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The Boston College report on Hispanic ministry as reviewed at NCR

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In two parts, Michael Sean Winters reviewed the Boston College Report on Hispanic parish ministry in the U.S. in his blog, "Distictly Catholic" at the National Catholic Reporter. You can read his remarks (and please do) at http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/boston-colleges-report-hi... and http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/bcs-report-hispanic-paris... http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/boston-colleges-study-his... My comments follow:

These are interesting questions. No doubt there will also be an examination of how Hispanic and Latino Catholics contribute to the life of the parish - or decide to stay separate from the majority population. In times passed - and still existing - there were also separate African-American Catholic parishes - like St. Joseph's in Alexandria, Virginia. We have not full Spanish parishes in Alexandria, although I am sure the Diocese probably has at least one.

The separation is interesting and is likely due to both ethnic distrust and language. 100 years ago, in the Catholic Church a mixed marriage in Iowa was when a German and an Irish Catholic couple married. Language was a part of that too, as in late 19th Century Iowa, German and Luxemberger Catholics went to ethnic parishes and spoke German. When the Germans switched to English speaking (like my grandfather's family) the ability to mix began - although clergy were notorious in discouraging mixed marriages. I suspect that clergy, language and ethnic tension probably keep Spanish and Anglo Catholics from mixing at services, in leadership positions and in marriage - although I suspect the younger generation will end the separation of cultures, just as I married an Irishwoman. When I did, it was at St. Ann's in DC. This parish has become much more Hispanic - but not because of Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans, but because of Filipinos.

Any real analysis of parish dynamics must include the family dynamics. Of course, with what is almost a one-drop rule in demographic surveys relating to Hispanic heritage, intermarriage over the next century may make the designation meaningless.

As for Part II: I suspect that the higher Mass attendence is cultural - with the family going to Mass together and never skipping. The fact that Hispanic parish members are not as involved in the life of the parish, instead creating their own culture (such as the Corpus Christie procession every year) is a question of both the desire to remain unique and the majority's desire to let them. As Dr. King said, Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. This explains why they give less time and treasure to the parish as a whole. The data says this is also the case in apostolic movements. Opus Dei anyone? Such movements make Hispanic Catholics more faithful than our more skeptical Anglo Catholics, some of whom learned that skepticism at Catholic College. Only time will tell us the impact of various levels of devoutness. Of course, in time, this should work itself out.

Part III finishes the series. The fact that most Hispanic ministry is in the west (where the Latinos are) is not surprising, nor is the fact that many who provide ministry are not priests (which is the case of most of the Church. What is not surpising at all is that those priests who are Hispanic tend to serve their own populations - which means the ghetto is alive and well in Catholic ministry. Still, this won't last long - as these priests are younger and will one day be a key part of the leadership of the Church in American. For now, though, youth ministry is only available in 40% of Hispanic Churches - which is not surprising given the low pay found in most such parishes for laity (or in the Church at large, for that matter).

This is an interesting report that the Bishops may and should consider. Of course, even if they don't, the forces of intermarriage (because most Catholic kids are in public school) will break down cultural identity - although it might also further reduce Catholic identity. That part is up to our children, not to us or to the bishops.

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