A lot of American Catholics, including some US bishops it seems sometimes, take Hispanic Catholics for granted, as if they are the one bright light in the implosion of Catholicism in this country. Yet, we can take them for granted because Protestant churches are luring them away by the hundreds. This Boston Globe article profiles the phenomenon in one Massachusetts city that has a large Latino population and was once predominantly Catholic.
Here at Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer, there are no images of the Virgin Mary. There are no candles dedicated to saints, no statues of Jesus. Instead, at the center of the stage is a simple cross surrounded by flags from Latin American countries. On the wall to the left hangs a large banner with the phrase, “Año de la Prosperidad,” Spanish for “The Year of Prosperity.”
At this Pentecostal church, Latinos make up most of the membership. In seven years, membership has grown from just a few to more than 200, according to the Rev. Victor Jarvis, the church’s pastor. Members come mainly from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, Jarvis said.
For such Pentecostal and evangelical churches in Lawrence, it’s the same story, said area church leaders. In recent years, this majority Latino and historically Catholic city has experienced a proliferation of small but active Protestant churches aimed at serving the Latino community, highlighting the national trend of US Latinos leaving the Catholic Church for evangelical and Pentecostal denominations.
My parish’s experience