Latinos leaving Church

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | MAY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Some Latinos no longer believe in one holy and apostolic church.

A recent study by Boston College shows the future of the Catholic Church in the United States largely depends on attracting young Latinos, who are becoming more secular.

Meanwhile, a Pew study found the number of American Latino adults who identify as Catholic dropped from 67 to 55 percent from 2010 to 2013 in favor of other denominations or no affiliation.

About one-third of Catholics in the US were Latino in 2008, according to a Trinity College report.

“As Latinos assimilate into the culture, one thing they drop in the process is their Catholic self-identification,” said Hosffman Ospino, assistant professor of theology and ministry at Boston College who helped write the report.

Ospino said much of the outreach to Latinos in the United States is geared towards first-generation immigrants.

“What we’re seeing in a huge gap with lots of resources for the immigrants, who numerically are a smaller number of Latinos in this country, but very little efforts to those who are U.S.-born, who are the majority of Latino Catholics at this point,” he said.

Forty percent of American Catholics are Latino, but only 25 percent of parishes are serving the population directly. Iowa City’s St. Patrick Parish is one of them, which has offered a weekly Spanish-language mass since 2004.

Father Rudy Juarez of St. Patrick’s said the parish has worked with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, UI law, the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, and community members to reach out to the Latino community and advocate for wage and immigration issues.

He also said they provide space for community members.

Sixty percent of Catholics in the United States will be Latino by 2050, Ospino said, although younger Latinos are becoming more secular. This results from total population increase of Latinos in the country despite proportional losses.

“If we do not interest Latino Catholics today, the future of Catholicism in the United States will be at risk,” he said. “It will be undermined. It will be a much weaker Church.”

Juarez said secularism is growing across the country and worldwide and it is not just limited to young Latinos.

“If you turn on the news, if you’re listening to the media, if you’re reading the newspaper, if you’re at all cognizant of what’s happening in the world today, you see there’s growing, growing activity far removed from God and from church and from religion in general,” he said. “I think Iowa City is not any different from any place in the United States.”

UI sophomore Cecilia De La Fuente agreed Americans are becoming less religious. She described herself and her family as “not very religious” but said she still prays and believes in God.

“It’s not something we care as much about anymore,” she said. “There’s more to your person than just your religion … There’s more than just going to church.”

She said in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, Catholicism is much more intertwined into everyday cultural life, which is not the case here.

Ospino echoed her thoughts.

“Not being Catholic is the exception [in Latin America],” he said. “Immigrants’ children and their grandchildren have never experienced that general environment of supporting Catholicism in Latin America.”

Juarez said the Church will need to stick to its roots to combat growing secularism.

“The best way to do it I think is to be ourselves,” he said. “We cannot be anything than who we are and not be apologetic for teaching what we believe.”

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