Thursday, May 14, 2009

Latinos bring bright future to U.S. church — if welcomed

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Last May 25 on the feast of Cor­pus Christi, last Dec. 12 on the feast of Our Lady of Guada­lupe, and this past Holy Thursday/Good Friday/Easter Sunday, Latino members of our growing parish of Guar­dian Angels in Chaska came out in droves to, respectively, honor Christ, his mother’s appearance in Mexico, and his resurrection.

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Father Paul Jarvis
Now hold on to something, be­cause I have some truly earth-shaking news for you.

Those in attendance numbered more youngsters and young adults than older folks like me. All actively participated — including the many teens present.

Instead of shying away for fear of breaking some secret teen behavioral code, young Latinos vied to see who could carry the banners and can­opy in our Corpus Christi procession. For many years here, they’ve poured themselves into Passion Play roles during Good Friday. This past Easter, they enthusiastically helped with a dozen baptisms. And, in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, they got up at 4 a.m. last winter to sing 5 a.m. “Mañanitas,” birthday songs to her.

Remember, I’m talking about teens! (Try imagining your own teenage family members in similar situations.)

It gets better. Latino parishioners of all ages and walks of life, driving sometimes as long as an hour to get to church, sang their hearts out at each of these celebrations. Yes, right here in the heartland of German-Catholic Minnesota, everyone sang! They could sing with as much passion as the best of our Lutheran friends.

I was not only proud of their enthusiasm, I had this profound sense that I was looking at the bright future of our church. Not just our parish church in Chaska, but all of yours as well. And, I must add, the entire church in America.

Faced with opportunity

It is rare that a non-Latino family in all our parishes is not troubled with family members or friends having left the faith as teens or adults, and either worshipping on Sunday at “Our Lady of the Pillow,” at “the Church of Golf,” or at any number of growing Pentecostal and evangelical denominations rather hostile to the faith of our fathers and mothers.

I know of a multigenerational family at Guardian Angels where only one out of the family’s 10 children is still active in the faith, with the rest either indifferent to the faith, hostile to it, or worshipping at other churches. Other families may not have as many children, but they share similar stories.

If our church’s future is this, then it would indeed be bleak. But I write today to say that it doesn’t need to be bleak, thanks to the large influx of faith-filled, practicing Catholic Christians — young, old and every age in between — coming to the church in America.

By 2030, Latinos are predicted to number nearly half of all Catholics — provided we don’t botch this opportunity. Provided we aren’t indifferent to the Latinos living in all our parishes’ boundaries but worshipping in those select parishes around the diocese graciously ex­tend­ing staff time, space, and heat/
lighting to the growing number of Latinos faithful.

My experience at Guardian Angels is that our Latino brothers and sisters come from Glencoe, Waconia, LeSueur, Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Bloomington, Shakopee, Medina, Faribault, Minnetonka, Chanhas­sen, and even Minneapolis to worship here in the Spanish language.

Hope for the U.S. church

They would ordinarily be worshipping in your parishes — and certainly their English-speaking children eventually will, provided we don’t drop the ball. But for now they worship at parishes like Guardian Angels, though rarely registering as members or practicing financial stewardship. Their lives are too fluid, uncertain and challenged at this point to register. For many, giving just a few dollars to the collection plate is sacrificial.

Basically, I write to tell you that great things are happening for the future of your parishes right here, given what is happening with your young and young-adult Latino brothers and sisters worshipping, for now, at Latino-friendly parishes. After praying with us and attending our schools for a generation or two, these future leaders in society, industry and the church will be actively joining you in your parishes. Thanks be to God.

Please remember us in your prayers. And consider financially supporting your nearest parish and school with Latino Christians. It is the best investment you can possibly make in your parish’s future, and in the American church’s future. Catholic Spirit


Father Paul Jarvis is the pastor of Guardian Angels in Chaska.
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