Our Lady of Soledad Parish
March 15, 2007
I just read through the pastoral plan again and one area that is lacking is a description of
why we are working in a parish setting with the Hispanic people. You give some
statistics but you do not answer the “why” question for Holy Cross as you do in the area
of education. If Holy Cross is to remain in parochial ministry to the Hispanic
Community we must know what contribution we are making and what is its importance?
HISPANIC MINISTRY AND THE NORTH AMERICAN PARISH
It is my experience that the two places where the Catholic Church in North America first
meets the Hispanic community are in the parish and in apostolic movements. The
secondary places where they encounter Church are in education and in social service.
John Paul II in his Pre-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in America says “The
parish is a privileged place where the faithful concretely experience the Church.” 1 The
reason that Hispanics come to parishes is that many are traditionally oriented to seeking
the sacraments for their children and at times for themselves. This is especially true of
baptisms and 1st communions and at times confirmation. Many are still married in the
Church after a serious premarital formation. They also come at times for special
celebrations such as presentations of their children and for prayer for the sick and the
dying. Hispanic parishes span the generations. Most Hispanics come to church for
baptism of their children and for funerals of their diseased relatives.
The parish is the place where the Church meets culture. One important way this happens
with the Hispanic community is in the so-called popular religiosity. With the Mexican
celebrations around the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Las Posadas in Advent, El
Candelario, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday we have some examples of
popular religiosity. Candles, flowers, music, processions and pilgrimages, shrines and
religious art of the Saints, Mary and Christ for the homes are well know ways that the
Hispanic community expresses its’ religiosity.
We would not advance very much if we only attend to these traditional services of the
Church to the Catholic Hispanic Community. Today more importance is placed on
formation of the lay people through pre-sacramental programs such as the five Mini-
retreats given on Sunday afternoons in Our Lady of Soledad in Coachella. Bible studies
and small faith communities are also seen as an important part of parish life. Most
parishes today also have some form of ministry to youth and young adults.
The most important part of parish life is Sunday liturgy and preaching. “The parish must
continue to be above all a Eucharist community.”2 Hospitality is emphasized as a way to
John Paul II, The Church in America (Boston, MS: Pauline Books & Media, 1999), #41.
open people to being part of a parish community. Most parishes have diverse types of
liturgy and different styles of music in each of the liturgies. In most of our Holy Cross
parishes there is a mixture of Spanish and English used in our different liturgies.
The North American Parish is an institution which has been used to “welcome the
stranger” as the document of the Bishops call for openness to the Immigrants. Our
parishes are financial institutions in which our Holy Cross community has attempted to
teach their parishioners good stewardship to support the growing parish and the increased
need of lay staffing.
One of the biggest questions for Holy Cross in the future is how to attract Holy Cross
religious to our unique kind of ministry in a time of declining numbers in formation.
One way to be explored might be the sharing of personnel currently being formed in
Mexico with some of our North American Parishes. Many other religious communities
have been sharing personnel not just North to South as missionaries but also South to
North as reverse mission, the new paradigm for a Church where a large number of
immigrants from Mexico have come to many of our parishes.
Another area where the Church meets the Hispanic community is in the Apostolic
Movements. Cursillo, Charismatic Renewal, the Missionary Encounter and Marriage
Encounter are but a few of the movements which have attracted a large Hispanic
participation. Most of these movements are lay lead and are for attracting lay people into
ministry. The challenge is to help movements and parishes see the need for one another
and operate in a way that is beneficial to both. The movements are one of the primary
areas where evangelization, the first task of the Church, occurs, because movements offer
experiences where people can come into a personal relationship with Christ.3 One of the
areas to aid the future growth of the movements would be assistance in the area of the
formation of a lay spirituality.
The area of the pastoral plan that is most developed is that of Education. However, one
aspect of education that is not touch in the plan is the area of spiritual and ministerial
formation of the laity which is done through the parishes and through movements. The
University must play a role in the inculturation of the Gospel. 4 Our Universities today
also have developed significant programs of lay formation and spirituality. One are that
also needs to be developed in our pastoral plan is the area of social services. Catholic
Charities, counseling services, alcohol and drug counseling and rehabilitation,
immigration services, community organizing, political education, English as a second
language classes, youth and family centers, senior centers and the like offer a significant
challenge to our outreach to the Hispanic poor.
Fr. John S. Connor, C.S.C.
See Paul VI, On Evangelization in the Modern World (Boston, MS: Paulinas Books & Media, 1975).
See John Paul II, The Church in America, op. cit., #71.