The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has a growing Hispanic presence, yet a large number of Hispanic Catholics aren’t being served, according to a recent study done by the Archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Planning Committee.

archbishArchbishop Jerome E. Listecki visits with parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Milwaukee, following a Mass and blessing at the south side parish on Saturday, Oct. 6. The parish is located in District 14, one of the archdiocesan districts with the largest Hispanic presence. (Catholic Herald photo by John Kimpel) View and purchase photos.In August 2010, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki commissioned the HMC, a group of Hispanic leaders, to conduct a study that led to the creation of a 79-page Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry to be implemented during a five-year period, July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2017.

Archbishop Listecki, who recently approved the plan, will officially promulgate it by celebrating a bilingual Mass of Thanksgiving for the plan and its success at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Milwaukee, followed by a light reception.

“Nurtured by the countless efforts of many priests, deacons, religious men and women, and lay leaders, this plan identifies priorities and provides concrete strategies,” Archbishop Listecki wrote in the plan’s introductory letter. “The success of this plan, however, demands our prayers, the action of the Holy Spirit, and the active participation of the faithful. This is a tool that hopes to organize our efforts in proclaiming the Good News to every people (Mt 28: 19-20).”

Julie Wolf, communications director for the archdiocese, said in written communication to your Catholic Herald, that the archbishop called for the plan in the context of the church’s new evangelization.

“As you know, during the first months of his tenure as our new archbishop, he spent time getting to know the entire archdiocese to learn more about all the groups that comprise the archdiocese. The reality is that Hispanic Catholics comprise a large percentage of our overall population, not to mention our Catholic community,” she wrote about the Hispanic presence that makes up 6 percent of Wisconsin’s total population, according to the study.

“This plan addresses the realities we face in reaching out to and providing ministries that serve their needs, and enable us, as church, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ,” she wrote.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will celebrate a  bilingual Mass of Thanksgiving for the
Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 613 S. Fourth St., Milwaukee. For questions or more information, call Deacon Jorge Benavente at
(414) 769-3393.

The Hispanic Catholic population is estimated to be 80,632 of the total Hispanic population of 134,457 within the 16 districts of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. While the archdiocese serves more than 42,990 people from that group, more than 37,640 people aren’t being served for many reasons, according to Deacon Jorge Benavente, associate director of the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Ministry.

As of January, the archdiocese had 21 priests serving full-time in a parish or group of parishes with Hispanic ministry and who were directly involved in Hispanic ministry, according to the study. Of 30 parishes that minister to Hispanic Catholics in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, 27 have fully established Hispanic ministry, offering at least one Mass in Spanish every weekend and Hispanic ministry during the week.

“Because we don’t have enough priests, we don’t have enough people who speak Spanish … and that is why we need a Hispanic Pastoral Plan for two reasons,” said Deacon Benavente, one of three ex officio members of the HMC, chaired by Fr. Javier Bustos, including Eva Diaz, director of the Office for Intercultural Ministries, and Letzbia Laing-Martínez, administrative assistant in the office for Intercultural Ministries.

“First, to reach out to the people that we actually have in parishes, and secondly, to bring to the Catholic Church all of these 37,000 people that we don’t know where they are,” said Deacon Benavente.

The planning process was inspired by the see-judge-act methodology created by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and later developed during the Second Vatican Council, and is comprised of four phases.

Hispanic commitment to Catholicism

Plan to not leave the church: 74%
May  leave: 21%
Will leave: 5%

Religious denominations of Hispanics in U.S.
Catholicism: 68%
Evangelical: 15%
Other: 17%

Church attendence
Catholics: 42%
Evangelicals: 72

Data from Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry

Phase A of the plan is described as the collection of data and the understanding of reality “to achieve an accurate description of the reality of Hispanics in the

Archdiocese of Milwaukee and how we minister to them.”

Members of the HMC collected data from many sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Hispanic Center, Office for Hispanic Affairs of the USCCB, GALLUP, and the American Religious Identification Survey 2008 by the Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools.

The data showed that Hispanics represent the fastest growing ethnic group in Wisconsin, ranking it 22nd in the U.S. for its Hispanic presence; the counties with the largest Hispanic presence are Milwaukee, Dane and Racine. The study also showed the median age of Hispanics in the state is 25, with about 43 percent age 19 or younger.

The archdiocesan districts with the largest Hispanic presence are District 14, the South Side of Milwaukee; District 1, East Kenosha; and District 3, West Kenosha, West Racine and Walworth, while those with the lowest are District 5, West Waukesha County; District 10, Ozaukee County; and District 6, Washington County. Some districts had no Hispanic ministry, partial or irregular Hispanic ministry.

The study found that because of the concentration of the population, the three districts with the estimated largest number of Hispanic Catholics who may not be ministered to are District 14, Milwaukee County, South Side; District 1, East Kenosha County; and District 2, East Racine County.

The HMC also held listening sessions with small groups and met with executive officials and leaders of the archdiocese, priestly formation and vocations,  lay leadership, permanent dicaonate formation, Catholic Charities and Hispanic youth ministry group.

 Timeline of the Archdiocesan Plan for Hispanic Ministry

create the “Hispanic Vocations Team” to work in collaboration with the archdiocesan Office for Vocations, whose goal is to promote vocations to the priesthood, religious life and permanent diaconate
increase outreach to Hispanics with need of legal assistance
create “Companero Vocacional” Program that provides Hispanic men interested in the priesthood spiritual support and guidance through the process necessary to succeed
initiate research and dialogue about the use of radio and TV for evangelization to Hispanic Catholics in the Milwaukee Archdiocese
create Marriage Preparation Program that forms Spanish-speaking leaders for parishes with Hispanic ministry
review sabbatical policies on the clergy manual and study possibility that Hispanic ministry and pastoral Spanish programs qualify
create the Archdiocesan Hispanic Youth Ministry Committee formed by representatives of youth groups at parishes with Hispanic ministry
create the Catholic school reflection group, a group of priests, principals, teachers, religious, deacons, and lay leaders interested in creating effective ways to provide Catholic education in regions of the archdiocese without the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
plan and execute the “New Evangelization Expo” to be delivered every two years along with the Archdiocesan Ministry Summit, giving pastors, parish directors and church leaders the opportunity to get to know movements, their goals and pastoral benefits
provide ongoing evangelization information in Spanish using the Internet and online applications

Deacon Benavente said the last part of Phase A was the Hispanic Ministry Summit, held for all parishes at the Cousins Center on Sept. 10, 2011, where feedback was collected from priests, deacons, men and women religious, school principals and lay leaders.

In the Hispanic Summit, participants were asked to name the positive and negative aspects of Hispanic ministry and were asked for their recommendations for the pastoral plan, Deacon Benavente sai

In the second phase, the HMC analyzed the information collected, identifying the needs, strengths and weaknesses to make necessary priorities.

“Phase B was basically to reflect about the reality of the pastoral plan – what are the general needs of the Hispanics? … And what we found out is that the most important things in terms of (responding) to the realities, spiritual and human necessity of the Hispanic, it was social justice,” he said, explaining that pastoral needs include providing information and formation on immigration, developing plans focused on family ministry, marriage and child and youth ministry, evangelization, and vocations and leadership formation, all of which involve working together with the many archdiocesan offices from marriage and family to schools.

“It is also important that the plan contemplate the Hispanic presence awareness. We have to give them the right information to the people (about) who we are … that we are not just enchiladas and mole,” Deacon Benavente said. “We have a very diverse culture, not only from Mexico, but Puerto Ricans, Central American and South American. We understand that a majority of the people that are in the United States and also in Wisconsin, they are Mexican descendants, but we have a very rich faith … every country in South America, we are here.”

Deacon Benavente also said the Hispanic population needs to feel connected to the archdiocese, the priests and the parishes, something that can be accomplished through archdiocesan ministry that is more bilingual and takes into account the Hispanic fruits, customs and culture.

“This is not a plan for Hispanics; this is a plan of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee …,” Deacon Benavente said. “Basically, what we want to do is just to include the Hispanics as members of the archdiocese and to work together with the second-and third-generation.”

Wolf said the archdiocese hired Maria Prado as Hispanic communication coordinator in 2010 to advise the department and the archbishop in communication with Catholics who speak Spanish, because language is one of the challenges the church faces in meeting the needs of the Hispanic community.

“Not only does she advise us what to translate she also decides how best to reach this population (via print or electronic media),” Wolf wrote. “In addition, she translates from English to Spanish.”

Wolf said the archdiocese has worked to prepare seminarians and priests to be better able to minister to the rapidly changing community, where language barriers and cultural diversity will continue to be a challenge.

In Phase C of the plan, the HMC identified objectives and concrete strategies and dates when they should be accomplished.

With Archbishop Listecki’s recent approval of the plan, Deacon Benavente said the HMC is in the preliminary steps of naming people to sit on committees that will start implementation.

Archbishop Listecki will designate seven people – a priest, permanent deacon, religious woman and four lay leaders – to be on the Hispanic Ministry Evaluation Team that will meet three times a year completing Phase D when they produce a preliminary report in January 2014 and a final report by June 2017 on the progress and achievements of the plan.

“This report is going to help in creating a more effective Archdiocesan (Pastoral) Plan for the Hispanic Ministry,” Deacon Benavente said of the plan, whose budget will live within that of Hispanic Ministry, with the help of volunteers and in collaboration with archdiocesan offices.

Deacon Benavente said now is the time to implement the pastoral plan that tackles new challenges, though he’s grateful to the people who paved the way before his time.

“I don’t have any doubt that this plan is going to be very effective,” Deacon Benavente said. “I am also very confident about the participation of the people, the support of the leaders, priests, deacons – I’m totally confident that the most difficult part is going to be to reach out to those (37,640) people that we don’t know where they are,” he said, confident the plan will be “very effective.”