CV NEWS FEED // On Thursday, bishops at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) spring general assembly approved a plan to restructure the Church’s approach to Hispanic ministry in the United States.
The initiative comes just a few months after a Pew Research Center survey found that the number of Latinos who call themselves Catholic is decreasing rapidly. According to the survey, 43 percent of U.S. Latinos identify as Catholic, down from 67 percent in 2010. Almost half of young Latinos aged 18 to 29, specifically those born in the United States, are not affiliated with any religion at all.
To encourage the growth of Latino ministry and inspire Latinos to return to the Church, the bishops voted to approve a national 10-year initiative that focuses on children and young adults. Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, chair of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of San José, leader of the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, presented the plan.
The USCCB’s associate director for Hispanic Affairs, Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, said that the ministry proposal is the first new national USCCB-sponsored plan since the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry in 1987.
Aguilera-Titus also said that the new initiative pulls from “Encuentros,” convocations of bishops, priests, religious, and laity discussing the needs of the Hispanic church in the U.S. The last convocation, known as “V Encuentro” was an outreach to “empower the Hispanic/Latino people to live their vocation more fully as joyful missionaries to the whole Church” and ended in 2020.
“Through that process [V Encuentro], it became very clear that the Church in the United States needs to focus…on the engagement of Hispanic youth and young adults,” Aguilera-Titus said. “I am convinced, and I think the bishops are too, that the church needs to invest very significantly in their engagement, accompaniment, mentoring, and formation” to prepare them for leadership in church and society.”
According to Aguilera-Titus, only around 4,500 of the nearly 18,000 U.S. Catholic parishes have some form of Latino ministry. More than half of those 4,500 do not have a specific outreach for youth or young adults.
“I think what the bishops want to look at is how to make sure that Hispanic youth and young adults are engaged so they feel welcomed and that they can develop a sense of belonging — not be the faith of their parents but their own faith,” he said. “But if you don’t have strong youth and young adult ministry at the parish level, then you are not in a position to engage them, and therefore they will just fade away.”
Aguilera-Titus also emphasized his hope that forming young Latinos in their Catholic faith will encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as well as provide a sturdy foundation for the Church in the future.
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