By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – On Tuesday, Oct. 16, the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry met for a second time this year with religious and lay Hispanic leaders and Bishop Joseph Kopacz to talk about the future of their work in light of a study released earlier this year.
The National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministries was conducted under the leadership of Hosffman Ospino, assistant professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate of Georgetown University collaborated in the study and the Diocese of Jackson participated in it.
During the morning session, Sister María Elena Méndez gave an overview of some the findings noting that the 20 million Hispanic immigrants currently living in the United States is four times the number of Irish immigrants who came between 1840-1960.
About this, Ospino said the church needs to develop a strategic plan to welcome and serve this predominantly Catholic ethnic group in the U.S. or risk alienating them.
Brother Ted Dausch, CFC, director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, continued by saying his office will begin formulating a pastoral plan to guide their work. He told participants the office needs to know their dreams and goals so they can be incorporated into the plan.
He compared the present reality with that of the immigrants who came to this country in the 1900s and established “wonderful structures which helped support and invigorate their Catholic communities,” such as schools, hospitals, churches, etc.
“Now we need new structures that will help us too support and invigorate our communities,” he said, adding that is the reason to meet to talk about what is going on in their communities and what they want to change or add to their present reality in planning for their future.
Joel Montoya and his wife, Rosalinda, were invited to give their own experience as members of the Family Christian Movement, a program offered in the diocese through the Office of Hispanic Ministry. This program is now in its third year in the Jackson area which includes Forest and Carthage. In Tupelo, couples from New Albany and Houston are also participating.
Brother Dausch invited those present to talk with couples in their parishes about the movement and see if they are interested.
Father Lincoln Dall, pastor of Tupelo St. James Parish and the spiritual director of the movement in his parish, also gave information about how this program is working in the Tupelo area.
After lunch, Bishop Kopacz told participants there are a lot of good things happening within the Hispanic community. “I have seen that and experienced that when I have visited the different churches,” he said. “I commend you for all that is happening,” Bishop Kopacz added.
He mentioned he met recently with Brother Dausch and Sister Méndez and Sister María Josefa García of the Office of Hispanic Ministry to talk about laying the groundwork for a diocesan-wide process to bring people together to envision, to dream about the life of the diocese.
“Unity in our diocese, that is always the dream,” he said. “That was Jesus’ dream in the Last Supper, before he died, that we all may be one. So we will continue working on that. “
By Elsa Baughman