Charleston, SC - The Catholic Church Extension Society and members of FADICA will gather here May 10-11, to discuss a new church-led national program to put in place one hundred new leaders to serve growing Latino Catholic populations in the more rural areas of the country.

The program entitled: A Vibrant Future: Developing Hispanic Leadership in the Home Missions, will feature lay pastoral leaders from three home mission dioceses, the President of the Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) in San Antonio, as well as Extension and FADICA  leadership.

Existing research shows that despite the surge in Hispanic populations in Catholic dioceses across the country, resources for pastoral outreach and leadership remain scarce, acutely so, in the nation’s 86 home mission dioceses.

These church territories historically have lacked sufficient numbers of priests and religious and, in many cases, even the means to build churches.

In an address to Catholic philanthropic leaders one year ago, Father Jack Wall, President of Extension, said, “The growth in the Latino population in the home mission dioceses requires a corresponding welcoming presence on the part of the church.”

Father Wall told foundation leaders that to bring this about, there must be enlistment and preparation of more lay leaders in these home mission dioceses that presently have few personnel resources.

Extension, he said, was launching an ambitious, $15 million program, to train and link together 100 new pastoral leaders across the country solely focused on providing a warm and welcoming presence for faith communities in home mission territories with growing Hispanic presence.

A central and longstanding characteristic of U.S. Catholicism has been its historical efforts to incorporate diverse populations into the body of faith.

Today, Latinos comprise about 40 percent of the entire Catholic population and comprise half of the Catholic population under 25 years of age.

Scholars at the University of Notre Dame have found that future Catholic vitality and impact in U.S. society hinges in no small part on the degree to which Latinos feel a sense of ownership and belonging in U.S. Catholicism.

The Charleston meeting will seek to demonstrate how pastoral leadership does make a profound difference in helping Latinos participate more fully in church life while building church capacity to serve its mission.

Presently individual members of FADICA have begun to work with Extension in funding its new leadership initiative. Home mission dioceses themselves will also contribute to the cost of the program.

The Charleston meeting will attempt to interest additional funders in what will be a three-year partnership.

Conference speakers will include: Dr. Arturo Chávez, President of the Mexican American Catholic College; Jerry White and Rhina Medina, youth ministers for the Diocese of Charleston; Jesús Abrego, Director of Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Beaumont; Verónica Rodríguez of the Office of Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Kalamazoo; and Eduardo Barragán, a seminarian from the Diocese of Yakima.