As more Latinos move into southwestern Pennsylvania, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is providing pastoral support to keep their Catholic culture strong.
The volunteer board of directors of Our Campaign for The Church Alive!, Inc. has approved a grant expanding formation and outreach to Latino Catholics, supported by sacrificial gifts from donors to the campaign.
The U.S. Latino population reached nearly 58 million in 2016, accounting for half the nation’s population growth since 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. Nearly seven out of 10 Latinos are Catholic. About 40,000 Latinos now live in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, according to Jorge Vela, diocesan coordinator of Latino ministry.
Campaign funds will support a part-time catechetical director who will develop and implement the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program in all Latino parishes, and promote spiritual formation programs such as Rediscover and Adore the Holy Eucharist. Latinos generally have a strong, family-centered faith that need support from the Church.
“This grant will help make a big difference in teaching the faith,” Vela said. “We hope to later expand our Spanish-speaking catechesis program to other parishes.”
Four rooms in the former convent at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood have been converted into two classrooms to accommodate students from St. Regis Parish in Oakland. Spanish-language Masses are celebrated at both parishes, as well as at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Meadow Lands, Our Lady of Joy in Plum and St. Paul in Butler.
“Our mission today certainly includes welcoming Latinos who come to our diocese bringing with them many gifts and talents, first of which is their vibrant Catholic faith and love for the Church,” said auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid.
“At a time when family life seems to be suffering so much, our Latino brothers and sisters remind us of the sacredness of family life and the importance of the bond between parents and children.”
The grant also supports the attendance of five representatives from the local Latino community at the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (V Encuentro) to be held in September outside Dallas, Texas. Some 3,000 leaders are registered for the conference, which has been a catalyst for developing ministries among U.S. Latinos over the past 50 years.
More than 100 bishops are expected to lead diocesan delegations at V Encuentro.
The campaign funds also will provide training for volunteer catechists, young and adult leaders, promote religious vocations and improve communications.
Seminarians in the diocese now take part in a Latino immersion experience, learning about the languages, cultures and needs of their population through course work and by visiting the parishes and homes of Latino families.
“It is important to build relationships in the Latino community,” said Father Fernando Torres, parochial vicar at St. Catherine of Siena Parish. “A lot of people really need our spiritual support.”