Chicago, IL – Part of the ongoing interest of FADICA members in supporting Hispanic ministry, FADICA applauds Catholic Extension’s first annual gathering of Hispanic lay leaders from Catholic dioceses across the country. The August event marks the beginning of the national Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative, a three-year commitment supported in part by FADICA members to fund the salaries of 100 new Hispanic lay leaders in poor mission dioceses across the U.S. The initiative is aimed at positively impacting Hispanic ministry in the U.S. Catholic church.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, nearly 40 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic, and some predict that as soon as 2020, Hispanics could be the majority in the Catholic church.

“There are many gifts and many opportunities that this growing population offers the church and the country,” said Arturo Chavez, president and CEO of Mexican American Catholic College. “However, only seven percent of active bishops are Hispanic and only six percent of all Catholic priests. We are now beginning to show a growth in Hispanic seminarians…and permanent deacons. But the greatest challenge today is that only eight percent of the estimated 30,000 lay ecclesial ministers nationally are Hispanic.”

The Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative is designed to address this growing need by building pastoral capacity in dioceses where Hispanics are present in significant numbers through creating new lay leadership positions. These new leaders will be able to reach out to thousands of Hispanic Catholics across the country. Dr. Chavez, who joined FADICA and Catholic Extension at a joint symposium earlier this year, discussed collaborative pastoral planning in his keynote address to the gathering in Chicago. Such collaboration, he said, will help guide the new leaders supported through the initiative in pastoral planning for the Hispanic communities in their dioceses.

The Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative is designed not simply as a temporary solution to address an immediate crisis in human resources for Hispanic ministries, but to serve as a catalyst for a more substantial leadership investment in Hispanic ministry on the part of Catholic dioceses. The $15,000,000 initiative over a three-year period will be split between Catholic Extension, in conjunction with funding partners including several members of FADICA; and the dioceses. At the conclusion of the three-year partnership, dioceses will be responsible for sustaining the position on their own.

Tim Matovina, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and author of Latino Catholicism, underscores the necessity of faith formation in the Hispanic community.  “How we pass on the faith to the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants is the leading indicator of where the church will be 30 years from now. This is not a priority just for Hispanic ministry. The entire Catholic church needs to be involved in it,” said Matovina.

Visit Extension’s website for more information on the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative.