WASHINGTON (March 9, 2000) -- Hispanics, who will constitute a majority of the Catholic Church in the United States in the next few years, account for 71 percent of the growth in the U.S. Church in the last 40 years, according to a new study released today by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Hispanic Catholics in the United States have gone from virtual anonymity to the very center of Church life," said Bishop Arthur N. Tafoya of Pueblo, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs.
In addition to pointing out the empirical evidence of a radical demographic shift in the U.S. Church, Hispanic Ministry at the Turn of the New Millennium describes many positive responses by dioceses and parishes prompted by the influx of Hispanic Catholics. It also highlights the challenges faced by the institutional Church to keep pace with these changes.
"The Hispanic community among us is a blessing from God, rich in gifts which they are so willing to share with the entire Church,"Bishop Tafoya said. "The report we are releasing today illustrates for us the magnitude of that blessing, and at the same time points out for us areas where we can and should improve. This bishops of this country recognized more than 50 years ago the need for ministry to and among Hispanics. The beginning of the new millennium gave us an opportunity to reflect on where we have been and to look ahead at where we are going. This report is neither a starting point nor a destination. It is a roadmap for an ongoing journey."
The Hispanic Affairs Committee commissioned the report on behalf all of the nation's bishops. It is intended to assist the bishops and their diocesan staffs with their pastoral planning.
It is estimated that between 67 percent and 71 percent of the 30 million U.S. Hispanics in 1998 were Catholic (or 20.1 million to 21.3 million). That equals 30 percent to 38 percent of all U.S. Catholics.
Among other highlights, the study showed:
- Mass and the sacraments are available in Spanish to a much greater degree than ever before in parishes throughout the country.
- More than 40 percent of dioceses offer lay leadership formation through programs designed specifically to respond to Hispanic Catholics. Small faith communities continue to proliferate among Hispanics, particularly where there is a history of involvement in apostolic movements and small faith communities.
- Of 150 dioceses surveyed, 44 have created new or updated offices for Hispanic ministry in the past nine years and budgets for Hispanic ministry have increased in more than 80 percent of the dioceses in the same period.
- Staff assigned to serve in ministry among Hispanics has nearly doubled since 1990, and a growing number of dioceses have created new structures to respond to the Hispanic presence, particularly at the regional and deanery levels.
- The number of dioceses requiring seminarians to study the Spanish language and culture has increased by 67 percent since 1990.
- About 40 percent of dioceses publish diocesan newspapers with information in Spanish and/or produce weekly or daily radio programming in Spanish.
Among the challenges outlined in the report is the need for broader collaboration between Hispanic ministry and other diocesan departments. About 50 percent of diocesan Hispanic ministry directors report a lack of an ongoing relationship with other diocesan offices, and most dioceses do not conduct pastoral planning for Hispanic ministry on a consistent or regular basis.
Other challenges include:
- Addressing the issue of proselytism by religious groups which is affecting Hispanics in more than 50 percent of the dioceses, which is more than four times than in 1990.
- Improving Hispanic representation on parish pastoral councils. Less than one-third of the parishes with a significant Hispanic presence offer youth ministry, lay leadership training, or retreat programs in Spanish.
- Removing education, language, and other barriers which continue to limit the entry of Hispanics into the seminary.
- Boosting the level of Hispanic participation in diocesan administrative structures. Approximately 63 percent of dioceses with Hispanic ministry have no Hispanics in management positions in diocesan offices.
- Improving outreach to youth. Thirty-seven percent of diocesan Hispanic ministry directors stated they are not reaching Spanish-speaking youth and 51 percent are not reaching English-speaking Hispanic youth.
Bishops. "It is gratifying to see the progress that has been made by dioceses around the country in their Hispanic ministry efforts in the last ten years. There is room for improvement to be sure, but there is always room for improvement in any human endeavor. We are energized by the challenges outlined by the report and we'll begin immediately to look at ways to address those challenges."
NOTE: Attached is a fact sheet with information extracted from the report as well as contact information for individuals available to comment on the report. A copy of the full report is available upon request.