Elevating the Voices of Hispanic/Latino Leaders

Leadership Roundtable created the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative in response to the need for formation of Hispanic/Latino Catholics that was identified as one of the top priorities for the future of the Church during the V Encuentro. The Initiative was developed in partnership with Lilly Endowment Inc., which generously provided funding through its Thriving in Ministry Initiative and with support from other donors. 

Leadership Roundtable has historically recognized the many gifts and talents that Hispanics/Latinos bring to the Catholic Church in the United States and promoted Catholic institutions supporting Hispanic/Latino pastoral leaders to thrive in their vocations and, thus, supporting the well-being of the congregations in which they minister. 

Throughout our work with Church leaders, Leadership Roundtable frequently encountered that Hispanic/Latino pastoral leaders disproportionately ministered in parishes with fewer financial resources, less trained pastoral support staff, and greater social challenges, including racial injustice and poverty, which can make pastoral leadership more challenging. 

Fr. Juan Molina, president and CEO of the Mexican American Catholic College, said that “for too long, the Church has not benefited from the leadership talents of Hispanics/Latinos. For the Church to continue to grow and evangelize, it is vital that our Church continues the work begun with the V Encuentro to form leaders from the Hispanic/Latino community and welcome them to the leadership tables.” Fr. Molina is also a member of the National Advisory Committee for the Initiative. 

To guide the program’s development and growth, Leadership Roundtable formed a National Advisory Committee that included well-respected Hispanic/Latino Catholic leaders from Catholic organizations, religious communities, and educational institutions within the United States. The members’ academic, professional, and pastoral expertise was reflected in the design, promotion, and implementation of the Initiative and the selection of participating dioceses, where many committee members also serve as presenters and peer group facilitators. 

“In order to advance the mission of Christ in our local church, we must prepare future leaders by providing formational development, said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of the Diocese of Austin. “Opportunities to learn, engage, and dialogue with others enables us to form disciples for our Church. I am grateful to those who have responded to this call to serve.” 

Leadership Roundtable took care to design the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative as a comprehensive formation program that provides Hispanic/Latino leaders access to critical leadership skills while also addressing the complex pastoral environments where these leaders serve. 

“What I see with the work of Leadership Roundtable is that we try to bring a sense of hope and opportunity even despite all of the Church’s challenges,” said Javier Bustamante, a former member of the National Advisory Committee and program facilitator in the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative. He also serves as Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement at The Catholic University of America. 

“We have all these tools to make our Church responsive to the needs of our communities, to the needs of the faithful,” he continued. “That creates an opportunity and a sense of hope knowing that there are people working to make the Church more attentive and responsive.” 

As the Diocese of Joliet’s Bishop Ronald A. Hicks told those who participated from his diocese, the engagement of Hispanic/Latino leaders in the program was vital to both the life of the Church and their personal development. 

“One of the things you all learned in these courses was to use your own voice, that your voice is intelligent, and to use it for the good of the Church, for your lives, to grow in this leadership using your voice,” Bishop Hicks said. “Sometimes this scares us … but God gave us all a voice and it is good to use it in a beautiful and good way.” 

This piece is an excerpt from the 2022 Latino Pastoral Leaders Impact Report.

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