My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 has been declared Hispanic Heritage Month. This celebration began in 1968 as a week-long event, and was made a month-long-celebration under the presidency of Ronald Regan in 1988.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed not only in the United States, but also in Canada and many places in Latin America because this time period coincides with the independence day celebrations of five Latin-American countries on Sept. 15: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile observe their day of independence on, respectively, Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.
Most important is the definition of the word Hispanic, whose term has been coined by our Census Department to cover a designation of those who speak Spanish, regardless of their racial background. Many Spanish-speaking prefer to be called Latinos. However, names are not as important as the reality of respecting the heritage of now 55 million persons in the United States who have a Spanish-speaking heritage. It is most important to the Church in the United States that at least 60 to 70 percent of these Spanish-speaking people consider themselves Catholic. Unfortunately, there are many who are leaving the Catholic Church having been converted to the Protestant Evangelical churches in the U.S.
The outreach to the Spanish-speaking in our Nation has truly been extensive. The attention given to our Spanish-speaking Catholics in many ways has been the unique product in history when immigrants were at times be ignored by the Church. Although the phenomenon of the national parish, which kept many of our immigrant forbearers together, has not reoccurred, more than half of the parishes in the Brooklyn and Queens celebrate at least one Mass in Spanish, and in some many more. A welcome to those who are immigrants and are more comfortable in their native language in order to worship more fervently is something that the Church is convinced of today.
Unfortunately, many people misunderstand the outreach of the Church not only to the Spanish-speaking population, but to other groups as well. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has constantly taught that immigrants should be accommodated in the liturgy in their own native language. This does not mean that these people are not encouraged to integrate into a host-nation not only by learning its language, but also its culture.
In the most recent pre-election debates, clearly immigration is and will continue to be a major issue. It is unfortunate that many times this issue is misunderstood and is mis-characterized in racial terms. There is a great fear among the majority population in the U.S. that somehow the white majority is losing out to people of color. There have been even so-called intellectuals and professors who have written on the “browning of America,” only adding to the racial prejudice which is easy to inspire. There are many interesting statistics regarding the Hispanics in the U.S. The box you will see on this page gives us some statistics which truly are enlightening.
Two years from now, the Church will build on its past work with the Spanish-speaking by having a national Encuentro for all of the dioceses in the U.S. First, there will be regional Encuentros, and finally a national meeting sometime in 2018. The long history of these Encuentro planning meetings have produced much fruit in understanding the issues that the Spanish-speaking have in the Church and how best to accommodate their spiritual and social needs.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month is something that should not be relegated only to those who are Spanish-speaking. When we recognize the culture of others, we come to appreciate our own all the more. Every immigrant population puts out into the deep as they move from their own country of birth to another. Our large Spanish-speaking population here in Brooklyn and Queens has been a great blessing to our Diocese and certainly will guide the future of the Diocese of Brooklyn in the years to come.
Join me in congratulating and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, as we recognize their continuing contribution to the Church and our great Nation.
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10 Interesting Statistics about Hispanics in the US
- The U.S. Hispanic population now stands at more than 54.1 million, making them the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the U.S.
- Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population. That’s up from 5 percent in 1970.
- It is estimated that by the year 2060, the Hispanic population in the United States will grow to 128.8 million and will constitute approximately 31 percent of the population.
- About 55 percent of Latino adults say they are Catholic, while 16 percent are evangelical Protestants and 5 percent are mainline Protestants (2013).
- People of Mexican origin account for two-thirds (34 million) of the nation’s Latinos.
- Latinos make up the largest group of immigrants in most states, mostly because Mexico is the biggest source of immigrants in 33 states. In some states, though, other Hispanic groups are the largest: El Salvador is the top country of birth among immigrants in Virginia and Maryland, the Dominican Republic leads in New York and Rhode Island and Cuba is the top place of birth for immigrants in Florida.
- There were eight states with a population of one million or more Hispanic residents in 2013 – Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
- Latinos are the youngest of the major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. At 27, the median age of Latinos is a full decade lower than that of the U.S. overall (37 years).
- Among Latinos, there is a sizable difference in median age between the U.S-born (18 years) and foreign born (40 years).
- From 1993 to 2013, the number of Latinos younger than 18 in the U.S. more than doubled (107 percent increase), compared with an 11 percent increase among the general U.S. population younger than 18, according to the Census Bureau data.
– Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau