The pastoral care of Hispanic ministry in the United States

The National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry is intended to be a roadmap for the actions of the Catholic Church in the United States.

February 29, 2024-Reading time: 4 minutes
Virgin of Guadalupe

Parade in Houston to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe (OSV News photo / CNS file, James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

The successive waves of Hispanic/Latino migration to the United States have brought about, among many other things, a very significant change in the number, composition and profile of the Catholic Church in the United States.

The phenomenon of the growing and enormous Hispanic/Latino presence in the United States, noticed and welcomed by the Catholic Church, especially in the last seven decades, went from the timid and almost clandestine Eucharistic celebrations in Latin or "half Spanish" and in the basements of the temples to the celebration of national gatherings of the Hispanic Catholic ministry or pastoral in this nation.

The road to the Pastoral Plan

Historical milestones of these changes are, among others, the following years: in 1945 the first national office for Hispanic ministry was officially established and in 1972, 1977, 1985, 2000 and 2018, after arduous work, consultation and discernment processes, the five successive national meetings of Hispanic ministry were convened and held.

As a result of the long historical trajectory of the Hispanic/Latino presence, of the welcome and experience of the Church and of what has been shared and learned in the national meetings already mentioned, this National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry is intended to be a roadmap, a path, a route along which the actions of the Catholic Church in the United States and of the Hispanics/Latinos who are pilgrims in it with their faith, will advance in the building of the Kingdom of God, through the commandment of love, for "a new heaven on a new earth"., that is, for a better American society and a new, more just, more fraternal and more united world, according to the criteria of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The fifth national meeting, based on the document and Plan of which I am speaking, always in the light of the Gospel, sought to gather Pope Francis' vision and doctrine on the Church, especially in the context of the Synod on Synodality, as well as to be in tune with the Catholic Church in Central and South America, based on the teachings proclaimed by the Latin American episcopate in Aparecida, Brazil.

Lines of action

The Plan, which I present to you here, consists of five parts, in which the vision of what Hispanic pastoral ministry in the United States should be is presented and suggested lines of action that consider Catholics as missionary disciples, nourished by the Eucharist, sent to proclaim the Gospel and bear fruit. Disciples animated by the Word who - through their encounter with Christ - form a prophetic, multicultural and synodal Church that promotes integration, inclusion, justice and mercy.

In addition, this National Pastoral Plan indicates some pastoral priorities to be taken into account in parish and diocesan pastoral projects: faith formation, accompaniment of families, youth ministry, immigration, and pastoral care for those on the periphery, among others.

Health as a priority

As CEO of SOMOS Community Care, I notice the absence of the issue of health as a priority in a Pastoral Plan of the Catholic Church. And although I can understand and excuse this omission, due to the fact that our Hispanic/Latino community is mostly young, the issue of health is an issue that cannot be forgotten because without it there is no life or "abundant life" (Jn 10:10).

Etymologically and theologically speaking, "salvation" is synonymous with "health", because Jesus of Nazareth dedicated a large part of his public ministry to it and because an evangelizing and pastoral task that is not complete, totalizing, holistic, for the whole man and for all men, betrays the universal and integral salvation that God gives us in Jesus Christ.

The Church, Mother and Teacher

This Plan is, evidently, an effort - for which we are grateful - of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to summarize experiences, to illuminate the life of the Hispanic/Latino community present in the United States with the light of the Gospel which is Christ himself, but, above all, it is an effort to have a method (path), a common agenda of lines of pastoral action that show us the path that all together (synodality) we must travel.

This Plan is also a sign of the sensitivity, interest, welcome and concern that the Catholic Church in the United States, as "Mother and Teacher" has had and continues to have for Hispanic immigrants and is, at the same time, a tribute to all the ordained ministers and lay people who over the course of so many decades have enhanced, in so many ways, the presence of the Hispanic/Latino community in this society and in the Catholic Church in the United States. May we all feel represented in this National Pastoral Plan and to all goes our grateful memory.

A common effort

I would like us to purchase this document from parishes or directly from the contacts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCBWe want us to know about this Pastoral Plan.) That we get to know this Pastoral Plan. May we all actively participate in it. May we be agents of change and good news.

May this Plan be a working tool and a way for all of us - in society and in ecclesial community - "to be one" (Jn 17:20-23) in respect for the differences that, instead of dividing us, enrich us, so that we may live integration and unity in diversity. Tool and method for us to realize the fraternal communion and participation that result from the Gospel. Plan, method and instrument "to walk together as joyful missionary disciples going forth in solidarity and mercy" (Plan cited, part 1, p. 7) and so that, ultimately, we may live "catholicity", that is, the universal fraternity willed by Jesus Christ, our "Way, Truth and Life".

The National Pastoral Plan document presented here begins by saying that "the Hispanic/Latino presence is a blessing from God for the Church and for our country. I wish and propose that in this 2024, that in the next ten years that the Plan contemplates and always, every Hispanic/Latino and Hispanic/Latina, present in the United States, feel welcomed and able to welcome with all.

That Hispanics/Latinos feel responsible and capable of transmitting, with deeds and words, the best of our values, traditions and culture. That with our daily actions we may be builders of a better Church and a better society.

The authorMario Paredes

Executive Director of SOMOS Community Care

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