Studies indicate that Latino Catholic communities account for over 70 percent of growth in the US Catholic Church since 1960 and now represent 40 percent of the Catholic population in the United States. Yet meaningful exchanges across cultural and linguistic divides within the Church are few, and Latino communities remain under-resourced by Catholic educational institutions. To help respond to these changing realities, the Lumen Christi Institute was awarded a grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute (OSVI) for a project aimed at bringing the Hispanic Catholic experience into greater focus for the US Catholic Church.
Lumen Christi’s project, “Bringing to Light the Hispanic Catholic Experience: Broadening and Deepening the Catholic Intellectual Tradition,” spans the 2019 – 2020 academic year. It has three objectives: (1) to help fortify the formation of Latino/a Catholic leaders in the Catholic intellectual tradition; (2) to transmit to the broader US Catholic Church the insights of the Hispanic Catholic theological tradition and heritage; and (3) to serve as a pilot project that Lumen Christi and other institutions can subsequently expand. OSVI awarded Lumen Christi $20,000 toward these efforts.
“Bringing to Light the Hispanic Catholic Experience” consists of a series of four visits to Chicago by Latino/a Catholic scholars, two of which occurred in 2019, with two further visits on the horizon in 2020. Each visit comprises of two kinds of events. First, visiting scholars present their research at the University of Chicago and/or in downtown Chicago in public lectures, which will be made widely available on social media and Lumen Christi’s webpage. Second, these scholars lead a workshop for students, teachers, and leaders in Latino Catholic communities.
“Bringing to Light the Hispanic Catholic Experience” launched in April 2019 with the visit of Michael Lee. Born in Miami of Puerto Rican parents, Lee is an Associate Professor of Theology at Fordham University with an appointment in its Latin American and Latino Studies Institute. His recent scholarship focuses on Saint Óscar Romero, the El Salvadorian martyr assassinated in 1980 and canonized last year by Pope Francis. On April 11th, Lee presented on Romero’s life and theological legacy to a large crowd in downtown Chicago and then participated in a book symposium dedicated to his Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Saint Óscar Romero (2018) at the University of Chicago. The evening prior, Lee led a master class at Gavin House on the preferential option for the poor, the precept that Christians are obligated to assist the poor and the theological perspective that Christians should view the Gospel through the perspectives of the world’s poor and marginalized.
In the fall, Lumen Christi continued the event series as it hosted Carlos Eire, the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University. Eire specializes in the social, intellectual, religious, and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe, with a focus on both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, the history of popular piety, and the history of death and the supernatural. Eire is also the author of two memoirs treating his experience as a refugee from Cuba: Waiting for Snow in Havana (2003), which won the National Book Award in Nonfiction in the United States, and Learning to Die in Miami (2010). Eire offered a workshop for leaders in the Latino Catholic community on October 23rd at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, on Chicago’s Lower West Side. On October 24th, Eire presented a lunchtime cultural forum to a downtown audience on The Life of Therese of Avila, and returned to the University of Chicago campus for an evening symposium on his book, The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila: A Biography (2019).
In the winter quarter (March 4th and 5th), Lumen Christi will welcome Hosffman Ospino, Associate Professor of Hispanic Ministry and Religious Education at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He is the author of several books, including The Gospel of Joy in America. Convivium Press (2018), Restoring Hope Archbishop Oscar Romero’s Vision for a Just World (In His Own Words). Convivium Press (2018), and Interculturalism and Catechesis: A Catechist’s Guide to Responding to Cultural Diversity. Twenty-Third Publications (2017). Ospino is a national expert in the changing demographics of the Catholic Church and on Hispanic ministry.
The final scholar visit included in “Bringing to Light the Hispanic Catholic Experience” will occur in the spring quarter (May 20th and 21st), as Lumen Christi welcomes rising Latina moral theologian Nichole Flores, Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. Professor Flores’s work addresses a broad set of issues, from migration to family and politics, and emphasizes the contributions of Latino/a and Catholic theologies to notions of justice, emotion, and aesthetics.
Lumen Christi has already created a steering committee charged with charting the way forward for this pilot program beyond the project’s initial term. Lumen Christi staff members, Latino/a Catholic scholars, and leaders within the Latino Catholic community sit on this committee.
Upon awarding of the grant from OSVI, Thomas Levergood, Executive Director of the Lumen Christi Institute, expressed gratitude and a hope for future endeavors surrounding Latino Catholic initiatives: “We at Lumen Christi are deeply grateful to the Our Sunday Visitor Institute for once again partnering with us to present programming aimed at deepening and broadening the Catholic intellectual tradition’s content and reach. We are confident that this project will bear fruit for the Church as she witnesses significant demographic and cultural developments in the 21st century.”
Questions about “Bringing to Light the Hispanic Catholic Experience” can be directed to Lumen Christi Associate Director and project co-director Michael Le Chevallier.