Investing in Hispanic/Latino leadership

As the United States becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse, the Hispanic/Latino community will be one of the principle crucibles out of which leadership develops, emerges and plays a major role. As Hispanic/Latinos take on an increasing role in determining leadership in the Catholic Church in the U.S., they will face new challenges related to (a) becoming more dispersed throughout the country and less mono-cultural in their makeup; (b) growing in rural and suburban areas, while continuing to increase in the metropolis; © growing in diversity as Hispanic/Latinos are consumed into multiethnic offices making it a challenging task for the church to minister adequately and effectively within this context; (d) the Caribbean Hispanic/Latinos from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have a different ethos, popular religious practices, and history with the U.S. to that of Mexico, South and Central America, broadening the scope and complexity on how serving the needs of this growing Hispanic/Latino diversity throughout the parish communities in the U.S. are met, in addition; (e) the Puerto Rican community is unique to all the other Hispanic/Latino groups because of its commonwealth status and being born as U.S. citizens; while treated repeatedly as second-class citizens, or as strangers and frequently neglected not only by the dominant culture, but by other Hispanic/Latino groups as well.

More and more the complexity of a growing Hispanic/Latino population in the Catholic Church is requiring an indigenous leadership that is sensitive, adaptive and effective in a culturally diverse Hispanic/Latino context and abroad. As Hispanic/Latinos continue to grow and become more dispersed throughout the U.S., there will be a greater “mezcolanza”[1][1] that will prevail in Catholic parishes. This will challenge the existing leadership to revisit its dominant notions of pastoral ministry and seek new strategies and approaches in serving a diverse community with common/diverse struggles and spoken language, popular expressions, music, stories, foods, etc. Leadership plays a major role in how cultural integration plays out for the ethnic groups in the U.S. To neglect this factor is to deny the hidden force that inspires and motivates people to act collectively to face and challenge existing structures that impinge on their quality of life and their right for religious expression.

Given these challenges, Hispanic/Latinos continue to grow and face the danger of continuing to be pinned against one another being polarized, limiting their capacity to exercise their leadership effectively within ecclesial structures. Attention needs to be given to the gifts that each bring to the table. Work has to be done to avoid repeating the injustices that our ancestors have had to face and endure. It is important not to repeat these treatments so that the next generation does not inherit the ills that in many ways have paralyzed or destroyed the Hispanic/Latino community. Edward T. Hall asserts, “The future of the human race lies in maintaining its diversity and turning that diversity to its advantage.”

[1][1] Term used by Hispanic Theologian, Fernando Segovia to describe the context from which Hispanic/Latinos find themselves in the U.S. interfacing with one another.

Rudy Vargas is a field consultant for the Archdiocese of New York for the ACE/Catholic School Advantage Campaign of the University of Notre Dame.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.