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Groundbreaking STM study on Catholic parishes with Hispanic ministry released

A SUMMARY REPORT ON STM’S ANTICIPATED NATIONAL STUDY OF CATHOLIC PARISHES WITH HISPANIC MINISTRY, released May 5, garnered coverage and commentary in the national mainstream media as well as the Catholic press. The New York TimesWashington PostLatin Post, Our Sunday Visitor, and the National Catholic Reporter were among outlets that reported on the first-of-its-kind study, which explores the large and expanding Hispanic Catholic presence in the U.S. and the challenges Hispanic ministries present to today’s Church.

The report shows, among other things, that while Hispanics since the 1960s have driven 70 percent of the Church’s growth in the U.S. and now make up 40 percent of the country’s 78 million Catholics, the vast majority of predominantly Spanish-speaking parishes struggle with disproportionately limited resources for ministry.

The twenty-first century American Catholic Church “is in the middle of the most exciting demographic transition since the nineteenth century,” said principal investigator Hosffman Ospino, the STM assistant professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education who led the three-year study.

“The study is not only a sample of the high-quality scholarship being done at the STM, but also a blueprint for the training of Catholic ministers and theological scholars serving in a Church that is increasingly Hispanic.”

Seventeen graduate students from STM and Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work served as research assistants on the project, surveying the country’s 4,368 Catholic parishes with some form of organized Hispanic ministry. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University assisted the STM research team in building survey instruments, collecting data, and developing its first round of analysis, said Ospino.


Dean’s Colloquium: The Transformative Power of Faith

Dean's Colloquium in Robsham Theater

Four Catholic leaders and parishioners of churches in some of the country’s poorest communities talked about heeding Pope Francis’s call to advocate for the poor at the third annual Dean’s Colloquium on Religion and Public Culture. STM Dean Mark Massa, S.J., moderated the discussion, “The Transformative Power of Faith,” among (pictured, left to right) José Lopez, Digna R. Lopez, John Hatcher, S.J., and Mary Susanne Dziedzic, C.S.S.F., on March 31 in Robsham Theater. Each panelist has been a recipient or finalist for the Lumen Christi Award, Catholic Extension’s annual recognition of men and women who work to transform lives and communities in America’s mission dioceses. Community members whose lives have been affected by the ministry of the Lumen Christi honorees also contributed to the discussion, which was cosponsored by Catholic Extension.

“You have to create leadership among the laity, and your leaders are your bridge-builders,” said Digna Lopez, the Hispanic ministry director of the Stockton, California, diocese. To connect with a community rife with violent crime and drugs, Lopez said she recruits a few at-risk youths and “trusts that they will be the evangelizers of their own peers.”

Hatcher, president of St. Francis Mission, a Jesuit ministry on a South Dakota Sioux reservation, said the Church often assumes “a very clerical relationship with lay people,” which can make parishioners feel “like children.” To foster more mature relationships, Hatcher entrusts Catholic Sioux with key roles—at recovery centers and suicide hotlines, for example.

Lopez’s husband, José, the diocese’s migrant ministry director, added that missionaries should “look at the reality of what  [congregants] need, not at what you want from them.” Since he adjusted his schedule around the migrant farmers’ harvest season, Lopez said, the farmers’ involvement in the Church has increased significantly.

Read more about the dean's colloquium»  View video»

Cardinal Walter Kasper visits STM

Cardinal Walter Kasper

In a century shaped by two world wars, genocides that claimed nearly 100 million lives, and terrorist attacks, “We see what it means to live in a merciless world,” Cardinal Kasper told a capacity crowd in the Heights Room on May 1. The German cardinal, who is president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and author of Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life (Paulist Press, 2014) visited STM to speak about “The Message of Mercy and Its Importance Today” and to celebrate Mass at the Rite of Sending Forth for graduating STM students. In his lecture, he affirmed the need to bring mercy to the center of the Church.

Contrary to what many Catholics assume, “God in the Old Testament is not of anger and revenge, but of love, kindness, and compassion,” Kasper said. Citing God’s ultimate forgiveness in the flood narrative in Genesis and Moses and the Burning Bush in Exodus, Kasper noted, “Mercy is victorious over justice in God.”

In the Gospels, mercy takes “the central” role, Kasper said. In the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son in particular, Jesus teaches that “God’s sovereignty is revealed above all in forgiving and pardoning” and “merciful love is the final criterion of being a Christian,” he said.

“So if God is so merciful, why is the Church not the same?” Kasper asked, referencing the “uneasiness of many Christians today.” He addressed some of the Church’s inconsistencies, such as the paradox of the doctrine of universal forgiveness and the practice of denying divorced parishioners absolution. He has proposed, he said, that the Synod of Bishops discuss this issue at their meeting on the family this fall. “Canon law should be interpreted and applied in the light of mercy,” he said.

Cardinal Kasper also charged the Church with “overlooking” the needs of the poor, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christianity is growing most rapidly. “The Church without charity and mercy would no longer be the Church of Christ,” he said. He commended Pope Francis’s advocacy for the impoverished, and called for the rest of the Church to be better models of mercy. “Our mercy gives future to a world that needs it so much,” he concluded.

View video of cardinal kasper's lecture »