With Catholic Hispanics, we can't miss our opportunity

A key word at Our Sunday Visitor is “opportunity.” I hear my colleagues use it; I find myself using it, too.

When it comes to a world event, an emphasis by Pope Francis or a trend, I find myself thinking: How is this relevant to the Faith? How can we use it as a springboard to examine what the Church teaches and why? Where is the opportunity?

This week’s In Focus has the word “opportunity” written all over it. In the In Focus, composed by Hosffman Ospino, assistant professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College and a national consultant to Our Sunday Visitor, Ospino examines a recent report about Hispanics and the Church that he helped shepherd. And what it says is astounding.

Fifty-five percent of Catholics under the age of 30 are Hispanic. Fifty-nine percent of the 50 million Hispanics living in the United States self-identify as Catholic. And the Hispanic population in the country is expected to triple in size by 2050.

Editor's preview of this week's issue

Without even getting any deeper into the report — which I hope you will do — those numbers make it clear that we, as a Church, have a real opportunity to reach out to this population. And if we don’t take advantage of it, it’s not only an opportunity missed to get a huge chunk of Catholics better connected to the Church, but could also be an opportunity missed to keep them connected to the Church at all.

A 2013 Hispanic Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute noted that 16 percent of today’s Hispanic adults have left the Catholic Faith of their childhood. By comparison, the affiliation of Hispanics with Evangelical Protestant communities has increased by 6 percent, and the affiliation of Hispanics to no religion has increased by 7 percent.

These are our people, and we’re losing them.

So often we look at numbers and lament. Numbers of vocations to the priesthood are down. Numbers of Catholics receiving the sacraments are down. Numbers of Catholics attending Mass are down. But here, we have a demographic of Catholics that is “up.” All they’re doing is waiting to be noticed. But they won’t wait forever.

Our editorial (Page 19) offers some concrete steps that Catholics can take to respond to the challenge, and we are offering a special package of the In Focus to share with dioceses, parishes or other entities. To find out more, call 1-800-348-2440, ext. 2171.

Before I conclude, a quick housekeeping note: Bob Lockwood, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor and a regular columnist, is taking a hiatus this summer as he recovers from a recent medical procedure. Bob is a valuable, entertaining and thoughtful voice in these pages, and we are praying for his speedy recovery. Until then, my mission is to find voices to fill his very big shoes. Blessings on your week.