by Anita McSorley
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s a moving target, to be sure.
But that hasn’t stopped Father Michael Hermes, vicar for Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese, from sharing a five-year plan for Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese with the world.
At the curia meeting of archdiocesan leaders April 19, and then on May 3 with some members of The Leaven, Father Hermes laid out the progress the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has made in its efforts to minister effectively to the Hispanic community in our parishes.
And how far it has yet to go.
The plan is drawn from the input of the pastors of the 12 parishes in the archdiocese with Hispanic ministry, the director of Hispanic ministries Father Ramiro Sanchez Chan, CS, and from many lay leaders and parishioners across the archdiocese.
Ten pastoral priorities, identified from the V Encuentro process in 2017 and from a questionnaire survey given by Father Ramiro, were discussed by each Hispanic ministry parish. Every parish voted on their top three pastoral priorities for the next five years. The three most selected priorities are: Marriage and Family Life, Adult Catechesis and Formation, and Youth & Young Adult Ministry and Leadership Development.
Surprisingly, though, the input can be summarized in a single word.
Integration, said the vicar and pastor of St. Paul Parish in Olathe, is the key.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles serves the largest number of Spanish- speaking Catholics in the country, he said. Yet they don’t have a single minister in their Hispanic ministry office. In fact, they don’t even have an office for Hispanic ministry!
“That’s because every ministry of the L.A. Archdiocese is considered to be a ministry that embraces and is equipped to carry out its mission to all Catholics in the archdiocese,” he said.
The circumstances of the Los Angeles archdiocese are considerably different from here in Kansas, of course. But this holistic approach is a trend among dioceses across the country.
“In the first stage of Hispanic ministry in many dioceses like ours,” said Father Hermes, “we saw pastors with the interest and the ability start up Masses in Spanish in their own parishes and incorporate Mexican Catholic customs and devotions.
“In the second stage, which we’re in now, dioceses established offices of Hispanic ministry. And when a question or request came to the evangelization office or the family life office, the person was referred on to the separate Hispanic ministry department for support.”
What he hopes this five-year plan will accomplish is a move toward integration of Hispanic ministry into each area of archdiocesan outreach, even if progress has to be slow but sure.
This comes at a time, however, when several departments have already made great strides.
Jessica Cabral, the director of the urban youth ministry ReachKCK in Kansas City, Kansas, for example, is bilingual.
And the arrival of Karla Melgar, a consultant for the archdiocesan evangelization office, and of Sister Monica Bernadette Arguello, SCTJM, as a consultant in the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life, has already dramatically increased the percentage of Spanish speakers in the chancery offices on an average day.
Father Hermes singled out some other departments for their efforts to be more inclusive as well.
But the goal, he said, is to achieve the gold medal status that the archdiocesan tribunal office has already attained.
Around 2006, said Father Hermes, Msgr. Gary Applegate, who was the judicial vicar of the tribunal at the time, approached the priests in Hispanic Ministry and asked how he could help.
For how Msgr. Applegate and his successors — with a little help from Pope Francis — managed to help serve the Hispanic Catholic community with the ministry of the tribunal long before other archdiocesan departments, watch future issues of The Leaven.
In the meantime, keep the L.A. model in mind, said Father Hermes.
There’s work to do, for sure.
“But we know how to do it,” he said.