Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, secretary for seminaries at the Congregation for Clergy, spoke last week with seminarians from the Pontifical North American College about the challenges of Hispanic Ministry in the United States.
Archbishop Patrón discussed the characteristics of Latino culture, immigration issues, and the Latino experience of liturgy over two days of conferences on Thursday, Sept. 11 and Friday, Sept. 12. Fr. Larry Herrera, SJ, a spiritual director at the college, also gave a presentation on the psychological process of inculturization.
Ministering to a growing Hispanic population is one of the most important pastoral challenges facing the Catholic Church in the United States. Recent surveys indicate that around 40 percent of American Catholics are Hispanic, with immigrants accounting for nearly half of that population. Many of the 59 seminarians present, who are entering their third year of theology studies in Rome, had personal experiences with Hispanic ministry during their recent summer pastoral assignments in the United States.
Archbishop Patrón, who grew up and served as a priest in the Yucatán region of Mexico, spoke from decades of experience with Hispanic culture and the challenges of ministry in that context.
“I found the archbishop’s presentation very illuminating,” said Matthew Murray, a seminarian from the Diocese of Oakland, California. “The things he told us will certainly help me when I face those situations in parish ministry.”
Archbishop Patrón also integrated his message with important reflections on the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood.
“The quality of the diocesan priest is continual discernment,” he said. “As Pope Francis said, to be near the people is to be near God. You need to bring all the different situations of your people to God in prayer.”