New Office of Hispanic Ministry to open

Eva Gonzalez instructed Danny Feger, a member of St. Gabriel Church, during a Spanish class March 9. Gonzalez has been named the first director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s new Office of Hispanic Ministry. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

The Archdiocese of Louisville will expand ministry to the more than 26,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics in the area with the creation of its first Office of Hispanic Ministry this summer.

The new agency — set to open July 1 at St. Rita Church — aims to both serve Hispanic and Latino Catholics and help form those Catholics to become church leaders, said its director, Eva Gonzalez.

“My hope is that more leaders, new leaders will rise — and for them to take ownership in the church,” said Gonzalez.

Announcing the new office, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said, “As we continue to call forth the gifts of Hispanic Catholics in our archdiocese, I look forward to the fruits that will emerge from our new Office of Hispanic Ministry.”

Hispanic ministry is not new for the archdiocese; it has been part of the Office of Multicultural Ministry since it was formed in 1997. Hispanic ministry increased in 2006 with the establishment of a department for Hispanic ministry within that office, currently led by Gonzalez.

Archbishop Kurtz offered his gratitude to the Office of Multicultural Ministry and its leader M. Annette Mandley Turner.

He also expressed gratitude to Father Joseph Rankin, who has served as the archdiocese’s vicar for Hispanic ministry since 2014. The archbishop has appointed Father Michael Tobin to succeed him in that role.

Father Tobin will also succeed Father Rankin as pastor of St. Rita and St. Luke churches in order to work closely with the new office, effective June 17. Here is a link to the official announcement.

The landscape for Hispanic ministry has grown and changed over the last several decades. An announcement about the new office notes that more than half — 51 percent — of U.S. Catholics under age 18 are Hispanic.

In step with nationwide trends, the area has seen significant growth in the population of Hispanic Catholics. The last census, in 2010, showed the presence of 26,400 Catholic Hispanics in the archdiocese, more than twice the population present in 2000.

To respond to that growth, Father Tobin and 26 other priests of the archdiocese have been studying Hispanic ministry for the last year in a process led by vice chancellor Tink Guthrie.

The 2019 Hispanic Planning Study identified a variety of needs of Hispanic Catholics and recommended six initiatives to help address them.

The first initiative is the establishment of the new office.

“It’s not enough to have a Mass in Spanish,” Father Tobin said. “We’re moving from just being content with Mass in Spanish to wanting to serve the breadth of the community’s needs.”

For instance, he said, “Do you have a way of promoting formation for children and adults? An active social outreach and promotion of justice?”

While the priests were studying the needs of the community from their perspective, Hispanic Catholics in the archdiocese have been engaged in the Fifth National Encuentro process, an initiative of the U.S. bishops that aims to discern the needs and vision of the people.

Two local priorities emerged from the process: family ministry and ministry with youth and young adults.

Those priorities and the needs identified by the priests’ study will inform the work of the new office, said Gonzalez.

While the office’s work will evolve over time, Gonzalez said initially it will focus on:

  • Formation for adults and children.
  • Family ministry to strengthen couples and family life.
  • Youth and young adult workshops and retreats.
  • Social services.
  • Preparing adults as missionary disciples who can reach out to inactive Catholics.

She noted that the Hispanic and Latino Catholic community is a big umbrella, generally encompassing diverse cultures from Central, Latin and South America.

But they also have some things in common, beyond language.

“They bring many gifts,” she said. “They are family-driven, and people use their talents for the church. And they support one another in need.”

In addition to the new office, other initiatives for the future include fostering vocations in the Hispanic community, better preparing seminarians for intercultural ministry, committing other agencies in the archdiocese to serve the Hispanic community and helping parishes with Hispanic/Latino populations develop strategies for financial stability.

The study also recommended assigning priests with cultural and language proficiency where their skills are most needed.

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