Issue Date: January 30, 2004
Pastoral challenges differ among groups of young
The recent report by the research arm of Instituto Fe Y Vida, Institute
of Faith and Life -- a national institute for evangelization, formation, and
leadership among Hispanic youth and young adults -- describes the pastoral
needs of the surging young Hispanic population in the Catholic church.
But as the report emphasizes, the heading Hispanic youth is broad
and includes a host of cultural and other differences.
So the report breaks down the heading into four categories of youth and
young adults, based on the pastoral challenges and gifts they bring to
the church, cautioning that most Hispanic young people will not fit
neatly into any one category.
The categories listed are:
- Immigrant workers: Most likely Mexican and just as likely
to be undocumented. According to the report, The majority of immigrant
workers arrive in the U.S. without a high school education. While many
are eager to learn English, the majority speak mostly Spanish at home, as
well as at work.
Separated from their family, the report
continues, immigrant workers have tremendous needs.
- Identity seekers: Those who are looking for a sense of identity
and belonging in a world that is neither their parents nor their
own. Mostly citizens of the United States and children or grandchildren
of immigrants and, the report says, they have felt the sting of social
and religious discrimination, poor education, and dehumanizing public policy,
especially if their parents or grandparents were undocumented or had little
- Mainstream movers: Educated -- and being educated -- they
understand how to take advantage of the socioeconomic system in the United
States for their personal advancement. Because the mainstream
movers have the advantage of education, the report adds, they have
greater possibilities for becoming priests, religious and other leaders in the
church, but they are unlikely to participate in the churchs pastoral
outreach to more disadvantaged Hispanics.
- Gang members: The final and smallest demographic group the report
calls gang members, gang associates and youth at risk. The report
distinguishes between gang members -- a self-describing term -- and gang
associates, who are likely younger siblings and neighbors of gang
members. Most gang associates, the report says, know
that they do not ever want to be in a gang. Gang members, the report
notes, are seldom immigrants. They are second- or third-generation
Hispanic-Americans raised by single parents, married couples,
grandparents, even households headed by a brother or sister, most likely
in poverty. Not fully proficient in either Spanish or English, the
report notes, many of these young Hispanics are neither in school nor in
work, and depend on fellow gang members to look out for their best
interests. With their lives threatened almost daily by rival gang
members and law enforcement officials, the report adds, grimly,
chances are good that they will be incarcerated or killed before they
reach the age 30. Their pastoral needs -- clearly -- are huge. They
include recovery from addictions, psychosexual development, skills for
communication and intimacy, basic parenting skills, education, job training,
healing of traumatic wounds from childhood and gang life, religious and moral
education, anger management, and forgiveness. But the report is careful
to note the gifts these young people bring to the church: A basic, and at
times very profound, sense of the mystery of Gods presence, as well as
the ability to stand by another human being without conditions.
The categories serve to inform and to warn. Many young
Hispanics, the report says, will not participate in the life of the
Catholic church if they feel it is not addressing their needs.
need to become more aware of the various segments of the young Hispanic
population in their parishes, the report adds, and they must
develop pastoral plans to address the needs of all young Hispanics -- not just
those who fit into mainstream American culture or recently arrived
-- Jeff Guntzel
National Catholic Reporter,
January 30, 2004