Hispanic Catholics: change the Church or be changed?

Hispanic Catholics: change the Church or be changed?

Saturday’s Boston Globe weekly religion article was entitled “Hispanics changing face of Catholicism”, but they might as well have titled it “Hispanic Catholics need to get with the program.” According to the Catholic experts at a forum on the subject at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Hispanic Catholics are too conservative and need to become more like the majority of American Catholics.

On the one hand, the article notes that certain rituals accreted onto Catholicism can become a distraction from the faith, like the quinceañera.

Even [Fr. Terence] Moran [pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish in Chelsea] has had differences with his parishioners over the quinceañera, a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, considered by Hispanics a milestone in maturity. To Moran, it is a holy pain, an event featuring “all the bad stuff about a wedding … without anything serious [theologically] to back it up.”

“I think very often it gives the wrong message [that] all of a sudden, you’re 15 and a woman,” inspiring in some girls rebellious behavior, sexual promiscuity, and even teen pregnancy, he said.

Moran keeps the ones he celebrates low-key, with a simple blessing of the girl at Mass, offending parishioners who want a more elaborate event with a special Mass and rented hall.

Yet, when it comes to authentic aspects of their Catholic faith and worship, that’s where it becomes too much.

Other Hispanic worship habits, while hardly controversial, “reflect what Catholicism was like in the United States in the 1940s and ’50s” and are not as common as they once were, said [Hosffman] Ospino [coordinator of Hispanic ministry at Boston College]. He cites the novena, a prayer said over nine days.

Too conservative for America

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • We have lived with a huge percentage of Mexican Catholics for centuries down here on the border.
    It is difficult for the priests because as far as I know they have never had bilingual Masses here.  They have Spanish ones and English ones. That means that everybody is limited as to when they go to Mass unless they are bilingual.

    The Quinceanera phenomenon is a big pain here also. It literally puts a family in debt, big debt. It would be wonderful if the Church could find a way to emphasize the idea of consecrating the girl’s virginity to our Lady at a more liturgical function without the extravagant dress and party.

    I remember the Latin Mass and that was good, but the homily still had to be in the language of the people so there were still attendance issues.

    Bottom line is that we must have a common language. I personally don’t care if it is Spanish, English or Pig Latin, but we will always have problems without a common language.

    One other thought. It is my experience and that of many others that Mexicans are more poorly catechized than even Americans. As you noted they are easy targets for Evangelicals et al. They are also sitting ducks for the liberals, the pro-abortion/contraception culture of death contingent in this country.  Although the typical Mexican Catholic may bring devotions and cultural mores to the mix, they typically bring little knowledge of the teachings of the Church. Some cynics have observed that Mexicans are not really Catholic, they just belong to a cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

    I really think that catechesis is the first need followed by a common language while preserving their family values.

  • I say let them have their own parishes.

    We did it for the French, Polish, Italians, and Irish.  May as well let the Hispanics have their own.  At least until they become assimilated, wealthy, worldly, hooked on status, practicing birth control, etc…  Then they won’t care about maintaining their ethnic identity (they won’t care about their Catholic identity either, at least until you try to close the church).

    I will guarantee you there was no St. Patrick’s Day dinner at St. Stanislaus parish.  No San Guiseppe’s Day at Ste. Jeanne D’Arc.

    In MA you could have one in Lynn, one in Lawrence, in Lowell, in Haverhill, in Chelsea, Everett, etc…

  • In time I think many parishes (especially in large cities) will become Spanish Catholic ethnic parishes without any kind of administrative coercion.
      This is because the American tradition is for city neighborhoods to become of virtually all one ethnic group as new immigrants pour in. Here in Lynn St. Joseph’s Church is almost totally surrounded by Spanish businesses and Spanish residents. The Church is thriving primarily because of them. In the meanwhile most of the loyal Anglo parishoners are elderly and, sadly, will- like old soldiers—quietly fade away having left a glorious heritage. Hopefully the Hispanics will be able to pick up the torch of that heritage, blend it with their own,  and make their neighborhoods as loyally Catholic as were the French, Italian, Polish, Irish,etc. neighborhoods of past years.

  • I say let them have their own parishes.

    Kinda defeats the idea of being catholic, doesn’t it?  Not much of a family, if we’re going to divide ourselves up into cliques.

    I think Dom’s idea is better—Latin was the unifying language of the Church before, it can be again.

  • What I said above does not negate some of the other good ideas here—like using Latin.

      So to add to what I said above, I would also like to see more Latin used and even, possibly,  the altar turned around. I do not particularly like sitting or standing facing the congregation virtually all the time. Interestingly when I was first a deacon 27 years ago all the chairs for the clergy were behind the altar. Gradually most churches have moved them to the side and some have them face the altar from the side instead of facing the congregation.  But, remember, those ethnic churches grew up before all the changes in the liturgy so going back to Latin or using more (like at the consecration) will not solve most of our ethnic dilemmas.

  • Deacon John,

    “the loyal Anglo parishoners are elderly and, sadly, will- like old soldiers—quietly fade away having left a glorious heritage”

    I would say proudly rather than sadly.  There is not much to be sad about in having built a strong parish that can thrive as Catholic beyond ethnicity.


  • Dennis:

    Does it defeat the purpose?  They have Spanish Mass in Brazil, not English.  If they are the majority, what does it matter?

    Many of you Latin only boys call anything not Latin sub-standard.  I guess it was OK for the Poles, French, Italians, and Irish.  Why is it wrong for the Hispanics.  They are breathing new life in to the Church in the USA.  We need to give them room to breath.

    I’m just looking to keep the faithful faithful, until such time as a universal ruling comes down from Rome.  When Rome say go Latin, I will go Latin, singing Santus, Santus, Santus,  all the way.  For the time, I will worship in the language of the people.  And if I’m in Lynn, and that’s Espanol, so be it.

    NOTE:  When I lived in Italy, I went to Mass in Italian.  When in Germany, in German.

  • How many MA Catholic churches closed?  Where are all those sheep?  I think you should first find the lost sheep of your own community.

    You can start with my sister and her entire family from St. Anselms.  They are so lost, they turned into goats and I am very worried about them.

  • I have to say that this article makes me very angry. Apparently this guy _wants_ to drive people from the Church. He needs to pull his head out of his hiney and get with Christ’s program.

    It is one of the Church’s job to help people keep all the good aspects of their way of life. If people like rosaries and novenas, then yay! You’ve got a feeling and action of devotion that you should have in common with them. What a great place to start catechesis and service!

    If the quinceanera is ooh so expensive and distracting, why doesn’t the priest study how to make it affordable for the poorer families? That’d be pastoral. Heck, why doesn’t he make it _more_ liturgical, by adding solemn and impressive ceremony (that’s relatively cheap)? Throw in some Theology of the Body and stuff about the special genius of women, and you’re golden!

    I can see how this sort of thing might be disconcerting and hard to control, but “restraint” shouldn’t seem to mean “Father only wants to crush our daughter’s hopes and dreams”.

    Two points:

    Hispanic Catholics _are_ the sheep of our own community. If _we_ lose ‘em, it’s _us_ who’ll be accountable at the Last Judgment.

    Spanish is not the vernacular language of Brazil—that’s Portuguese. (There’s also several native tongues of native tribes.)

  • Dennis:  Mind pointing out where I said this?

    I said many of not all of, and not specifically you.  This was painting with a wide brush.  But, if the shoe fits…

    Maureen:  I knew that about Portuguese.  Somehow, passion got the best of me.

    Isabelle:  It is one thing to be lost, another to know THE WAY, and refuse to follow. 

    After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 

    John 6:66

  • I’d like to make a note about the quinceañera custom.  I was born in the US; my mother is Colombian and my father Peruvian.  When I was about to turn 15 I asked my mother about having a quinceañera ceremony and party.  She told me it’s not the custom in Colombia to have a church ceremony.  In fact, in Colombia the quinceañera party is really a coming-out party for the young lady.  It follows that only the rich threw such parties for their daughters (as they’re the only ones who could afford to throw such lavish feasts).  Like similar events in the US, it’s a society thing.  Only the Mexicans and Central Americans have the custom of the church ceremony for their quinceañeras, at least as far as I’m aware.

    (In case you’re wondering I did have a party, but it wasn’t a quinceañera.  My mom said that since I was born in the US, and therefore more American than Hispanic ohh  , I’d have a Sweet Sixteen instead.  It was modeled on the quinceañera party – we rented a catering hall and my mom made a beautiful gown for me to wear.  And we had no church ceremony.)

  • Isabelle:  It is one thing to be lost, another to know THE WAY, and refuse to follow.

      After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

    True.  But when you have shepherds that lead you out off the farm into the wilderness it is distressing.
    Woe to you shepherds!