Symposium on Catholic Hispanic Ministry Report
By Rev. Rene Costanza, CSP
Last month I had the privilege to attend the 2014 National Symposium on Catholic Hispanic Ministry hosted by Loyola Marymount University. The Symposium, which included four years of planning, research, writing and national consultations culminated in a meeting held from June 23rd to 25th at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.
Thanks to the nudging of a professor/theologian I met during my Hispanic Ministry program at CUA and the support of Brett Hoover, I responded to the invitation to be part of the gathering of 83 participants including pastoral leaders, representatives of national and regional offices, educators, researchers and professional specialists. We were pleasantly accompanied during those three days of dialogue, consultation and worship by Archbishop Gomez of L.A. and Archbishop Gustavo of San Antonio.
There were 8 working groups at the Symposium: Hispanic Ministry and Education; Hispanic Ministry and Immigration; Hispanic Ministry and Post-Immigrant Youth; Hispanic Ministry at the Parish and in the Movements; Hispanic Ministry, New and Old Media, and Technology; Hispanic Ministry, Religious Literacy and Engagement with the Bible; Hispanic Ministry and Latino/a Leadership Development; Hispanic Ministry and the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean. I was assigned to Hispanic Ministry at the Parish and in the Movements. Prior to the meeting, a study document on the topic was circulated for my perusal and consideration.
The common threads (Evangelization; Polarization and divides; Women; Latino/as in society) that affected all of the topics were discussed in the working group. During the symposium meetings, the authors of the first draft of the document were present and joined in the discussion noting challenges and working to improve the insights presented.
It was clearly noted that there is a relocation of the center of gravity in Hispanic Ministry from national and regional organizations to parishes and apostolic movements. The discussions were also impacted by the two reports that came out in May: the Pew report “The Shifting Religious identity of Latinos in the U.S.” and the Boston College “Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes,” compiled by theologian Hosffman Ospino, who was part of the working group. The impact of the writings of Pope Francis with a distinct Hispanic theological lens of “acompanamiento and encuentro”—accompaniment and encounter was seen as a consolation to all those present. This has influenced positively the way pastors involved in the everyday struggles and joys of their flock.
Considerable discussions ensued pertaining to the increase of anti-immigration sentiments in our nation; the passing of the faith to the next generation of Hispanics given the widening cultural gap; the accompaniment of those in need given that many Hispanics do not see the left and right dichotomy as many non-Hispanics do but understand the social commitment dimension of parish life; the equipping of parish leaders for mission; and the provision of intercultural competence training for pastors (priests and bishops) to not only address the needs of the people but to acknowledge the aspirations and appreciate the contributions/gift of Hispanics in the parishes.
Some of the recommendations that were made to the document as it is revised and re-edited include the emphasis of:
- Engaging Apostolic Movements and guide them to live their spirituality based on mission as presented by Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel
- Having intercultural competence and Spanish immersion programs as a norm in seminaries
- Acknowledging and addressing the presence, gifts and needs of Hispanic young adults in the US by having a much wider presence of Hispanic ministry in social media
- Addressing the effects of the mentality of “assimilation” that is pervasive in Church leadership and promoting a model that meets the people where they are at and accompany them to a more liberating and freeing life in Christ
- Assessing the power dynamics in all three parish models: shared parish, personal parish and community of community of communities parish.
The final 8 documents will become chapters in the symposium book to be published in 2015. The volume will be produced bilingually in English and Spanish. The book will serve as a great resource for as missionaries to North America. If we truly believe in Father Hecker’s prophetic words that “In the union of Catholic faith and American civilization…a future for the Church brighter than any past,” then we must be more intentional in our engagement with Hispanic Ministry. I would like to thank Frank DeSiano and PEM for sponsoring my participation in this symposium. I also invite you to read the attached closing presentation by Dr. Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu who gives us another way of looking at the theological discourse through the eyes of “fiesta.” It is worth a read. ¡Adelante!