The gifts of all persons of Spanish-speaking origins
By BISHOP ROBERT BAKER
The face of Catholicism in our diocese is growing and changing. Today, many more of those faces belong to people who come to us from Spanish-speaking countries. Though they are a diverse group of people, coming from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, and Central and South America, they share a common faith that is interlaced with their own unique cultures.
Nationally, from 1990 to 2000, the Hispanic population grew by almost 60 percent to 35.3 million, about 3 million more than the Census Bureau had projected. South Carolina’s population in the year 2000 was 4,012,012 people out of which, 96,288 were of Hispanic or Latino origin (2.4 percent). That number, however, only reflects the registered citizens. One can only speculate on the exact number of people of Spanish-speaking origin who populate our state. They have spiritual needs which have fostered a burgeoning ministry that has become a challenge and an opportunity for us as a diocese.
While our Hispanic population is diverse, this community of believers shares special strengths in their love of family, their identity as Catholics and, in particular, their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are richly blessed as a church by their gifts of compassion, community mindedness and family togetherness, which they witness to the rest of our Catholic population.
To acknowledge their unique spiritual needs, representatives from across our diocese gathered April 30 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in North Charleston to help formulate a pastoral plan for Hispanic Ministry in our state. This meeting began the groundwork of efforts to foster greater respect for the identity and giftedness of our Hispanic brothers and sisters while promoting the integration of our Hispanic people and cultures into our community.
Last October, we welcomed three sisters of the Congregation of Hermanas del Corazon de Jesus Sacramentado (Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus). They established the order’s first house in the diocese at St. James Parish in Conway. Sister Carmen Evangelista, Sister Sandra Parra and Sister Guillermina Delgado will work with our rapidly growing immigrant population in Conway, and we offer them our thanks and prayers in this ministry.
People of Mexican descent are the largest U.S. Hispanic group in the United States, followed by Puerto Ricans, Central and South Americans, Cubans and representatives of other Spanish-speaking countries.
They are strong in faith and have made their beliefs visible throughout the world.
This year, Pope John Paul II beatified Puerto Rico’s first layman, Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, a layman active in various apostolates, who died in 1963. He reinvigorated campus ministry for Catholic students at the state-run University of Puerto Rico and championed lay people’s participation in the church’s liturgical life in the years prior to the Second Vatican Council.
Another gift we have received from Spanish-speaking Catholics is the Cursillo Movement. The Cursillo de Cristiandad (short course in Christianity) originated in Spain in the 1940s when a group of men dedicated themselves to bringing the younger men of their city of Mallorca, Spain, to know Christ better. Now, this faith-renewing movement can be found in almost all of the 160 dioceses in the United States and is linked with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What started as a small group gathering is now a worldwide movement that brings together people of every origin and background.
We hope to achieve that unity here at home through efforts begun by our Hispanic Catholics, such as Cursillo.
As we look around our parishes we see the faces of those who join with us in this family of Christ. Though we may not speak the same language — yet, we can at least listen with our ears and with our hearts to people who have so much to share with us.
We are reminded in this Year of Reconciliation in the month of September to embrace our Hispanic brothers and sisters with the warm welcome of Jesus Christ. We show them our love by attempting to learn their language and study their cultures. Most importantly, we reach out to them with our hands and hearts and tell them we want them to be one with us in Jesus Christ.
Read the column in Spanish.