Diverse ethnicity of growing Hispanic community contributes unique gifts to the Catholic Church

November 25, 2014

HOUSTON — Odds are Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston would agree that the Archdiocese is reportedly one of the region’s most ethnically diverse populations in the nation. 

Through their own parish experiences, they more than likely realize that the fastest-growing ethnic group is the more than 2.2 million Hispanics living in the 10 counties of the Archdiocese. This means that from the total Catholic population of the Archdioceses, 69 percent are Hispanic, according to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan document. 

The Church feels it is important to pay attention to the growing needs of this ethnically rich population, but more importantly, educating local Catholics and the greater community about the linguistic and cultural gifts it offers.

According to Sergio Castillo, director of the DSF-funded Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese, this is a time where constant, prayerful dialogue is essential to take advantage of this historical moment for the Church. 

He said the movement of what is now considered the Office of Hispanic Ministry today began in 1964, when there was the formation of a “Consejo Católico” that sought to establish better understanding among the different ethnic groups in the then-diocese.
As the Hispanic population has grown, so has the Office of Hispanic Ministry. In 1972, there were only a handful of parishes with Spanish Masses within the Archdiocese. 

Today, 94 parishes have regular Sunday Mass in Spanish, and that is not taking into account that some of these parishes have up to five Spanish Masses each weekend. 

Currently, the ministry strives to be an interactive communications center for the Hispanic community. 

Through observation, listening and discernment of the needs of the Hispanic community, it responds in collaboration with the various Archdiocesan offices, parishes, as well as with other Catholic or secular organizations. 

The office’s structure consists of parish delegates that represent the community and bring their concerns. 

Then, the office seeks out a way to respond to these needs through the various resources available in the Archdiocese or through the creation of a new resource as required.

The vision is to have full inclusion and participation in the Church and society for Catholic Hispanics, which is mainly done through leadership formation and advocacy. 

“The Office of Hispanic Ministry offers The Christopher’s Leadership Workshop in Spanish to give participants greater confidence in themselves through practical skills such as the ability to speak in public,” Castillo said. 

“Secondly, the office serves as a consultant to the various committees or organizations that may need to be more inclusive of the Hispanic population. This could be helping an event planning committee better understand the culture and dynamics of the Hispanic community, which ultimately leads to perhaps different choices when it comes to speakers, different venues, or different schedules in order to have a greater impact in the Hispanic community,” he said.

Castillo said the Advisory Board for Hispanic Ministry has served to advise the director and the vicar for Hispanics on pressing issues that affect the Hispanic population of our Archdiocese. 

In addition, the creation of the Association of Parish Delegates and the Association of Parish Directors of Hispanic Ministry have essentially become the backbone of Hispanic Ministry, and this structure has gained national recognition as one of the top 10 best practices in Hispanic Ministry in a document published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006.

“Today, we continue to work to maintain that structure and open up channels of communication to better serve the Hispanic population of our Archdiocese,” Castillo said. “For example, every fall we also host an annual conference called Asamblea Anual del Ministerio Hispano. In recent years, this free conference has been organized by the parish delegates, has offered presentations of interest to the entire Hispanic community of our Archdiocese, and provides an opportunity to share with parish leaders that have collaborated with the office.”

The Office of Hispanic Ministry also works in collaboration with Radio Ministry and have weekly shows that air on three secular stations and on Radio Maria.