Studies reveal reasons for drop in Hispanic Catholic numbers in U.S.
This past May two studies on Hispanics in the United States were released. The Pew Research Center has a department that worked on only Hispanic population studies, and Boston College conducted its study from its School of Theology and Ministry.
The Pew study claims that the Latino Catholic population has dropped by 12 percentage points in the last four years. We still see that half of the U.S. 19.6 million Hispanics identify themselves as Hispanics Catholics.
Some of the reasons for this drop:
• 55 percent "drifted away."
• 52 percent stopped believing in the teachings of their childhood religion.
• 31 percent found a different congregation that helped them more than their childhood faith.
• 23 percent said that religious change was rooted in a "deep personal crisis."
• 19 percent moved to a new community.
• 9 percent married someone from a different religion.
In this study 20 percent of Hispanics who say they really have no particular affiliation still believe that religion is "very important," and 29 percent of those still pray on a daily basis.
According to Father Allan Figueroa Deck of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, we as Church need to put forth a greater effort to establish a "missionary model" to help Hispanics remain in our Catholic parishes. The challenge is having a more ministerial model and less of a clerical church.
The Boston College study found that of the 4,358 Catholic parishes nationwide, almost one-fourth had an outreach or some kind of organized ministry for Hispanics. Some parishes had Spanish masses; others may not have had mass but other forms of outreach or educational Hispanic ministry programs.
The study found that parishes with Hispanic ministries had an average weekend Mass attendance 22 percent higher than all parishes nationally. The study also found some areas that need further attention: disproportionately limited finances and human resources and a substantially lower enrollment in Catholic schools.
There will be more studies in future years as the Hispanic population continues to grow in this country. Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics, and even those who have left the Church, are looking for a place to belong – welcoming communities with more lively liturgies.
Adeline Torres is director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Gary. This column appeared in Spanish in the Northwest Indiana Catholic edition dated July 20, 2014.