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The Amanecer Project


las 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.

Amanecer 2004

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 Study.

Amanecer Ahora

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 group discussions.

·        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 for Amanecer Ahora will be available in May of 2004.

Amanecer ˇAlleluia!

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.