Inculturation/My Culture/Race and ethnicity Dear Young, Hispanic/Latino Catholics… by Stephanie Espinoza Hey you. ¡Si! YOU! The Church needs YOU. Today, 60 percent of Catholics under the age of 18 are Hispanic/Latino. That’s a lot, right? Yeah, the Church thinks so, too. That’s why right now, the Church is engaging in the V Encuentro (or, Fifth Encounter), a process that seeks to discern ways in which the Church in the the good ol’ USA can better respond to the needs of the Hispanics/Latinos in the pews. The V Encuentro theme is “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love,” so it is also looking at how to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond as missionary disciples and serve the entire Church. TLDR: There are tons of Hispanics/Latinos in the Church and we want to figure out how we can be welcomed in the Church but also serve the Church. Got it? The Holy Spirit is making some amazing things happen in our communities, and more of the Church is getting to witness the gifts and talents that we possess as young, Hispanic/Latino Catholics. Our presence in parishes is essential to what the Church needs right now in order to go out and make more disciples who live in the love of Jesus Christ. Not sure what I mean yet? Read on: 1. There is strength in numbers More and more Hispanic/Latinos are present in Catholic parishes around the country, so it is important we see it not just as a “fun fact” but as a real responsibility. No longer can we take a look at the work that needs to be done in the Church (and in the world) and say, “Someone else will get to it.” If we are the majority, that means we have to roll up our sleeves and get to it. ¡A trabajar! But rejoice — you don’t have to go at it alone. There are a ton of us out there, already working in the field. The call to mission is more easily lived out when there are a lot of us on the job, so join us and the many other Catholics of different backgrounds who are already at it. We can do better work for the Lord, together. 2. There is joy in belonging C. S. Lewis defines friendship as the moment in which two people say, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one!” A similar end can be achieved in sharing our witness of how the Lord has worked in our hearts, especially through the unique reality of being a Hispanic/Latino-American. Others can come to know Christ and experience that sense of not feeling alone in their struggles, worries, challenges, or search for purpose when we take the time to share our stories. The more we share the truth of how we came to know the love of God, the more we invite others into the family and create a place where they feel welcome. But it starts with your story. Tell it and help others belong. 3. There is beauty in our rich heritage The Catholic tradition in Latin America is vibrant and awesome. From la Vírgen de Altagracia (Dominican Republic), to Blessed Oscar Romero (El Salvador), to Nuestra Señora del Cobre (Cuba), to St. Alberto Hurtado (Chile), to El Señor de los Milagros (Peru), and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico), we have no shortage of extraordinary men and women who give us plenty of help toward heaven. (And those are just a few of them!) The countries of our parents or abuelitos have fostered a faith that basically runs through our veins. It’s our inheritance and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. It is time we embrace it, live it, and keep the faith alive for the next generation of Hispanic/Latino Catholics in the United States. 4. There is potential in our ability to bridge cultures I know you’ve had to explain to your mom that the music you’re “playing too loudly” happens to be by the greatest rapper alive, Kendrick Lamar (don’t @ me). I also know you’ve had to explain to your friends that, no you weren’t fighting with your tia, that’s just your normal speaking voice. (I’ve had to do this. Too. Many. Times.) You’re constantly serving as an ambassador for two very different worlds: the one you’re in when you’re at home or visiting your family and the one you’re in when you’re at school, watching tv, or listening to music. You’ve got a foot in both all the time. Want to know something cool? So. Did. Jesus. He was truly God AND truly man. He was in the world but not of it. And you’re called to do the same, to be a witness to the truth about God, the Church, the Bible, the sacraments, etc. in a society that doesn’t always “get it.” You are a bridge everywhere else in your life, connecting worlds that don’t always seem to fit together, so why not do the same and connect the world to Jesus as a missionary disciple? The Church’s mission is to make disciples, but the Church isn’t just a building we file in and out of on Sundays. The Church is you and me; it’s your primos and tias and abuelos and amigos, too. And that means the task to make disciples is ours. More than ever, the Catholic Church in the United States needs young Hispanics/Latinos like you to dive deeper into the heart of Jesus, a heart that longs for our souls. It’s going to take you and me loving Jesus so much that His longing becomes our longing,, that all we want is to bring others into His love so they can experience the joy of a life lived with Him. The Lord has placed you in this particular moment, with all of your gifts and talents, to be a light for others. Jesus is calling you to go into the world and proclaim Him by the way you live your life. Let’s do it. Live it. Be it. ¡Si se puede!