Program plans to train new generation of Catholic Hispanic lay leaders

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Hispanic lay leaders from mission dioceses met in Chicago on August 6, 2012 for a Catholic Extension conference. Credit: Catholic Extension.

A new national initiative from Catholic Extension intends to train 100 new Hispanic lay leaders in poor mission dioceses across the U.S.

“To build a solid future for the Catholic faith in the U.S., we must support Hispanic ministry in the Church,” Father Jack Wall, Catholic Extension president, said Oct. 9. He said the organization will be supporting “a new generation of pastoral leaders that will build faith, inspire hope and ignite change and serve as the hands and feet of Christ to a world in need.”

The $15 million, three-year initiative aims to fund the salaries of those who train lay leaders who can benefit Hispanic ministry and reach out to thousands of Hispanic Catholics. Catholic Extension and the participating dioceses will split the costs of the funding for three years, after which dioceses will take financial responsibility for the positions.

Fr. Wall said the initiative has received “great interest” from 70 of 91 mission dioceses.

About 40 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic. They could become the majority of Catholics by 2020. However, less than 10 percent of paid leadership in the Catholic Church is Hispanic.

The Catholic Extension initiative intends to remedy this imbalance.

University of Notre Dame professor Tim Matovina, the author of the book “Latino Catholicism,” said faith formation is important for the future.

“How we pass on the faith to the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants is the leading indicator of where the Church will be 30 years from now,” he said. “This is not a priority just for Hispanic ministry, the entire Catholic Church needs to be involved in.”

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President and CEO of Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas, is another supporter of the initiative. He said the numbers of Hispanic seminarians are beginning to grow and there is a “very promising growth” in the number of permanent deacons.

However, he said the “greatest challenge” for Hispanics today is that only eight percent of the country’s 30,000 lay ecclesial ministers are Hispanic.

The Chicago-based Catholic Extension is a national fundraising organization that supports poor mission dioceses across the U.S. Since its founding in 1905. The organization has given more than $500 million to Catholic dioceses.

Its website is www.catholicextension.org.

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