Skip to comments.CSF interview: Father Moises Agudo [on illegal latinos entering Catholic seminaries & schools]
Posted on 11/03/2010 10:15:41 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
Father Moises Agudo, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo in San Francisco and recently appointed Vicar for Spanish-speaking for the Archdiocese, in conversation with Catholic San Francisco. Interview conducted in Spanish by Jose Luis Aguirre and translated by Marta Rebagliati.
CSF: There is a tremendous demographic shift underway in the Catholic laity in the US, especially in the West. According to the Pew Forum (2008), 54 percent of Catholics in the West were Hispanic, vs. 38 percent white. What are the implications of this shift for the Church in the US and this Archdiocese?
FATHER AGUDO: More than an implication it is a challenge for the Archdiocese to confront the reality of growth in the Hispanic population. And this challenge is to achieve the cultural integration of Hispanics into the Anglo world and vice versa – a process that could be achieved through joint pastoral and liturgical celebrations.
CSF: Vocations from prospective priests from Spanish-speaking countries are relatively few, considering that many of our parishes are predominantly Latino. What’s going on here? Why aren’t more Latino men stepping up? What more could be done to encourage them to consider the priesthood?
FATHER AGUDO: There aren’t few Latino men willing to enter the seminary, there are many but the problem is that they are not legally here. A legal status is implicit for admission into the seminary – it’s not a matter of how few there are but what restrictions are in place at seminaries that hinder their admission. Those who cannot be allowed in are not unwilling but unable. If we could create a legislative path through which we could formalize the way Latino men are let in we would have more vocations. It is a double edge sword because many would use it to legalize their status. There are many vocations but they are inhibited from following their vocation. There are so many legal obstacles in the U.S. Another reason is that in the world that we live in today materialistic forces permeate the youth – before everything was more conducive to hear the vocational call – you were not as contaminated by the world and its pretenses. We need to fight against that which is presented to the youth – to propose something that is attractive. The challenge is to know that what we are offering – they can attain. What was not attainable back home is an open door here. They abandon Church and vocation because what we are proposing is easy. We need to enable an encounter of the youth with Christ through a vocation in this world. We as a Church are falling short – we don’t know how to reach out to the youth and foment a vocation from inside the family – the bosom of vocations.
CSF: This may be part of your answer: Spanish-speaking young people tend to abandon the Church when they reach adulthood. Maybe they do not leave at a greater rate than European-born Catholics, but still it is a factor to be considered. What can we do to reach out to Spanish-speaking youth and young adults?
FATHER AGUDO: It depends. The family plays a fundamental role in education and formation...the youth wants to be autonomous. But it is then that we need to work with the youth presenting them with something that anchors them to the parish. For example, in St. Charles Borromeo we have children preparing for First Communion for one or two years. Then they move on to prepare for Confirmation. We have got to do something to keep them around, so we created another class called Devotions to the Sacred Heart. Two more years of Good News Bible classes, another year of Disciples of Christ, a year of preparation ahead of confirmation. During those years we are filling in the vacuum. It could keep them and their parents in the Church... Let’s help both of them to stay in.
CSF: The Spanish-speaking community is not a community – that’s a fiction. Native Spanish speakers make up a range of communities depending on nationality, economic level and other factors. How does the Vicar for Spanish-speaking manage this diversity? What are the common threads? What are the differences that make the task difficult?
FATHER AGUDO: In the diversity of the culture...the economy...the nationalities as Constantine united his empire by means of religion... it was a divided empire and he knew how to unify through the Catholic religion...unify this diversity with the same legal system...the Spanish, through the language used to celebrate the liturgies in the Church...we could unify all Latinos. We could unify these realities ... this diversity has a unity in the language... that’s how one could forge unity among Latinos.
The challenge lies in the unity of celebration in the diversity of cultures. What is difficult is to know how to conjugate all the festivities, the celebrations in one moment ... Virgin of Guadalupe, Savior of the World, the Immaculate Conception, the Divine Child. How does one form these national feast days into a liturgy with the same language? If we succeed in unifying we will create a tremendous unity among Latinos.
Though we are not a community we are united because we are all immigrants ... to create a pastoral for the immigrant is the unity.
CSF: There is a major problem in financing our parochial schools, especially those in the city, to serve a new generation of immigrants. Those new immigrants are predominantly Spanish-speaking. We know from the Pew survey that Hispanic Catholics, as a group, have far lower incomes and education levels than Caucasians. This makes for some very difficult economic issues that are rooted in even more difficult cultural issues. Parishes are having a difficult time paying for these schools, even though tuition costs are often quite low. It seems to be very difficult for many immigrant families to pay. What can be done about this?
FATHER AGUDO: The Latino community is less likely to enter a Catholic school due to an economic problem. There is also a cultural problem whereby many think that private schools are very costly. Their income is minimal ... and they could never provide a private education for their children.
What to do? It is a social problem that needs to be resolved by the government because making a good education available is to help a society ... Private schools should be subsidized by the government like in Australia. It will be very difficult for the government to subsidize schools so we need to find benefactors that will assist these families with access to schools. St. Charles Borromeo consists of 70 percent Hispanics and they have difficulty in paying tuition. We are trying to find benefactors to be able to help 100 children. The tuition for each student is $4,000 a year. These children will contribute greatly to society in education and labor. We are trying to find benefactors to help these children.
The school is an entity, as the diocese, a very impersonal building. We should get rid of this entity and show their faces to the benefactors so that they can see who they are helping. Instead of telling them to help the school, let’s tell them to help the children that study in the school; don’t help the school but the children.
CSF: If Spanish-speaking Catholics of means value Catholic education, why aren’t we seeing them step up as philanthropists? (Don’t we see here a reflection of the horrific divisions in most Latin American countries – a handful of rich owning everything, hardly any middle class and massive numbers of poor – and no solidarity between rich and poor? We’re the Church – solidarity is crucial, so how can we cultivate this?)
FATHER AGUDO: Because we live in the U.S. and we think that we have everything, that poverty does not exist here and we advocate for the poor in Asia, in Haiti; we advocate for those abroad when there are millions of poor people here. Here the reality is the same. We should turn our faces toward the U.S. so that we can see the reality in this country. We have collections for other countries. The parishes that are capable could sponsor a poor school here. Why send the money abroad if I can help here? There is a problem with the ability to see. We intercede for those outside and we don’t realize that poverty is here, that a family has six people in a room and we pretend we don’t see this. Here in the diocese we have a serious reality of poverty. If we could have the rich parishes sponsor the poor schools we could help solve the problem. These solvent parishes could sponsor the schools.
CSF: A large number of Spanish-speaking Catholics favor the participatory, expressive charismatic form of celebration. How do you see this energizing the Church as a whole?
FATHER AGUDO: Latinos are by far more expressive than other ethnic groups, and each group has a way of expressing the liturgy but all this energy and strength needs to be channeled and directed to celebrate God’s greatness. Latinos tend to speak more with a corporal language than with words and that can be used to benefit the liturgy trying of course to find a balance that is conducive to the liturgy.
CSF: It seems that whenever Hispanic Catholics are spoken of, immigration is mentioned in the same breath. And because the nation – and Catholics, though not Catholic teaching – are divided on how to treat undocumented people living here, there’s a built-in tension when we talk about Spanish-speaking Catholics. How can Catholics on both sides of the question better understand each other? What could the Archdiocese do to bring these two sides together?
FATHER AGUDO: The tension exists between what’s legal and illegal. As a diocese we need to look not only at the legal or illegal side of immigration but we need to look at the person. Our efforts to help the person independently of their immigration status. It is important to begin to humanize the issue because the person is above the regulations and the norms.
CSF: The Catholic Church seems to be fighting a losing battle in Latin America against the encroachment of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. What is going on here? Why is secularization able to move so aggressively in countries that have been Catholic for 500 years?
FATHER AGUDO: Because secularization is like water, it enters wherever there is room and adapts to any object. Secularization enters wherever new forms emerge and the Church is faced with a huge battle in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. The Church needs to create a new way to help the pagan world. The antidote is the announcement of the Gospel with strength, with truth and with courage.
CSF: What is your immediate plan as Vicar for the Spanish-speaking?
FATHER AGUDO: I have resolved – in whatever measure is possible – to visit parishes that have a pastoral for Hispanic ministry or that celebrate Mass in Spanish to be able to celebrate together. My objective is to make them a visible face for the Archdiocese and the archbishop. One of the tasks I was entrusted with was to carry the love of the bishop for Hispanics and the best way to do it is not only by being present for the celebration of the Mass but also to create a pastoral ministry dedicated to those who speak Spanish.
....The Latino community is less likely to enter a Catholic school due to an economic problem. There is also a cultural problem whereby many think that private schools are very costly. Their income is minimal ... and they could never provide a private education for their children. What to do? It is a social problem that needs to be resolved by the government because making a good education available is to help a society ... Private schools should be subsidized by the government like in Australia. It will be very difficult for the government to subsidize schools so we need to find benefactors that will assist these families with access to schools. St. Charles Borromeo consists of 70 percent Hispanics and they have difficulty in paying tuition. We are trying to find benefactors to be able to help 100 children. The tuition for each student is $4,000 a year. These children will contribute greatly to society in education and labor. We are trying to find benefactors to help these children. The school is an entity, as the diocese, a very impersonal building. We should get rid of this entity and show their faces to the benefactors so that they can see who they are helping. Instead of telling them to help the school, lets tell them to help the children that study in the school; dont help the school but the children....
....The tension exists between whats legal and illegal. As a diocese we need to look not only at the legal or illegal side of immigration but we need to look at the person. Our efforts to help the person independently of their immigration status. It is important to begin to humanize the issue because the person is above the regulations and the norms.
That is a thorny question, the Church is in the world but not of the world, the Church also should not be a lawbreaker as a matter of course./
Once again we have the renegade Catholic kirk promoting its own set of rules. After all, it has a country now, why not tell America how to operate? Humanize the situation? Please. That’s just code for, “Did we mention that our pointy hats give us the right to run the world?”
I’d rather have an illegal Catholic than a legal Muslim any day.
Folks, the problem is not illegal Mexicans: a large number of the people being smuggled over the border aren’t even Mexican. Some of them are Christians fleeing Muslim lands and probably the biggest number are Chinese.
But Freepers hate Latin American Catholics so much that they are obsessed with this.
Obama actually took away from the Latin American legal quota (and that of all other non-Muslim countries) a month after he took office by declaring that Muslim countries, which had accounted for low levels of legal immigration, had the same quota as all the others and that Muslims should come in for “family reunification” visas. Last month, he declared there was room for another 80,000 LEGAL Muslim immigrants.
I’d be much happier if at least some Freepers appeared more concerned about this. It’s not going to be Mexican Catholics, legal or illegal, that do in the US, but legal Muslims that destroy us all.
You can’t ignore the fact that we are being colonized by Mexico, and that being Catholic, they vote Democrat.
More than 75% of illegals are Spanish speaking and we are also flooded by legal immigration from those Catholic Latin countries.
Press 1 for English.
And we know this how?
You should seek employment at MSNBC.
That path already exists, Agudo. It's called legal immigration.
Agudo fails to explain why those men who feel they have a discernment towards a vocation don't seek admission to seminaries in the countries they already live in.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.
This guy gets it...
You need to tell that to Dutchboy88 or is there another much lower set of standards for people like him?
How did he “make it personal”?
Dutchboy88 was indeed pontificating, ignorantly, on what the teaching of the Church is instead of truthfully stating what the actual teaching of the Church is. That is simply a factual assessment of Dutchboy88’s comment, it is not “making it personal.”
Or...was it just the comment about MSNBC that made it personal?
We know that because more than 75% of them come from Spanish speaking, Catholic countries.
There are foreigners (for example, from Africa) who attend American seminaries. It should be possible for a man who can convince the seminary that he is a promising candidate for the priesthood to get help from them in obtaining a student visa. It might require a trip back to his home country but then he could attend legally.
It would be nice to see those data.
Are you so ignorant that you think that the United States is a Spanish speaking, or Catholic nation?
Do we really have to post data to show you that it isn’t, or do you just post nonsense?
It is not my posts that lack substantiating data. I am still waiting for proof that 75% of illegals speak Spanish.