Make room at the (church) table for Hispanic Catholics

Laughter alternated with earnest dialogue during Miguel Moreno’s lecture to 69 Hispanic Catholics attending a Spanish language session of the Ministry Formation Program (MFP) in Davenport Sept. 29.

Moreno, coordinator of Multicultural Ministry for the Diocese of Davenport, knows his audience because he organizes major activities and events for Hispanic Catholics and oversees efforts to nurture their leadership and participation in the church.

Last weekend’s MFP session comes one week after Moreno and six other diocesan representatives, including Bishop Thomas Zinkula, returned from V National Encuentro, the culmination of a two-year process of grassroots evangelization, mission and consultation. It is a priority activity of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Strategic Plan for 2017-2020.

Hispanic Catholics represent a large and growing percentage of the Catholic Church in the United States; 60 percent of all Catholics younger than 18 in the U.S. are Hispanic. In the Davenport Diocese, approximately 25 percent of the entire Catholic population is Hispanic, Moreno said.

V Encuentro encourages all of us who call ourselves Catholics to encounter, accompany and learn from one another. Together, we can strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to be missionary disciples and leaders in our church, all of us forming the one body of Christ.

The challenge becomes putting words into action. Father Guillermo Treviño, another V Encuentro representative from the Diocese of Davenport, said he learned “that the Latino community is tired of being treated as second-class by the church. We have lots of positions for English-speaking people in the diocese and usually one or two for Spanish speakers. Bishops were challenged to support the needs of all people, including the Spanish speakers.”

Here are some practical things that we can do in our diocese as individuals, parishes, schools and other entities to encounter, affirm and inspire Hispanic Catholics:

• Be welcoming, with a gesture, a smile. These acts of thoughtfulness don’t require translation. You don’t need to speak Spanish to convey a welcoming attitude.

• Take time to listen to their stories (someone who is bilingual can translate, if necessary).

• Be a companion. Many people just want and need a companion, a friend, simple as that.

• Participate in Hispanic cultural activities and events celebrated in the parish or the greater community.• Work on changing negative attitudes – our own and others. If we’ve listened to their stories in the first place, we will better understand why Hispanic Catholics felt compelled to enter the U.S.

• Don’t condescend. Some Hispanic Catholics may be newcomers to the U.S., but they are not newcomers to the Catholic Church.

• Invest in Catholic school education for Hispanic Catholic children whose families have limited income. Keep in mind that children sometimes feel a sense of unworthiness from peers whose families pay full price.

• Offer a place in the parish where young people can gather on Friday nights for fun activities such as Karaoke, pin ball or table tennis. You have to get them in the door and feel welcomed before you can evangelize.

• Invest in youth ministers/leaders for Hispanic Catholic youths. They should be knowledgeable about the culture, traditions and language.

• Provide training for Hispanic Catholics to know their rights. As the Department of Homeland Security intensifies its deportation efforts, families need to understand their rights under the law.

• Help promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life among Hispanic Catholics.

• Identify and promote opportunities for leadership positions in the church and society.

• Create faith formation and leadership development initiatives.

• Provide liturgy that is inspiring and beautiful.

• Read more about V National Encuentro at https://vencuentro.org.

• Ensure that training in Spanish and in Hispanic/Latino cultures are part of formation for ministry, lay or ordained.

Our diocese is off to a good start with its Spanish language Ministry Formation Program, which has nearly 100 participants from the diocese and beyond. This initiative complements family retreats, pilgrimages and conferences that the Multicultural Ministry office regularly hosts.
Hispanic Catholic adults, some of them with modest means, are sacrificing time and travel on the last Saturday of each month to participate in ministry formation. They choose to deepen their knowledge and to serve God’s people. We need them to be in leadership roles.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor
(arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org)

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