The explosive growth in the U.S. Catholic Church among Hispanic communities is a mixed blessing, straining Church resources even as it helps counteract an otherwise declining membership, says BC professor Hosffman Ospino.
Particularly troubling is that while Hispanic Catholics are growing more rapidly than any other group, there simply are not enough pastoral leaders—clergy or lay—prepared for this ministry.
“We run the risk of losing a whole generation of Catholics,” says Ospino, assistant professor in the School of Theology and Ministry and faculty director for its Hispanic ministry programs.
But with the generous help of an anonymous Light the World campaign donor, STM is preparing new pastoral leaders to fill the gap. The donor has established a fund that provides several graduate fellowships each year in Hispanic ministry—helping the school attract outstanding students dedicated to serving this growing population.
As graduates, they will follow many paths: vocations in the Church; lay ministry; pastoral care in parishes or schools; and careers in healthcare and social settings.
One current fellowship recipient is Daisy Leon, a dual-degree candidate in ministry and social work, who aims to become a clinical social worker, providing health-care services and pastoral care to what she knows is a complex population.
“STM is helping me understand the challenges of ministering to a culturally diverse group,” she says, pointing out that Hispanics hail from more than 20 countries—each with a unique identity.
“It’s exciting,” says Leon. “Thanks to this fellowship, I’ll be right there helping to shape the future of the Church. It’s an incredible opportunity that I am grateful for every day of my life.”
Students like Leon are the future of the Church, says Ospino. “The Catholic experience is going to be entirely different in the years to come, as parishes nationwide reinvent themselves,” he predicts. “These students will lead the way.”
Read more about STM’s Hispanic ministry program at www.bc.edu/hispanicministry.