Study: Catholic Church Has Fallen Short in Serving Growing Hispanic Population

By Gazzar, Brenda | Pasadena Star-News, May 11, 2014 | Go to article overview

Study: Catholic Church Has Fallen Short in Serving Growing Hispanic Population


Gazzar, Brenda, Pasadena Star-News


SAN FERNANDO » When Janelly Jimenez was struggling with her grades in her first year of college, she decided to return to the Catholic Church where she was baptized and had her confirmation.

The Cal State Northridge freshman convinced her 12-year-old sister, Arlene, to accompany her a few months ago and the sisters now join their immigrant parents every Sunday for a Spanish- language mass at Santa Rosa Catholic Church in San Fernando.

"I wanted to go to church just to feel a little more calm, knowing God is there for me," Jimenez, 19, of Lake View Terrace said after Sunday's 8 a.m. mass. "I feel way more calm now in school. After church, I go (pray) to the Virgin Mary and say 'please help me out' and I feel like she is."

Jimenez, who now looks forward to church every week, may be the exception among her peers. A new study warns that the Roman Catholic Church in America is at risk of alienating and losing greater numbers of Hispanics if it doesn't cater more to this diverse ethnic group and especially to its youth.

The burgeoning Hispanic Catholic community - which makes up 40 percent of all Catholics in the country - is overwhelming the Catholic Church and challenging parishes in education, language, geography and ministry, according to the "National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry."

"The church is doing its best to respond to the Latino presence, however, most of the efforts that the church is using to work with Latinos are geared toward immigrants," said Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Assistant Professor Hosffman Ospino, who led the study that was released last week. "The vast majority of Latinos who are Catholics in the U.S. are U.S.-born and young... We discovered that there's very little these communities are doing to reach out to Hispanic youth on the one hand, and secondly, to U.S. youth who are born in the U.S."

For example, only 3 percent of Hispanic children attend Catholic schools, Ospino said.

Around the country, only one in four parishes offer some form of organized ministry to Hispanics and many are led predominantly by non-Hispanic white priests - though some do speak fluent Spanish - and pastoral leaders nearing retirement age, Ospino said. Programs need to be in place to prepare Hispanic priests and church leaders for Hispanic ministry in the coming years.

Only 40 percent of parishes with Hispanic ministry have youth groups specifically oriented to Hispanic youths and these groups usually have only between 30 and 40 young people. …

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