iglesias frente a la presencia hispana/latina
The Awakening of the Churches to the Hispanic/Latino Presence
The Center for Study of Religion In Society and Culture (RISC), located at Brooklyn College,
conducted a pioneer study of Latino faith communities, coinciding
with the 2000 U.S. Census. Entitled “The PARAL Study”, this important
national survey was produced by the network of scholars affiliated
with the Program for Analysis of Religion Among
Latinas/os (PARAL), founded in 1988 to foster the use of social science
research to better understand the religious experience of Latinos/as
living in the United States.
In 2003, the Lilly Endowment provided funds to organize and coordinate
a national program so that denominations and seminaries could analyze
the PARAL Study, the 2000 US Census and other relevant social science
data in order to make applications to ministerial needs.
Amanecer is the name of the project to disseminate
these important findings. As the name signifies, Amanecer
is intended to foster the awakening
of the churches to the Hispanic/Latino presence. The Amanecer project is unique in three ways:
it links social
science findings with pastoral concerns;
the project is
focused exclusively on Hispanics; and
it has created a new resource
for pastoral planning.
The PARAL Study poses several important questions to religious leaders:
In light of the explosive growth of the Hispanic population reported by
the U.S. Census, will membership in U.S. denominations reflect this change?
With the dispersal of immigrants from Latin America to virtually every state,
do Hispanic ministry programs today reflect the differences produced
by density, Diaspora, and diversity or are we stuck with training
people as if “one size fits all”?
In light of the poverty of our people and their need for education and social
services, does faith require interdenominational cooperation in
addressing material needs of Hispanics?
In organizing Amanecer, Latino faith communities were consulted in three
different groups about the best ways to disseminate survey and census
findings among their members.
San Antonio, Texas was the site in mid-March
of 2003 for a consultation with representatives from several of
the Protestant denominations that had participated in the PARAL
Study. A key role was played by leaders from the Association for
Hispanic Theological Education (AETH) and the
Hispanic Summer Program (HSP). The Protestant denominational representatives chose to develop materials
for seminaries and theology departments in order to help non-Hispanics
recognize the challenges that will shape the practice of Christianity
in the entire United States as the Hispanic population continues its dramatic
growth. This is a problem especially pronounced among those denominations
which historically have not had significant numbers of Hispanic
members, although all denominational seminaries and ministerial
training programs are invited to participate in any of several ways:
- Organize a panel for students, faculty, and
ministers using the PARAL Study to focus the discussion.
- Schedule a lecture series with speakers who
address how social science findings shape planning for the challenges
to Hispanic/Latino ministry.
- Hold a day-long symposium to consider the church
response to Hispanic needs in light of the survey findings.
- Prepare papers and presentations for a conference
at a sponsoring institution.
Respondents are invited
to submit manuscripts produced by Amanecer 2004
to RISC for possible inclusion in an edited volume.
Please consult the discussion guide
and the full text of the reports on the PARAL
In early March of 2003, a consultation was held in Douglaston,
New York City for Roman Catholics with various directors of the
Hispanic Apostolate and with Ronaldo Cruz,
Director of the Washington, DC, Secretariat
for Hispanic Affairs. That consultation formulated plans for a
series of focus group consultations nation-wide in order to explore
youth ministry among young Latino/a Roman Catholics. RISC is supplying
technical assistance for this process, which consists of the following:
The preparation of written materials available over
the internet to serve as a guide for conducting a focus group session.
A video presentation of statistical and survey data
along with commentary from Hispanic youth to be used in the focus
A gathering and scholarly summary of findings from
the focus group discussions.
The role of RISC is strictly non-denominational. With the assistance
of Rudy Vargas, Director of the Northeast Hispanic Pastoral Center,
the resources will be pretested and then
shared with Roman Catholic leaders in the expectation that it will
assist them in pastoral ministry nation-wide.
It is expected that the focus group guide and the video presentation
Ahora will be available in May of 2004.
In September of 2003, a conversation was conducted with Dr. Esdras Bentancourt, Director of
Hispanic Ministries of the Church of God, and various other leaders
of this Pentecostal denomination. Recognizing that Latino/a Pentecostals
are a rapidly growing part of the religious population, Amanecer ˇAlleluia! is
being prepared to address the special issues that have arisen for
this community. After extended consultation, a similar meeting
was held in New York City in March of 2004 with Bob Sena,
of The North American Mission Board, and various other Southern
Baptist leaders concerned with Hispanics in this denomination.
This project is still under discussion.