Catholic Church seeks ways to attract Hispanic youth
By Alexandra Alter, KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
JUNE 10, 2006 (www.macon.com) - Some 2,000 Hispanic youth and Catholic Church leaders are gathering this week as part of a new, churchwide effort to meet the spiritual and social needs of young Hispanics. The conference, which marks the first national meeting for Hispanic Catholic youth, comes at a time when growing numbers of young Hispanic Catholics are abandoning their parents' church for evangelical Protestant movements.
"Many pastors don't quite know how to relate to Hispanic young people in an organized, caring way," said Bishop Felipe Estevez, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Miami. He will join a delegation of 44 Miami Hispanic Catholic youth and youth leaders at this weekend's conference at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Church leaders say the effort to reach out to young Hispanics is long overdue and is crucial to the church's future.
Hispanics make up 41 percent of all Catholics under age 30, and 44 percent of all Catholics under age 10, according to the Catholic Information Project. Since 1960, 71 percent of the growth in the U.S. Catholic population has been due to the increasing numbers of Hispanics in the U.S. population.
But in recent years, the Catholic Church has fought a tide of young people converting to evangelical Protestant and Pentecostal churches, which tend to offer more youth-oriented programs and contemporary worship services.
According to a 2002 poll conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, younger generations are more likely than their immigrant parents to adopt non-Catholic religions or be agnostic. While 76 percent of first-generation Hispanic immigrants identify themselves as Catholic, 59 percent of second-generation immigrants adhere to Catholicism.