Academic journal article Theological Studies

A Latino Practical Theology: Mapping the Road Ahead

Academic journal article Theological Studies

A Latino Practical Theology: Mapping the Road Ahead

Article excerpt

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THE TRANSFORMATION OF U.S. Catholicism from a community of predominantly European ancestry to one of Latin American origin is now well underway. Essayist Gregory Rodriguez has written about the "Mexicanization" of American Catholicism. (1) In many U.S. church quarters today just as in civil society at large, there is more awareness and even acceptance of this ecclesial and societal sea change brought about by immigration in general and by Latin American immigration in particular. The U.S. Census for 2000 confirmed the predictions of an earlier decade to the effect that Latinos/as would become the largest U.S. minority. That census also confirmed what observers had been noting throughout the decade of the 1990s, namely, the significant presence of Latinos/as in virtually every part of the United States. That presence is no longer a merely regional matter, but a relentless, national trend dramatically affecting such unlikely places as North Carolina, Iowa, and Alaska.

There are several other relatively new and significant trends as well. The Latino/a population, for instance, is more diverse than ever before in terms of national origin, level of assimilation, English-Spanish language proficiency, and, most important of all, generation. (2) Latinos/as no longer live predominantly in barrios, inner cities, and urban centers. Slightly more than hall live in suburbs. (3) The majority are no longer immigrants but rather native U.S. born, and they are younger than ever before. Some Latinos/as at least have experienced upward mobility. They have more small businesses, more professionals, CEOs, and even millionaires than ever before. The political importance of Latinos/as is now taken for granted: Latino/a voters can decide the outcome of elections in several major states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York.

This data provides much of the context for other articles in this issue of Theological Studies. Gary Riebe-Estrella, for example, takes a hard look at the fact that the Latino/a population is notably youthful. He draws some key, long-awaited pastoral conclusions about this important variable. Current data accordingly shows that Latinas have made significant advances in terms of levels of participation and leadership in all walks of life both in the Church and in the world of education, business, the professions, and the public square. Yet there are dramatic gaps in the picture. The lens of gender, as Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's and Jeanette Rodriguez's contributions to this issue of Theological Studies demonstrate, has come into its own with regard to Hispanic women. Latinas engage in the articulation of their proyecto historico, their vision of the fullness of life, as Isasi-Diaz informs us. Rodriguez evokes the spiritual power of the life-giving orientation of Latinas to community, struggle, faith, and ritual. Roberto Goizueta draws a picture of where a truly Latino/a Catholicism comes from and where it is going, that is, a new American Catholicism rooted more in the dense, hybrid religious and cultural experience of the Americas and not that of Europe. Ana Maria Pineda reflects on the prolific expressiveness of the Latinos/as, their distinctive, strong orientation toward art. She shows how the abundunt material productions of this spiritually inspired art constitute a true locus theologicus.

As a practical theologian, I began to look at the unfolding Latino/a drama several years ago in The Second Wave. Things were different, perhaps easier, back then. In that work I used a simple pastoral-theological tool, the "see-judge-act" method also called the pastoral circle, that goes back to the pioneering work of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and the Young Catholic Workers of the early decades of the 20th century. (4) That methodology is reflected in the stress given to scrutinizing the "signs of the times" in the thought of Vatican II as well as in contemporary Catholic social teaching. …

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