Pastoral Care of Hispanics in U.S. in Focus

Meeting Hears Call for More Coordination

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ROME, FEB. 16, 2001 ( Many of those responsible for the pastoral care of Hispanics in the United States say there is a need for better coordination with other ecclesial departments.

That was one of the suggestions that arose at a meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The meeting, which runs through Saturday, is focusing on updating pastoral care for Hispanics.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 Latinos will be the largest minority in the country, surpassing blacks. By the end of the century, Latinos might surpass the white population of European origin. At least 70% of Hispanics are Catholic. And Hispanics account for 35% of U.S. Catholics.

The meeting was organized by the Hispanic Affairs Secretariat of the U.S. Episcopal Conference, and is being attended by representatives of diocesan organizations, parish priests, and pastoral agents.

The general guidelines were articulated last year, in a document that provided data on Hispanic participation in the life of the Church. Close to 40% of the dioceses publish newspapers with information in Spanish, or have regular radio programs for Spanish-speaking faithful. The number of pastoral leaders working with Hispanics has doubled since 1990.

Spanish-speaking Catholics in the United States tend to be immigrants from Central America, who enter legally or illegally. Some immigrants´ children are completely integrated in American society, yet, at the same time, proud of their language and Hispanic traditions.

«They have gone from a condition of virtual anonymity to a central position,» said Bishop Arthur Nicholas Tafoya of Pueblo, Colorado, the president of the bishops´ commission for Hispanic affairs.

Among the issues being discussed at Colorado Springs is the need to increase the presence of Hispanics in parish pastoral councils, to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers, which restrict entry into seminaries; improve youth pastoral care; and encourage participation in diocesan administrative structures and leadership in different areas.

The «growth of immigration at present has become a factor of transformation that is changing the physiognomy of the U.S. Church,» said Ronaldo Cruz, secretariat director.

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