Latino leadership conference held in Houston

September 9, 2014

HOUSTON — The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) concluded its four-day annual conference at the St. Regis Hotel in Houston Aug. 17. Under this year’s theme of “A Spiritual Revolution,” the sold-out conference attracted more than 200 participants from across the nation, including CALL members from 17 active membership chapters.

“These days we have been reflecting on the projection that by the end of 2015, the majority of Catholics in the United States will be Hispanic,” observed Diana Richardson-Vela, president and CEO of CALL, “That speculation combined with the guidance of the Church’s first Latino pope, we are now presented with a unique opportunity for leadership by Latinos in the Church and society.”

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo was the celebrant at the opening Mass, held Aug. 14 at the University of St. Thomas. 

Discussions included talks by each of the organization’s co-founders: Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

In his talk entitled, “St. Francis and Pope Francis: The Revolution Continues,” Archbishop Chaput framed the urgency for Latino leadership in America with demographic results that suggest that children of first-generation immigrants are “catechized, but not evangelized.” He said, “They know what the Church teaches, but down deep, they don’t believe it. It’s like they know the lyrics, but not the tune.” 

Applauding efforts in the diocese of Phoenix by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who was present at the event, Archbishop Chaput said, “Their pastoral work with Hispanics is not a segmented ministry, but rather is perceived as integral to the entire population of the faithful there.” 
Archbishop Gomez celebrated Mass and had a presentation on “The New Media and the New Evangelization.”

Drawing from his experience in southern California, Gomez shared his vision for following the Holy See’s example of bringing new technologies to the life of the Church.

“(Pope Emeritus) Benedict XVI spoke of the world of social media as a ‘digital continent, with natives, immigrants — and in need of missionaries,’” he said. “We are challenged to proclaim the good news of Jesus in brief, immediate tweets and seven-second videos. New media technologies can help us bring people to meet Jesus. From there, souls can come to communion with Christ through physical elements. Our Catholic faith is incarnational and sacramental; there is nothing virtual about Christianity — it is real!”

Saturday concluded with a gala and awards ceremony at the Junior League of Houston, where the evening festivities surprised Archbishop Gomez with a cake and singing of the traditional Mexican Las Mañanitas to celebrate his 36th anniversary of priestly ordination.

On Sunday, Aug. 18, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston celebrated the final Mass of the conference. 

Afterwards, Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre of Philadelphia hosted a workshop about the upcoming World Meeting of Families.

He emphasized the need for prayerful and practical preparation for the September 2015 gathering. Knowing that CALL has announced that its 2015 annual conference will coincide in Philadelphia during the event, Bishop McIntrye appealed to CALL constituents to provide planning assistance, as well as volunteer and fundraising support.

Lastly, in an unexpected gesture of unity, Carlos Slim, a Mexican business magnate, investor and philanthropist considered the richest man in the world from 2010 to 2013, appeared as a guest of Archbishop Gomez to speak to the Latino leaders present about Hispanic participation in the economy of the future. 

Earlier in the conference, CALL announced a strategic collaboration with the Carlos Slim Foundation to help 1,250 Hispanic immigrants obtain a legal path to citizenship. The foundation’s mission is to establish a range of non-lucrative projects in education, health, justice and personal and community development by contributing human and financial resources to equip Mexican society with the necessary tools to succeed professionally and socially.

Slim stressed that in times of economic crises, knowing how to capitalize on opportunity is more important than money. 

“The rapid development of technology will always provide opportunity.” Referring to “Acceso Latino,” a newly launched free website created by the Carlos Slim Foundation, the business magnate/investor/philanthropist expressed his desire to help provide U.S. Latinos easy access to tools and content about education, health care, job training, culture and other areas.

Taking in the momentum of the weekend events, Vela said, “CALL members have received the content and experienced the camaraderie that will support our spiritual growth for the next year.”

The mission of CALL is to inspire Latino leaders to love and live the Catholic faith and give back through programs and service projects. 

Currently, CALL maintains 17 active membership chapters in cities around the country, including Denver, Miami and Los Angeles. 

Through various regional programs and service projects, CALL members make a national impact in the areas of education, media and immigration.