by Father Pat Murphy
Last month a new storefront church opened on 18th and Central in Kansas City, Kan., catering to the Spanish speaking seeking an evangelistic flavor to celebrate their faith.
Meanwhile, a local radio station has announced that they are about to offer 16 hours a day of religious evangelical programming focused on Hispanics.
This story seems to repeat itself over and over again in many cities throughout the United States. Therefore, it is no wonder that recent studies on Catholic identity state that only 58 percent of Hispanics identify themselves as Catholic, while 25 percent self-identify as Protestant, and 12 percent have no religious preference.
In my last Leaven column, I promised to share with you some steps that the Catholic Church needs to take if it is to help keep the Hispanic community Catholic:
1) Open wide the doors: We can no longer afford to debate whether or not to have Mass in Spanish. It is time to open wide the doors of our churches and truly welcome the Hispanic community, because if we do not do it, other churches are more than willing to do so.
2) Mission over maintenance: We can no longer afford to sit in our offices and hope that Hispanics find their way to our churches. It is time, as the U.S. bishops say, to move from the pews to the shoes and use a more mission-based approach with the Hispanics.
3) A creative option for Hispanic youth: We can no longer pretend that Catholic schools will solve the challenge of the Hispanic youth population explosion. Sorry to say, but attending a Catholic school remains a pipe dream for 90 percent of the Hispanic families that I know. In the meantime, we need to offer a more creative pastoral outreach or face the prospect of losing a complete generation.
4) The evangelization priority: We cannot afford to be inactive in terms of the ministry of evangelization, because if we don’t, other denominations are ready and willing to evangelize for us.
5) A prophetic voice for immigration reform: The church needs to continue to be a prophetic voice and advocate for real justice for immigrants. The Hispanic community will surely remain Catholic if they know that their church is willing to fight on their behalf.
All the trends clearly suggest that more than 50 percent of the U.S. population will soon be of Hispanic origin. In light of that possibility, the key question we need to be asking ourselves is: Will the majority still be Catholic?
The final answer remains to be seen, but to make this happen, perhaps we need to change our pastoral approach.