A Study of Hispanic/Latino Attitudes and Practices
On Programs That Distribute Food and Clothing to Immigrants,
and Other Pertinent Findings That Address
Their Well Being and Status in the United States
Comments in parentheses are those of Fr. Eugene Hemrick
The Program for the Analysis of Religion Among Latinas/os, an organization formed by social scientists from several universities conducted a recent study on Latinos/as, the results of which are as follows:
About 70 percent of Catholic parishes with Hispanic members distribute food and clothing.
Nineteen percent of these parishes have a referral program for food and clothing to other church organizations or secular agencies.
Twenty-nine percent of Catholic parishes offer their own immigration help.
Thirty-three percent refer Hispanics to another church agency
Twenty-two percent refer them to secular agencies.
"Latino immigrants, both legal and illegal, are often wary of government agencies and prefer to trust agencies related to the churches."
Hispanics are near the bottom of the economic ladder with a per capita household income of $12,000 annually, less than half that of non-Hispanic whites.
The need for providing social services is causing greater interest among faith communities in getting government funds for outreach programs. This also has produced increased interest on the part of government to use church organizations to funnel services to Hispanics.
Pastoral suggestions by the study include:
"Faith communities need to utilize the Spanish language in various ways in order to sustain ministry among all segments of the Hispanic membership."
The "use of the Spanish language is a characteristic" of Latino/Latina identity. "The preference for English is often an expression of bilingualism rather than of assimilation." (It should be noted that bilingualism is not sought in order to be elite, but is an integral part of one's identity and a source of pride. Being able to speak more than one language allows poor people to possess a prized skill that allows them to keep their heads raised high.)
Churches have an expanded role in areas with a rapidly growing Latino population because government and secular agencies have few programs in place for Hispanics. (It should be noted that the church parish is still one of the best social units for getting things done in the community.)
Hispanic ministry must take into account the ethnic and cultural differences among Hispanics. (Not all Hispanics are Mexican-American, Cuban or Puerto Rican. They span all of Central and South America, and the Carribean, to say nothing of those who come from Spain.)
Policies must be formulated on issues directly affecting Hispanics such as language use and bilingual education. (If these policies pointed out that bilingual education is part of Arts and Humanities in most colleges and universities, it would add to their stature and acceptance.)