Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The LATimes (LRR) looks at the urgent need for Catholic ministry to Hispanic immigrants

But much of the growth is occurring in less-traditional areas. Across the United States, bishops in places that historically have had low numbers of Latinos now say they need Spanish-speaking priests, liturgies that reflect Latino culture, and counseling and social services tailored for the new parishioners.The growth of the Latino population in the church "is my No. 1 pastoral concern," said Bishop Joseph L. Charron, who heads the diocese of Des Moines.Of the estimated 100,000 Catholics in the diocese, which covers the southwest corner of Iowa and part of Nebraska, 25,000 are Latinos, he said.In an area where Spanish-speaking priests are rare, "How can I deal with the influx of minority people?" Charron asked.

The shortage of Spanish-speaking priests is a major factor in the success that evangelical churches have had in proselytizing among Catholics, according to the bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs, which produced the new plan for Latino ministry."There's been a lot of growth, a lot of vitality," Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston told reporters Tuesday. "Yet it continues to challenge, because of the growth and the lack of priests."Currently, the Catholic Church has one priest for every 1,230 parishioners, but only one Spanish-speaking priest for every 9,925 Latino Catholics, according to church studies.

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