The future of Catholicism in America rests heavily on the church’s ability to attract and retain young Hispanics whose connection to secular life is stronger than to the faith that sustained their parents, according to a new national study led by Boston College researchers.The three-year study, which will be released today, said that failing to bring more young Hispanics into the church has broad consequences at a time when Latinos constitute 40 percent of all Catholics in the United States.
“The secularization of Hispanics is the biggest threat to the future of the Catholic Church in America,” said Hosffman Ospino, an assistant professor of theology and ministry at Boston College and lead author of the report. “We run the risk of losing a whole generation of Catholics.”Just 3 percent of Hispanic Catholic children attend church schools and a declining number of Hispanics under age 30 attend Mass.
The report, titled “The National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry,” is the first national study to focus exclusively on Catholic parishes with Hispanic ministries, Ospino said. Through broad surveys and personal interviews, the researchers sought to document the scope of the Hispanic influx, which is responsible for 70 percent of the church’s growth since the 1960s.”If it weren’t for the Hispanic influx, the Catholic Church in the US would be in major decline,” Ospino said. Researchers note that the arrival of 40 million Hispanic immigrants over the past half-century is 10 times the immigration rate of another ethnic group that transformed the church: Irish emigres from 1860 to 1960. The report, conducted in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, will be released in Boston at a gathering of prominent Catholic leaders, and it comes at a moment when the church for the first time is led by a pontiff from South America, Pope Francis.
The study makes a clear call to action, urging the church to develop a strategy to address the issues facing Hispanics and their parishes. The issues take on added importance as the Catholic Church becomes more reliant on Hispanics, specialists said. By 2050, Hispanics will probably account for more than 60 percent of American Catholics.
“It will be an entirely different Catholic experience,” Ospino said. But without a shift in focus, the parish structure in the United States will decline dramatically, as it did in Europe, Ospino said. “Somehow, the church needs to change strategies and attitudes toward Hispanics in the parishes,” Ospino said. “It’s something the church has to come to terms with.”
Because the stakes are so high, efforts are underway to bolster the church’s presence in the Hispanic community. Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said…
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