May 9, 2014 — The explosive growth of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. is overwhelming the Catholic Church, according to a landmark Boston College study of Hispanic Catholic parishes. The newly-released report, conducted in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, found that Hispanic Catholic communities are in need of change across areas of education, language, geography, ministry and outreach.
Nearly one in every four Catholic parishes in the U.S. provides some form of organized ministry to Hispanics, but demand for services at parishes with Hispanic ministries exceeds available resources on a scale never before seen by the Church, the study found.
Parishes and dioceses with Hispanic ministry need to assign the highest priority to the development of sound strategies to invest in those ministries, said Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Assistant Professor Hosffman Ospino, lead author of the report.
The survey highlighted the necessity of additional programs to prepare Hispanic priests and church leaders. “A new generation of Hispanic leaders in the Church is emerging,” said Ospino. “The question is: is the Catholic Church ready for this?”
According to Ospino, about one in five pastoral leaders serving Hispanic Catholics in major ministerial positions in parishes and dioceses are unpaid. “While clergy and vowed religious count on established support networks, a significant number of these unpaid leaders are lay women and men,” he said. “Parishes and dioceses need to urgently attend to questions of fair compensation and parity with non-Hispanic ministries.”
The changes are also shifting the geographic balance of influence for the Church in America, according to the study. While 61 percent of all Catholic parishes are currently located in the Midwest and Northeast, the fast-growing Hispanic population is taking hold in the South and West, where 61 percent of parishes with Hispanic ministry are now located. 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, according to Ospino.