Hispanic Ministry Grows in U.S. Church

Jim McIntosh, OFM Friar News

Participants in the Fourth Annual Interprovincial Hispanic Ministry Meeting with speaker seated second from right (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

Participants in the fourth annual Interprovincial Hispanic Ministry Meeting with speaker, seated second from right (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — Sixteen friars from across the country gathered last week at the Mt. Alvernia Retreat House to discuss OFM Hispanic ministry in the U.S. They met Oct. 10 to 13 to discuss common problems and to give each other support.

This is the fourth year in which friars from different provinces interested in Hispanic ministry have met as Juntos Como Hermanos, or Together as Brothers. As in part, the event was held during National Hispanic Heritage Month which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Boston College professor Hosffmann Ospino gave a presentation to the participants on Hispanic ministry in the U.S. Church. The statistics he provided friars were startling. More than 40 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic. Although many think that Hispanic ministry requires the Spanish language, in fact, almost two-thirds of Hispanic Catholics are born in the U.S. and speak English as their first language.


Dr. Ospino addresses the friars

As Stephen DeWitt, OFM, one of the meeting organizers, pointed out, “If you have Latinos living in your parish, you’re doing Latino ministry.”

According to Dr. Ospino, it is critical that the Church in the U.S. address the needs of the 64% of Latinos who are U.S. born. These are mostly young Latinos who speak English, but find themselves caught between the wider U.S. society and their Latino roots.

Only 4% of the children who are Latino study at Catholic schools, and less than one percent participates in church youth groups.

In the U.S. Catholic Church, which is rapidly becoming Hispanic, Dr. Ospino said that Hispanic ministry shouldn’t be delegated to one “Hispanic Ministry” office but rather should infuse all the work of the church.

The friars also discussed the planned USCC V Encuentro of the American Catholic bishops and the effects of the Revitalization and Restructuring effort by the U.S. provinces.

The friars ended the meeting by drafting a letter to the provincial ministers of the seven OFM provinces in the United States requesting that their ad-hoc organization be recognized as an official interprovincial structure “to develop and provide resources for Hispanic ministries throughout the U.S.; to provide resources and a support system for friars engaged in Hispanic ministry and those who might be interested in Hispanic ministry; and to organize regular gatherings for friars interested in Hispanic ministry in furtherance of our mission.”

Information on the fifth Juntos Como Hermanos/Together as Brothers meeting, scheduled for October 2017, will be made available to the friars early next year.

— Br. Jim, a resident of Philadelphia who lived in South America for seven years, is national social media director for the US Franciscans. He and four other members of Holy Name Province participated in the 2016 Hispanic Ministry Retreat.

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