Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Questions, answers arise at Hispanic ministry workshop
by Father Alejandro Zepeda, for the Inland Register
(From the Dec. 16, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
The Diocese of Yakima hosted a workshop on Hispanic ministry last October, attended by people from throughout the region. (IR photo courtesy of Father Alejandro Zepeda)
On Saturday, Oct. 30, the Northwest Regional Office for Hispanic Affairs (NWROHA) organized a workshop for people working with Hispanic Youth and Young adult ministry in the region, hosted by the Diocese of Yakima. It was an excellent workshop, mainly focused on the formation and education of Hispanic young adults.
I have noticed that we do not have many Hispanic young adults involved in our parishes or attending Mass regularly and I wonder why. I believe it is very important to reach out to them, encourage them to participate in our programs at a parish level and to walk with them in their lives. As pastors and ministers of evangelization we are called to minister our youth by offering them counsel, spiritual direction and assistance to help them grow in faith as mature persons and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ capable of an enthusiastic and influential participation in the Church and in our parishes.
However, it is one of the most difficult groups to work with because there are so many different things going on in their lives that make them wander away from commitment and participation in our parish activities. Perhaps our programs are not very appealing to them at this stage in their lives.
In June 2006, however, the U.S. bishops’ conference sponsored the First National Encounter for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults at the University of Notre Dame. It was a great success, with more than 40,000 Hispanic youth attending.
Before the Encounter there was an extensive study of youth ministry in most parishes and dioceses of the country that have Hispanic ministry. St. Patrick Parish, Pasco, participated in this process.
At the workshop I attended, the book Conclusiones: Primer Encuentro Nacional de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (PENJPH) was presented. This book is the result of many years of study of young adult formation and it is a great resource. For example, we find in this book how to reach out to young adult Hispanics; challenges and hopes; what kind of young adult groups have been more effective around the country, and why; specific models and programs to follow; how to organize this kind of ministry; and so forth.
In this workshop, we touch a very important subject: The problem of inculturation our young Hispanic people encounter when they migrate to the USA and try to mix and participate in parish activities.
We also find other different problems in our parishes. For instance, many of our youth are born here in the USA, first- or second- generation Latino-Americans whose first language is English. Even though many of them do not speak Spanish, they attend Spanish Masses with their parents. The language barrier keeps them from being active participants in the liturgy. How then we can get these youth people involved in our liturgies, minister to them, and bring them the joy of the Gospel? Most important, what do we do as pastors and ministers to get them involved and comfortable being part of our one church community and faith?
During this first workshop, the dioceses of the Region XII and their Hispanic Ministry leaders participated. With me at the workshop were Father Miguel A. Mejia, together with Anna Salmeron and Flavia Lauriano from Sacred Heart Parish, Othello, Wash.
As pastor and minister of the Gospel, I believe that religious education and evangelization do not start at Church but in our own families. Parents are the first agents of evangelization of their own children. We at the parish walk together in our journey of faith with our children and young adults, reinforcing the faith and religious values they have learned at home.
One of the conclusions of this workshop was the proposal of having a Regional Hispanic Youth Congress next year, perhaps by the end of October. No date has yet been chosen.
(Father Zepeda is Diocesan Representative for Hispanic Ministry and pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Othello, Wash.)