Every year, from September 15th to October 15th, we honor the contributions of Latino and Hispanic communities with the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. This heritage month highlights the diversity, culture, language, traditions and religious beliefs of Hispanic communities. Because they begin in mid-September, the celebrations coincide with national independence days in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile.
Hispanics and Latinos are not necessarily the same. Hispanics are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, which include some of the European countries such as Spain, while Latinos are people of Latin American descent who do not necessarily speak Spanish, such as Brazilian people. Some arrived in the United States as immigrants or refugees, while others trace their ancestry to Spanish-speaking or indigenous peoples living in North America long before the establishment of the United States.
Hispanic and Latino individuals have established missions and businesses, raised families, built agricultural industries and labor unions, written novels and songs, and fought for civil rights in American courts.When looking at Catholicism, Hispanics are 40% of the total Catholic population in the United States according to the V Encuentro Conclusions.
V Encuentro is a five-year process run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that seeks to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church.
Hispanic/Latino Catholics represent 71% of the country’s Catholic growth, according to Dr. Hosffman Ospino, Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College and Director of Graduate Programs in Hispanic Ministry. In the 1960s, 10% of Catholics identified themselves as Hispanic; today approximately 30.4 million people in the United States self-identify their religion as Catholic and their ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino. Today, more than half of U.S. Millennial Catholics — ages 14 to 34 — are Hispanic, as are two-thirds of Catholics under 35 who attend Mass regularly.
“I think we are at an important juncture,” said Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto who was interviewed by the U.S Catholic Faith in Real Life in 2011. “I think we will either bear the fruit of making good investments in our young population, or we will suffer the consequences of not taking advantage of this very significant moment in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States.”
As we prepare to once again celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in 2020, it is important for Catholics in the United States to keep in mind the reality of the presence of Hispanic/Latinos inside the U.S Church. As Dr. Ospino says, “We have to change the concept from a Church that serves Hispanics to a Church that is Hispanic, because Hispanics ‘are’ the church.” As Hispanic Ministry Coordinator, I exhort my Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters to continue the excellent work that they are doing in their communities, and encourage them to serve the Church and not wait to be served. If we start by responding with responsibility to the mission that was entrusted to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, we will be able to experience, live, and enjoy the richness that our Church in the United States has, with all of its cultural diversity and beauty of many languages, traditions, and ways of living the Catholic faith.
Let us not forget that God always has a plan for our lives, even if we don’t see it now. As a nation built by immigrants, we have talents, skills, and abilities inherited from a God that has created us in his image and likeness. God has distributed his creative capacity through all the ethnic groups of the great family that is the human race. This original capacity helps to create an interdependence through which we can all serve each other with the talents God has given us.
Some things you might want to consider during this particularly festive time for your parish are:
- Folklorico and Flamenco traditional dances
- Mariachi music
- Authentic food from various countries and traditional clothing.
Another celebration that goes hand in hand with Hispanic Heritage Month is the feast of the Day of the Dead at the end of October, which culminates with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. It is always good to add prayer intentions for our migrant and refugees’ brothers and sisters who flee their countries of origin due to hunger, violence, persecution, etc.
Some prayers you might want to consider are:
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Hail Marys or the Rosary
- Spontaneous prayers from the bottom of your heart to pray for our Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters
Some saints you might want to ask intercession from are:
- St. Toribio Romo, Patron of Immigrants, Mexico
- San Héctor Valdivielso Sáez, Argentina
- Santa Rosa de Lima, Peru
- San Oscar Romero, El Salvador
- Beata Sor María Romero Meneses, Nicaragua
- Santa Teresa de los Andes, Chile
If this is your first time celebrating Hispanic heritage month in your parish community you might want to reach out to other parishes that have a strong vibrant Hispanic/Latino community such as the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit , Most Holy Redeemer Church , Detroit , Church of the Holy Family, Novi , St. Damien of Molokai, Pontiac , or St. Francis/St. Maximilian, Ray .