Hispanic Growth Is Strength but Also Challenge for U.S. Catholic Church
MAY 5, 2014
The Roman Catholic Church has known for years that its future in the United States depends heavily on Hispanics. The church, which is the largest religious denomination in the country, is already about 40 percent Hispanic, and the demographic change is inexorable: Within the next few decades, Hispanics are expected to make up a majority of American Catholics.
Hispanic parents have been much less likely to send their children to Catholic schools, and their sons have been less likely to pursue the priesthood.
... A researcher at Boston College, Hosffman Ospino, has undertaken a new effort to understand the behavior of Hispanic American Catholics, and the implications for the larger church. In a study released Monday, Mr. Ospino finds a relatively high level of participation in church sacraments, but a low level of participation in other aspects of parish life, and a concerning lack of personnel and financial resources in parishes with high numbers of Hispanics.
“There is a bleak picture in terms of resources,” Mr. Ospino said. “And it is noticeable that at higher levels of leadership, the number of Hispanics are lower.”
There are positive findings: Mass attendance in parishes with Hispanic ministries is 22 percent higher than in the average parish, a promising sign in a church that has seen attendance at Masses dropping over the last few decades. Rates of baptism and first communions are also higher.
But attendance rates at weekday Mass are quite low, participation in non-sacramental activities like youth groups is low, and contributions to collection are also low, often reflecting economic hardship. Parishes serving Hispanics often have fewer staffers per parishioner than other parishes, according to the study; parishes with high numbers of Hispanic parishioners are also less likely to have a parish school.
Previous research has suggested that only 3 percent of Hispanic Catholic children go to Catholic schools in the United States, an issue that the leadership of the Catholic Church has been working on for some time.