By Berta Mexidor
PEARL – In an analysis of history and its consequences on today, Dr. Hosffman Ospino exchanged information with priests, seminarians, sisters and lay people who work in the parishes of the diocese during two intensive gatherings. Ospino, assistant professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, was in Jackson for Faith Formation Day August 25, so the office of Hispanic Ministry invited him to meet with pastors and lay people separately at St. Jude Parish.
Ospino presented several facts about the development of Catholicism in the United States to both groups centered on why in the 21st century the church is adopting ministries designed to alleviate segregation in the parishes. This segregation, once imposed socially and legally, is now self-inflicted.
The current segregation, he said, is a personal attitude to choose segregated life and it is a trend that has been getting worse since the 1960s. “This self-segregation is destroying us,” Ospino noted. Personal experiences and culture are taken to church every Sunday, this can affect the church positively or negatively.
Catholics have struggled to keep and share their faith for centuries. At the beginning, Irish, Germans and Italians created national churches to keep their faith, language and customs.
Blacks, Latinos, Asians and other internationals are converging in Catholicism from different routes and causes. Specifically, for Latinos, in every country, Catholicism has been the main religion, a heritage from the colonization of Spain and Portugal. In terms of major migrations of Spanish speakers to the U.S., one important event was when generations of Mexicans, became U.S. citizens after the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty on 1848. Later, in the 1960s, political and economic instability detonated a migration from Latin American and Caribbean countries, bringing Catholicism with it. Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans came to be part of established Catholic churches in U.S. This pattern continues until today with the immigration of Venezuelans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and more.
These immigrants share the same language – Spanish, but their children speak English. “Hispanic Ministry needs to use both languages, or even ‘Spanglish’ if necessary, to share the gospel to all,” Ospino joked.
Embracing diversity is the new challenge for Catholic churches. Bringing the best of different societies and cultures will strengthen the Catholic Church. “Latinos are attending church, everywhere they go, to keep their faith” Ospino emphasized, remarking that at the end all “Catholics are called to share and keep their faith.”
Priests, deacons and leaders from more than 20 parishes came to the first gathering. Most of the priests are working in places were the Latino community has an important presence in Mississippi. At the second meeting, Saturday afternoon, more than 70 Latino parishioners shared their hopes and challenges with Ospino. He noted Hispanics have a history in United States with deep roots, and based in that foundation, Latino families need to continue the construction of their identity. This time one of the participants highlighted the fact that parents should have an active participation in school system to support their children’s education, therefore they need to learn English, and understand the American system.
Ospino called their attention to certain figures: in United States’ 196 archdioceses/dioceses with more than 17 thousand churches, 35 million Latinos are Catholics. Two-thirds of Hispanics live in poverty; only 18 percent have a college degree. The average age of Latinos is 19 years, which represents almost 60 percent of the entire Latino population.
These statistics should impel the Catholic Church to first – reach out to the Hispanic youth, second – work with family life and third– create a new context for vocations. Coincidentally, these are the objectives of the main agenda for the V Encuentro, which will be held at the end of September.
The numbers grow every year and “this human tsunami is transforming the Catholic Church,” creating what Ospino considers to be “multicultural churches.”
By Berta Mexidor