Every year, between September 15 and October 15, the United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month. The observance began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and, in 1988, was expanded by law to a month-long celebration.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we are all invited to honor and share the many stories, experiences, and contributions of Hispanics living in the United States, which are important to who we are as a nation. race
For US Catholics, Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to affirm and celebrate who we are and who we are becoming. Of the 63.7 million Hispanics living in this country, approximately 31 million identify themselves as Catholic. What’s more, about 43% of all Catholics in the United States are Hispanic.
Educational institutions at all levels of our nation are participating in various activities to present Hispanic cultural items and learn more about the Hispanic population. Teachers do an excellent job of creating opportunities for this to happen, both in the classroom and through all school activities. Many other companies do the same.
I have to say, I have never seen the same level of interest in observing Hispanic Heritage Month in our Catholic churches. It’s strange that half of all US Catholics are Hispanic and 25% of parishes have some form of Hispanic ministry.
We have not developed a strong tradition of parochial care during Hispanic Heritage Month. But that can change. A social culture is built through small actions and commitment to do these things consistently. Here are five practical ideas.
1. Start with parish advertising and social media. Write an article each week about Hispanic Catholics; represent the Hispanic community of your town or city; describe a popular Hispanic Catholic practice (eg, posadas, altarcitos, quinceañeras); share the story of a US Hispanic; Latin American or Caribbean religious; invites Hispanic youth to write something about growing up in a Hispanic Catholic home.
2. Put up a book display at the back of your church, or in the parish office or in the church office (think of a place that is frequented in your community) with activities that describe Hispanic Catholicism and books written by Hispanic Catholics. poetry, novels, theological works, spirituality guides. There are many documents about Hispanic Catholicism!
3. Schedule one lecture or evening presentation during this special month with a speaker who will share something interesting about Hispanic Catholics. Promote the event among all the parishioners of your community. If your community is multi-lingual, host events in different languages. Yes, make sure you serve up some Hispanic food!
4. Speakers can use this time of year with the intention of saying something about the Hispanic Catholic experience from the pulpit as they open the message. Catechists and parish teachers should be encouraged to speak about Hispanic Catholicism in their studies. Give them some resources.
5. Now is the time of year to invite your parish community to the feast! It doesn’t take much to be in the community to enjoy someone’s presence. It could be a picnic, a large meal or a shop. Share Hispanic food and music. Begin with a second or silent Eucharistic celebration. Pray in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Latin American.
These activities do not require much effort and are relatively inexpensive. The results can be very valuable to the parish community as they help us appreciate our Hispanic Catholic roots. Such activities help remind us of who we are and who we are becoming as US Catholics. Happy Catholic celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month!
Hosffman Ospino is a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Boston College.
The article looking at Hispanic Heritage Month as a Catholic first appeared in OSV News.