By Renae Godish,
Catholic Extensionannounced the launch of the national Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative, a three-year commitment of strategic investment by Catholic Extension to fund the salaries of 100 new Hispanic lay leaders in poor mission dioceses across the U.S. The initiative is aimed at positively impacting Hispanic ministry in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Nearly 40 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic*, and some predict that as soon as 2020, Hispanics could be the majority in the Catholic Church**. However, less than 10 percent of paid leadership in the Church is Hispanic. The Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative is designed to address this growing need by building pastoral capacity in dioceses where Hispanics are present in significant numbers through creating new lay leadership positions. These new leaders will be able to reach out to thousands of Hispanic Catholics across the country.
This initiative is designed not as a temporary solution to address an immediate crisis in human resources for Hispanic ministries, but to serve as a catalyst for a more substantial leadership investment in Hispanic ministry on the part of Catholic dioceses.
This is a $15,000,000 initiative over the three-year period. The cost of the positions will be split equally between Catholic Extension and the participating dioceses. Catholic Extension will invest in Hispanic lay leadership in its initial years. At the conclusion of the three-year partnership, dioceses will be responsible for sustaining the position on their own.
“To build a solid future for the Catholic faith in the U.S., we must support Hispanic ministry in the Church,” said Catholic Extension President Father Jack Wall. “At Catholic Extension, we’ve been working on a dream — to have this wonderful initiative of hiring 100 skilled Hispanic lay leaders for the future of our Church in our country. Today, we think that dream is becoming a reality. We’ve had over 70 of the 91 mission dioceses show great interest in this initiative, which means that we will be supporting a new generation of pastoral leaders that will build faith, inspire hope and ignite change and serve as the hands and feet of Christ to a world in need.”
Leaders throughout the U.S. echo the need for support for Hispanic Catholics in today’s Catholic Church, including Dr. Arturo Chavez, president and CEO of Mexican American Catholic College. Dr. Chavez has over 28 years of teaching and ministry experience, and is a supporter of the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative. He spoke recently at a Catholic Extension conference bringing together many of the newly hired Hispanic lay leaders from across the country.
“There are many gifts and many opportunities that this growing population offers the church and the country,” said Dr. Chavez. “However, only seven percent of active bishops are Hispanic and only six percent of all Catholic priests. We are now beginning to show a growth in Hispanic seminarians. So we’re grateful for that. And there is a very promising growth in the number of permanent deacons. But the greatest challenge today is that only eight percent of the estimated 30,000 lay ecclesial ministers nationally are Hispanic.”
Tim Matovina, professor at the University of Notre Dame and author of Latino Catholicism, underlines the necessity to address this need through faith formation.
“How we pass on the faith to the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants is the leading indicator of where the Church will be 30 years from now. This is not a priority just for Hispanic ministry, the entire Catholic Church needs to be involved in it,” said Matovina.
Visit the Catholic Extension website for more information on the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative .