent.

"This is the present, and in your diocese these numbers are even bigger," he said.

"All minority populations are growing," he conceded. "Fifty years from now, Asians will be 15-20 percent of the Catholic Church in this country," but Hispanics will dominate.

There are 400,000 Hispanics in the East Bay, so I am assuming your churches are full? he asked the priests.

"Where is the disconnect?"

"How are we reaching out to Hispanic Catholics," he asked. "That is the purpose of Encuentro."

Cervantes said. "We have to change the way we evangelize."

"It is Hispanics who are having kids," Ospino said, "64 percent are US born. Who is reaching out to them?"

"In the last two decades," Ospino said, "14 million — 25 percent — have stopped self-identifying as Catholics."

"Every parish should establish a youth ministry for Hispanics," Ospino said.

Walk with them, ask questions, listen, share, Cervantes advised. Go out to where they spend their time. "They will not get to us if we wait at the church."

Finally, "we have to teach stewardship," Ospino said. "Hispanics only give 10 percent to 11 percent of parish income. We need to educate that community."

Our model of giving does not exist, he said. Hispanics are used to government support of the church structure. "We have to work with US Hispanic Catholics, walk with them to develop that culture (of stewardship)."

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