Nurturing faith, communion for Hispanic and Latino Catholics
December 12, 2023
(Herald file photo)
HOUSTON — In the Galveston-Houston area, Catholics from diverse Hispanic and Latino backgrounds unite, emphasizing their shared love for Christ and the Church, transcending cultural boundaries.
According to Lázaro Contreras, the director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, the ministry’s primary mission is to be an agent of transformation among Hispanic and Latino Catholics, who currently comprise over half of the Catholic population in the Archdiocese. This involves fostering leadership roles and vocations to the priesthood, religious life, permanent diaconate, ecclesial lay ministry, and responsible societal engagement.
“We fulfill our mission by encouraging our Hispanic and Latino families and leaders to live out their Catholic faith and take active roles in their churches and society,” Contreras said. “This is their way of responding to their baptismal call and being those missionary disciples that go out and become Christ to one another.”
Contreras said one way the ministry carries out these good works is through strong values and basic principles in a ministry called Pastoral de Conjunto, which means “Communion in Mission” and functions as an interactive center of communications for the Hispanic/Latino community. The ministry not only identifies the needs and aspirations of the community but also facilitates a collaborative response involving various Archdiocesan offices, parishes, and Catholic and secular organizations. Staff and volunteers engage in the vital task of observing, listening, and discerning, ensuring the voices and concerns of the Hispanic and Latino communities are heard and addressed.
“We also offer programs in leadership formation and promote the awareness of ecclesial inclusion or intercultural competencies for our parish ministers,” Contreras said. “Much of the direct contact and the pastoral care and accompaniment of Hispanic Catholics is through the ministries and Sacraments in our parishes. As a pastoral Archdiocesan office, we want to be a resource and support to our pastors, parish staff, parish councils, lay groups and movements, and parish leaders.”
One leadership formation opportunity is the Hispanic Ministry Conference, held every two years. This provides Church leaders with essential tools for accompanying and offering pastoral care to Hispanic and Latino Catholics, and the event features workshops and keynote speaker presentations in both English and Spanish.
Additionally, Hispanic and Latino parish leaders have the opportunity to attend the national conference, V Encuentro, fostering a gathering of the entire Church to reflect on the community’s needs, challenges, dreams, hopes and aspirations in the U.S. Discussions on how to best serve this community stem from listening sessions during the Synod to Synodality and the creation of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan.
Esperanza Monterrubio, MA, a Maryknoll Mission educator, and promoter, has been involved with the Office of Hispanic Ministry for three decades, serving on the Archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Advisory Board and participating in various programs and trainings. She highlights the U.S. Bishops’ recently approved National Pastoral Plan, considering the Hispanic and Latino community as a divine blessing revitalizing the Church. She emphasized the crucial role of supporting the plan to mentor, educate and cultivate a new generation of Hispanic and Latino leaders as missionary disciples for both the Church and society.
“The ministry helped me to implement the V Encuentro Process in my parish, St. Paul the Apostle, to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics and Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as Missionaries Disciples,” Monterrubio said. “As a lay minister in the Church and coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord, I have grown in my ministry through trainings, such as Building Intercultural Competence, as well as gaining knowledge and developing skills to be open and respectful of people from other cultures.”
For almost 12 years, Cony Tavera Martín has found a second home in the Office of Hispanic Ministry, which she felt facilitated her quick integration into the U.S. As an active facilitator in the community, she expressed deep gratitude for the abundant love and support she has received.
“In time, I became a facilitator in various aspects of our beautiful community, experiencing significant personal growth and receiving more love than I’ve given,” Martin said. “I participated in the V Encuentro, facilitated the Christopher Leadership Course in Spanish, and proudly joined the first generation of Liderazgo en Acción, a leadership program inspired by the V Encuentro’s objectives for new leadership formation. I am honored to serve in the current Liderazgo en Acción Program, and the ministry can count on me for assistance with all my love and effort.”
As one of the 60 ministries supported by the annual Diocesan Service Fund (DSF), Contreras emphasizes that the ministry continues to accompany Hispanic and Latino Catholics on their spiritual journeys thanks to the generosity of the faithful in the Archdiocese.
“The Office of Hispanic Ministry’s vision is one of faith, ecclesial inclusion and integration, and transformation, and we continue to play a crucial role in nurturing the spiritual growth of the Hispanic and Latino community while inspiring leadership that surpasses cultural boundaries,” Contreras said.
Since summer 2021, Marisel Menendez, religious education assistant registrar at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church, has been actively involved with the Office of Hispanic Ministry, exploring diverse ways to serve the Hispanic and Latino population. She credits the Office of Hispanic Ministry for fostering networking and idea-sharing among parishes and Archdiocesan offices, enhancing community service opportunities.
“The Hispanic community is the majority in our Archdiocese, so it is very important to serve its population to keep unity with the broader Catholic community,” Menendez said. “The DSF supports many ministries that help the Hispanics in our area in ways that no one Church alone can do, but collectively, we can offer many of the services our community needs.”
Monterrubio agrees that giving to the DSF provides vital support for the Church to sustain its mission of serving all people.
“Giving to the DSF is crucial as it supports various programs, trainings and services in the Church, including those benefiting the Hispanic community and the whole Church, such as formation, outreach and social services,” Monterrubio said.
To learn more about the Office of Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese, visit www.archgh.org/OHM. To donate to the DSF, go to www.archgh.org/DSF. The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries. †