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June 9, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
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3 ordained to the priesthood
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Latino religious groups are
'modern apostles,' bishop says

Father Alexander Q. Castillo and Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, seated, listen to presentations from different Latino ministries.
josÉ luis aguirre/The Catholic Voice

The various Latino groups in the Diocese of Oakland are "modern apostles who live their vocation as lay people to Christ and to care for more people to know Christ," Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ, said on May 19.

The meeting at the Cathedral Event Center was the first time Bishop Barber had met with most of the Latino groups of the diocese since he became Oakland's bishop one year ago.

Hector Medina, diocesan director of the Latino ministry, explained "The purpose of this meeting was so our bishop could learn about the pastoral work of these groups — to hear about their achievements and challenges."

The groups made presentations and most of them sought more involvement and support from the clergy to fulfill their ministries.

Among the groups present: Movimiento Familiar Cristino, Encuentro Matrimonial Mundial, Federación Católica de Asociaciones Guadalupanas, Renovación Carismática, Instituto Bíblico Teológico Pastoral, Cursillos de Cristiandad, Escuela de la Cruz, Jóvenes para Cristo, Encuentros de Promoción Juvenil, Peregrinación Diocesana de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Misión de Jesús, Adoración Nocturna and Escuela Pastoral.

Several priests and deacons also attended, as well as the spiritual directors of some of these groups. These organizations promote faith, religious education, devotions, prayer, pastoral needs of families and youth, evangelization and using the media. "We have to work together to promote the diocese," Bishop Barber said. "I wish that all my priests had heard this presentation. … I'm going to help where I can." Bishop Barber said wherever he celebrates the sacrament of Confirmation there are a large number of Hispanic youth.

"Let's keep all these young people in the Church. I do not want to miss a single soul — work to keep them connected to the love of God and not to leave the Church," the bishop said. He also invited the audience to continue their evangelization outside their groups and classrooms where they meet. "The people with whom you work, many are Catholics but do not know where churches are, and many sometimes have great need. You are the eyes, ears, arms and heart of Christ, so our job is to evangelize one person at a time," he said. "It's to keep the people we already have and bring back the lost sheep. It is important to bring them back to our church," he added. The bishop also emphasized the need for new vocations and invited families to talk about it at home. "It is essential to promote vocations so that we can continue to celebrate the Eucharist. Especially, we need Hispanic priests," he said, recognizing the rapid growth of the Latino community in the U.S. Catholic Church. After the meeting, Medina thanked the bishop and his secretary, Father Alexander Q. Castillo, for coming. "You are the arms and legs of the Church bearing His word to the people and this cannot be done without priests and deacons."

Possible pitfalls as church becomes more Hispanic

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Two reports on Latinos and religion released the first week of May paint a picture of the U.S. Catholic Church at a potentially precarious point with its fastest-growing demographic.

One risk: Hispanics will soon constitute a majority of the U.S. church, but the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry suggests outreach to that population has not kept up with the growth.

Another risk highlighted by a Pew Research Center report on Latinos and religious practice is a 12 percent drop in just four years in the number of Latinos who describe themselves as Catholic. In 2010, 67 percent of U.S. Hispanics told Pew they were Catholic, while in 2013, 55 percent said they were Catholic.

"We need to get our act together as a church," said the parish studies' principal author, Hosffman Ospino, Boston College assistant professor of theology and ministry, on May 6. While he repeatedly described the shifting demographics as an exciting time, he said the church must stop thinking of different groups as "them. We need to come to terms with our diversity," he said. "The Catholic Church needs to start thinking of whatever happens to Latinos not as a 'Latino issue' but as something that happens to all of us."

The study of 5,100 Latinos for Pew, interviewed in the summer of 2013, found about 24 percent consider themselves "former" Catholics. The largest declines came among foreign-born Latinos who are Catholic — down by 15 percent in four years — and people under 50, with declines of 14 and 15 percent for the age brackets 30-49 and 18-29, respectively.

By comparison, Pew found net gains in the number of Latinos who describe themselves as Protestant, up by 8 percent, or "unaffiliated," up by 10 percent.

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