Faith, Family, and Filipino American Community Life

Faith, Family, and Filipino American Community Life

Faith, Family, and Filipino American Community Life

Faith, Family, and Filipino American Community Life


Stephen M. Cherry draws upon a rich set of ethnographic and survey data, collected over a six-year period, to explore the roles that Catholicism and family play in shaping Filipino American community life. From the planning and construction of community centers, to volunteering at health fairs or protesting against abortion, this book illustrates the powerful ways these forces structure and animate not only how first-generation Filipino Americans think and feel about their community, but how they are compelled to engage it over issues deemed important to the sanctity of the family.

Revealing more than intimate accounts of Filipino American lives, Cherry offers a glimpse of the often hidden but vital relationship between religion and community in the lives of new immigrants, and allows speculation on the broader impact of Filipino immigration on the nation. The Filipino American community is the second-largest immigrant community in the United States, and the Philippines is the second-largest source of Catholic immigration to this country. This ground-breaking study outlines how first-generation Filipino Americans have the potential to reshape American Catholicism and are already having an impact on American civic life through the engagement of their faith.


Shortly after 8 A.M. on a muggy Saturday morning in Houston, Texas, Dan, a first-generation Filipino American Catholic in his late thirties, urged his family to get ready. The night prior, at their weekly household Couples for Christ (CFC) prayer meeting, Dan and his wife Lita, also a first-generation Filipino American Catholic in her thirties, invited me to join them the next morning when they were to volunteer at a local soup kitchen called Fishes and Loaves. We had been discussing what it means to them to be Filipino and Catholic. I asked them how their faith impacts their understanding of community. Rather than discuss it at length, Dan suggested it would be easier to just show me. “Be at our house tomorrow around 8:30 … you can join us and then we can talk some more.”

When I arrived at the Cruz household, Lita explained to me that they were a little exhausted from a long workweek and were hard pressed to get things done.“We only have a precious few hours of every weekend to get chores done and spend quality time with our three children.” Nonetheless, Lita and Dan appeared energized and eager to volunteer despite the constraints on time that come with work and family. They believe that their efforts at the soup kitchen make a real difference. Like many of the hundred sixty-plus first-generation Filipino American Catholics interviewed over the course of this study, Dan and Lita see their community life as an extension of their Catholic faith. “It isn’t easy,” Lita suggested, “everyone is tired, barely moving, and all of us could use a few more hours of sleep, but this is what God asks of us for our fellow brothers and sisters.”

Quoting their conversations on biblical scripture from the night before, Dan insisted that there is a connection between the message of the Gospels and the significance of their own community volunteering. “Our service [to the community] is a heartfelt reflection on the role of Christian families in God’s plan for humanity and it sticks with you the whole week long.” As parents of three young children, ages seven through eleven, Dan and Lita hope that this vision of . . .

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