Guest Columnists

Hispanic Catholic Women Pioneers of 2017

By Dr. Hosffman Ospino

DECEMBER IS THAT time of the year when many look back at the previous 11 months for what is worth remembering – or perhaps forgetting!

During this time, many provide lists of remarkable people and events. These are everywhere: newspapers, magazines and organizations. Many voices compile them: journalists, experts and pundits, among others. Some call their lists “the best,” “the most influential” or “the most memorable.”

I have yet to find a person with whom I talk about these lists and who agrees with the selections. Who gives anyone the power to declare this person or event was “the best,” the most influential or the most memorable? Why this person or that event and not a different one?

If asked, it is likely that each of us would compile a different list for every possible category. Those lists often reflect what we cherish and find interesting.

Someone’s proposal of “the most influential” or “the most memorable” in a year needs not to be definitive or binding. Those lists are actually opportunities to learn about people and events that may expand our horizon.

As you can surmise, I will share my list. It reflects a personal interest in Catholic theology and ministerial leadership.

I share it within the spirit of this column, which reflects on the growing presence, questions and contributions of Hispanic Catholics in the United States – about 43 percent of the entire U.S. Catholic population.

This year, several Hispanic Catholic women have achieved important milestones. If I were to give a name to my list, I would call it the “Pioneer Hispanic Catholic Women of 2017.”

I start with Sister Teresa Maya, a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who became president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). She is the second Hispanic sister to serve in that capacity in the history of the organization.

The percentage of women religious in the U.S. who are Hispanic is small – less than 5 percent. However, among younger generations, Hispanic sisters are more strongly represented – about 20 percent.

As the Hispanic Catholic population continues to grow, there is hope for more Hispanic women considering religious life in the near future. Sister Teresa Maya embodies that future.

Trailblazing Firsts

Sister Teresa
Sister Teresa

Next on my list is Maria Pilar Aquino, a professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, Calif. This year, Aquino was elected vice president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. She is the first Hispanic woman ever to hold this position.

She will become president-elect next year and then president of the largest professional society of theologians in the world.

Aquino has a long list of “firsts” in her trailblazing career. Her lifetime

commitment affirming the voices and experiences of U.S. Hispanic and Latin American women has received national and international acclaim. She remains a strong role model for an emerging generation of U.S. Hispanic theologians, among whom women are highly prominent.

This leads me to my last entry. This time, it is a group of five Hispanic

theologians: Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Elsie Miranda, Maria Teresa Davila, Jacqueline Hidalgo and Neomi DeAnda.

For the first time in the history of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the United States – the third largest Catholic theological guild in North America – five women would serve as presidents consecutively. Hidalgo and DeAnda are incoming presidents.

The year 2017 brought attention in unique ways to these pioneer Hispanic Catholic women. They represent a major shift in the Catholic theological world and in Catholic leadership in the United States. This is a shift worth remembering in an increasingly Hispanic church.