Latinos leaving the Catholic Church

Latinos leaving the Catholic Church

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

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
7 comments
  • The Latino woman who died a few weeks ago when her car was struck by the huge piece of the big dig was a Pentacostal—- she was from Jamaica Plain which has a huge Hispanic population who started to settle there in the mid 60s (about the time the Irish left). Now there are storefront Pentacostal churches everywhere and one of the two Catholic Churches there closed last year. The closed parish, Blessed Sacrament, was nearly made a basilica years ago, incredibly beautiful and huge, plus a grammar school.

    When I watched the coverage of the tragedy, I saw the deceased woman’s pastor speak – she was a female pastor with a Spanish accent of some sort. I was so saddened remembering the dynamics of the Hispanics in Jamaica Plain – formerly Catholics, now most of them are Lord only knows what.

    Years ago the immigrants had there own parishes, Irish, German, Polish and Italian mostly. I know the move is away from that (plus we’ve intermarried and moved to the ‘burbs, so there is no need for those parishes) but it must have filled a sense of needed security for our parents or grandparents and those before them. I wonder if a Hispanic pastor had been appointed to Blessed Sacrament years ago, would things have been different. Even if the Archdiocese had to go elsewhere—- ask a couple of the Opus Dei or former SSPX priests in Mexico, wouldn’t that be better than losing souls to the Pentacostals?

  • (Tangentially, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plain was where I was baptized and where my family lived for years. My older siblings went to the school. I was four when we moved. Apropos of nothing, I suppose.)  smile

  • Dom:

    (Tangentially, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plain was where I was baptized and where my family lived for years. My older siblings went to the school. I was four when we moved. Apropos of nothing, I suppose.)

    Not quite [rushing in to save the thread from going off topic!]

    The ambo your family remembers is now installed at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, a Latino/Anglo parish.

    Our best Masses, in my opinion and in that of many parishioners, are the bi-lingual ones.

    From the first post:

    He also made sure that Masses for the major feasts were bilingual, so that we could worship as one community (which unfortunately angered from English-speakers; I proposed Latin as our common tongue. I’m still working on that.)

    Oh, do keep working on it!

    This is how we do it…and I wish we’d do it more often than just on major Feasts:

    One reading is read in Spanish. The Response is sung in both Spanish and English. The other reading is read in English.

    (By the way, the programs give the proper translations for each reading; i.e.; if the first reading is proclaimed en Espanol, it is printed in English and vice-versa.)

    The Gospel is read twice, once in each language.

    The sermon—and Cardinal Law was especially gifted in this, by the way, but so are other priests to some extent—swung from English to Spanish.

    And here’s the point: everybody understands!

    (Parenthetically, again just my opinion, but everybody should have at least an inkling of what the Feast’s readings are anyway.)

    The Latinos in my parish know enough English to get by, and the primarily English speaking folks haven’t much problem with Spanish. (Actually, the later is much easier, I suspect.)

    The Kyrie is done in Greek and most of the rest is prayed in Latin.

    The music…well, here I’ll admit there’s a bit of a cringe on both sides, but we manage.

  • I like the Cathedral Masses a lot. Wish I had more time on Sundays and could get in there for Mass again.

    Tell you the truth, this all reminds me of going to Quebec or Montreal and having to attend Mass in a French speaking parish… not something I’d do every week. I’m fortunate enough that I have a car and spare cash and I can travel around to find an English speaking parish but a lot of the Hispanics depend on public transportation or may not have a dependable car and the price of gas certainly hurts them more than it hurts me. So the best option would be to have a Spanish speaking priest in the local parish. -OR- and this crossed my mind in Quebec and Montreal—have Latin as the basic language of the Mass and have missalettes in English and in Spanish. Easy to do. Homilies and Readings can be done up ahead of time, both languages, printed sheets. But somehow, I don’t think the same feeling of security and unity would be there for the Hispanic community if the parish was Latin/Spanish/English based. What’s sad is that the families who lose their faith to either nothing or Pentacostalism aren’t producing the vocations that would help keep Hispanics in the Catholic Church.

    OFF TOPIC ALERT – Dom, my family moved to JP from Ireland @ 1910ish and my great great grandparents had their funeral Masses there. All of us from them on down to me and my siblings were baptized in Blessed Sacrament although a few in Mission Church in Roxbury (another great place to attend Mass, btw). Some of us attended Blessed Sacrament School. I caught TB in 1965 and because of that, the family sold the three decker we had owned since 1910 on Forbes Street and moved on up to the suburbs. 🙁

  • (By the way, the programs give the proper translations for each reading; i.e.; if the first reading is proclaimed en Espanol, it is printed in English and vice-versa.)

    Our parish’s only missalette is a bilingual one so that even in the English-only Mass you can see the Spanish text. If you know a little Spanish and/or a little Latin (which describes me), you can see just how different they are and how much more faithful to the text some of the Spanish is.

    The sermon—and Cardinal Law was especially gifted in this, by the way, but so are other priests to some extent—swung from English to Spanish.

    At our Confirmation Mass this year, Bishop Allue did a masterful job of this. A great homily, especially when compared to the standard canned “bishop’s confirmation homily” you often get.

  • The Hispanics who come to the US know that this is an English-speaking country, no surprise there!  I find the bending-over-backward introduction of Spanish hymns in our overwhelmingly Anglo parish a big irritant.  Frankly, I resent the invasion of our country and the not-so-subtle push to make us bi-lingual.  My grandparents had to learn English, so can they.

    I don’t think the problem in the Church is so much cultural as a move by both native Catholics and Hispanic Catholics to the Evangelical Churches.  When you ask people why they change, they answer that they get “more Scripture” in those churches.  We have three Scriptural readings at each Sunday Mass, the Eucharist is based on Christ’s Last Supper—what more do people need?  Maybe it’s the strong sense of community and the moral teachings that are stressed there.  As Catholic priests ignore sexual moral issues, the number of faithful decreases—there has to be a lesson there if our bishops would only pay attention.

  • Day late and a dollar short here!

    Just back from another short week ‘down’ the Cape (Cod)—- for many years the Irish had the ‘menial jobs’ down there, supermarket checkouts, Dunkin Donuts, hotel cleaners etc., but for the past few years those jobs have been taken by Russians! and Brazilians plus other Hispanic people. This year I’ve noticed the plethora of new storefront type Evangelical churches featuring Portugese/Spanish services. Sad thing is, there are some very orthodox Catholic parishes on the cape where the Gospel message IS loud and clear. I think it’s up to us Catholics and priests to literally go door to door and find the newcomers and welcome them to our Catholic parish communities.

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