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Book: Hispanic Catholic Culture in the US: Issues and Concerns
Editors: Jay P. Dolan and Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J.
University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, pp. 457

Excerpt from Jacket:

This book, the third volume in the groundbreaking study The Notre Dame History of Hispanic Catholics in the US., continues the historical investigation of the first two volumes, spanning the years 1965 to the present. Unlike the two preceding volumes, whose articles are arranged in terms of national origin (Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican), the 11 essays in Hispanic Catholic Culture in the U.S. are organized according to key issues that cut across nationalities, regions, and generations.

Joan Moore begins by examining social and political trends in the Hispanic community since 1965, demonstrating the need to move beyond one-dimensional analyses of Latinos. David A. Badillo explores Latino demographic patterns since 1965. An assessment of Latino Catholic social identity as it has emerged in the past 40 years is provided by Anthony M. Sevens-Arroyo. Moises Sandoval traces the development of today's Hispanic Church, weaving together persons, places, institutions, and key moments. Marina Herrera describes the context and clarifies the sources for Hispanic Catholic leadership in the U.S. since the time of the Second Vatican Council. Edmundo Rodriguez highlights the crucial historical role of movements such as Cursillo de Cristiandad and organizations such as HERMANAS or PADRES which have functioned as "schools of leadership" for effective Latino leaders throughout the country. The complicated question of Latinas in the Catholic Church is analyzed by Ana Maria Diaz-Stevens, and in a second article she narrates the story of Hispanic youth ministry efforts in New York City. Orlando O. Espin establishes the terms of discourse of popular religiosity in the understanding of Hispanic Catholicism. Hispanic liturgical renewal since the Second Vatican Council is discussed by Arturo J. Perez. Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., addresses the phenomenon of the flight of Hispanics from the Catholic Church to Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. In the concluding essay Jay P. Dolan synthesizes the various interdisciplinary approaches toward the study of Hispanic Catholic culture that have been brought together in this volume.

Excerpt from Book:

The early 1960s saw the diminishment of the old parish organizations in predominately Hispanic churches. From the turn of the century until the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, many active Hispanic Catholic parishioners exercised leadership through the activities of organizations known as cofradias (confraternities). The cofradias were a traditional form of organizing local parish and mission churches since the days of the Spanish missionaries and can be found all over Latin America. The cofradias were organizations of men or women, rarely both, which served many purposes. They had a code of conduct, a rule of life, prescriptions for pious practices including participation in sacramental life, with conditions for membership, and a well-defined governance structure. The explicit purpose of the cofradias was primarily a religous one, as, for example, to obtain the grace of final perseverance and a peaceful death.

But the cofradias also had other very important purposes. There were a means of socializing and communicating, not just through meetings and liturgies, but through the jamaicas, kermeses (carnivals, festivals), and other festivals which the cofradias organized. They were also a way that churches, which with the advent of urbanization were growing beyond human scale, provided a sense of belonging to human-size communities. The cofradias also functioned as insurance societies for the poor who could not afford regular life insurance policies. By paying a few pennies each month into the treasury of the cofradia, members could be assured that their family would be given some help for their burial expenses upon their death. The members themselves could count on an impressive send-off by their cofradia: a Mass complete with procession and banners and a special graveside eulogy. Furthermore, the cofradias served as mutual aid societies by which members helped each other in times of financial distress.

The cofradia parish organization covered the whole family. There were cofradias for adult women, for adult men, for boys and for girls. So, for example, the Inecitas (named after the martyr St. Agnes) was for preteenage girls; the Hijas de Maria for unmarried young women; the Luises (named after St. Aloysius Gonzaga) for teenage young men; the Demas del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus) (Ladies of the Sacred Heart) and the Guadalupanas for mature women; and the Santo Nombre (Holy Name) and the Caballeros de San Juan (Knights of St. John) for mature men. There was even a cofradia for older men and women, La Sociedad de San Jose y de Buen Muerte (Association of St. Joseph and a Peaceful Death), to help them prepare for death.

The cofradias were both schools of leadership and places where ordinary parishioners could exercise ministry. In their heyday many of their activities were the works of mercy: visiting the sick, consoloing the bereaved, feeding the hungry. The cofradias were also the vehicles for fund raising for parish and school. Membership in these cofradias was large and enthusiastic, and members took pride in their work and in their contribution to their parish and their community.