Column: The pastoral challenge of Hispanic youth

by Father Pat Murphy

I was recently invited to a meeting with the director of Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan., in order to explore ways in which our office could collaborate with the school.

I must admit I had my doubts entering the meeting, but in the course of our conversation it became crystal clear to me as to why we do need to work together for the good of our youth.

In 2001, Wyandotte High School had a Hispanic population of about 15 percent; in 2008, that number has jumped to 45 percent of the total population of 1300 students. I began to do some quick math and came to the conclusion that there were close to 600 Hispanic teens currently attending Wyandotte.

In reflecting on those numbers, I then began to ask myself some questions:

• How many of those teens are in contact with the Catholic Church?

• How many are in our confirmation or youth programs?

• How many might be getting lost in the shuffle and falling away from church?

• What kind of a response can we offer to them and other Hispanic teens?

I really believe that Wyandotte High School might be the tip of the iceberg of how many Hispanic teens live in the area and so we have a lot of work to do or we might be in danger of losing a whole generation of Catholics.

This leads me to announce the good news that should bring us all a lot of hope. On the weekend of March 27-29, we will be hosting at Savior Pastoral Center the Region IX “Formation Workshop for Hispanic Ministry Youth Leaders.” This will be a gathering of 50-60 Hispanic leaders coming from 10 dioceses in our region to confront this great pastoral challenge.

The two key objectives of our workshop will be: 1) to train some leaders on how to guide and evangelize Hispanic youth who are often caught between two cultures; and 2) to give these leaders the tools and resources to organize a pastoral outreach to Hispanic youth.

Now some might ask: “Why do we need a specific pastoral plan to work with Hispanic youth? Can’t they just fit into what the parishes are already doing?” The answer for me after 30 years in Hispanic ministry is rather simple: The pastoral responses we have been offering have not worked, and so we either try a new and more aggressive approach or else we take the risk of losing an entire generation of Catholics.

In the meantime, please pray for us as we undertake this great pastoral challenge.

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Fr. Pat Murphy

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