Hispanic/Latino Catholics in the U.S. Church

The number of Hispanic/Latino Catholics continues to rise in the U.S. Catholic Church. In 2007, Pew Research reported that 29 percent of U.S. Catholics identified as Hispanic. That number rose to 34 percent in 2014, and it is now estimated that about 42 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic/Latino according to data extrapolated from the 2020 Census of American Religion. 

According to the Fall 2022 report from The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA), of the lay leaders enrolled in Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Programs, 40 percent are Hispanic. Among U.S. diaconate formation programs, 23 percent were offered in Spanish. And 22 percent of seminarians scheduled for ordination to the priesthood in 2022 were Hispanic, according to a Summer 2022 report from CARA. 

In 2022, CARA published a book titled “Faith and Spiritual Life of Young Adult Catholics in the Rising Hispanic Church” that looks specifically at the faith and spiritual life of Hispanic/Latino young adults in the Church, a rapidly growing demographic in the Church. As reported in the Summer 2022 CARA Report, the book is based on two surveys and includes chapters contributed by experts, including two members of Leadership Roundtable’s National Advisory Committee for the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative, Darius Villalobos and Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, that specifically looked at Hispanic leadership, young adults, and the changing ways in which young adults engage in and with the Church. 

Among Hispanic Catholics, CARA’s research found that domestic and popular religion is alive and well, notably that the experience of Hispanic/Latino Catholics is transforming leadership within the faith community to something that is more lay-centered, inclusive, and culturally competent. According to the report, the book concluded that the larger Church needs to encourage young adult leadership, especially among those in the Hispanic/Latino Catholic Community. 

“Lay faithful have active participation in the pastoral life and stewardship of the Church; thus, the formation of the agentes pastorales is a priority. We are blessed that Leadership Roundtable … has prioritized the Hispanic Ministry in designing this Initiative, recognizing that the future of the Catholic Church in the United States depends largely on the leadership of the Hispanic people,” said Bishop Emeritus Felipe J. Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine. “The Hispanic leadership is making a difference in the United States Catholic Church, and Leadership Roundtable made a wise decision in giving priority and investment to promote the Hispanic Ministry and Hispanic/Latino leaders.” 

Recognizing the important role of young adult leaders in the Church and the Hispanic community, Leadership Roundtable actively included young adult participants in each cohort. 

“We are called to be disciples, but we are also called to raise up other disciples and help them grow in leadership as well,” said Enrique Velasquez, a young adult leader who took part in the cohort in the Diocese of Austin. “Seeing how to learn from other people is a big skill I’m taking away from this program and something that I am going to implement in my ministry at my parish.” 

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

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