Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Catechesis with Hispanic Youth - Some Things ARE Different

Third class tonight, with my room full of Confirmation students. Did some ice-breaker activities to get them talking to each other and to me- talked about being called by name, and gifted by the Spirit (to tie up the discussion on Baptism and connect it to Confirmation.) Found out three of them will be confirmed in Mexico One of these looks Anglo and has an Anglo first and last name - I had thought he was the one non-Hispanic... Oh well... so now I know they all have that background. I am, in effect, the lone Anglo in the room.

I learned two items within the last 24 hours that have helped me see that my instinct that they are NOT the same as teens from a non-Hispanic background. Last night, at parish council, our new parochial vicar, who was in Hispanic ministry in another diocese, said this:  "People who perceive themselves as being powerless come as a group, not at individuals."  Hmm. So the community and family thing IS different. We Anglos are accustomed to treating each person's faith journey as separate... it is a basic of the RCIA process and the backdrop for much our our normal post-Vatican-II discussion about faith that God reaches out to each person as a unique, individual person.  Having this in mind, while I led them to reflect on their uniqueness, I also helped them to bond as a group through the ice-breakers.  I think this will take a while, but it will be a case of  "both - and" - I will have to be conscious that their faith experience is through family and community - at the same time I attempt to connect them with their individual relationship with God.

Point 2 - I had lunch with our diocesan Hispanic youth ministry person - and he described many things that I did suspect -- an increased lack of self-esteem and identity issues that come from being in a culture not their own, etc.  But one thing he told me explained my experience that they were reluctant to acknowledge any experience of the love of God. He said that the Hispanic cultural experience of God is largely focused on the crucified Christ.  That explains their love of acting out the Passion, etc.  For Anglos, the Crucifixion is a moment on the way to the death that leads to the Risen Christ. For Hispanics, it is a stopping point where a suffering, downtrodden, powerless people connects with the God who is most like them at that moment. Aha... I get it, but that complicates things.

Both these issues have to do with a sense of powerlessness, lack of self-esteem, and connects with some other things I had heard and experienced... the focus of the Soy Catequista process on building up the dignity of the catechist, the reluctance of Hispanics to step forward to serve based on an acknowledgement of baptismal call and stewardship of gifts.  It means my head is indeed in a different space than theirs.

Now, I realize that kids living in our American culture are likely to be in a middle-ground in this regard - or maybe confused by it. I hope to be able to enter their world a little this year - to help them see their unique giftedness, to see where their spirituality can enrich mine, as well as where mine can enrich theirs. I look forward to the next 7 months of conversation and sharing.  I am humbled by this opportunity, unlooked for, which seems so perfectly right.  Certainly I could say I am busy enough, but this one came looking for me, not me for it. To those things, I feel moved to say yes, to take a chance, and the reasons for the opportunity to walk with these kids this year are becoming clearer.


  1. Those are interesting points. I spend a lot of time in Japan and you do feel much more vulnerable when you're an outsider in the culture. I didn't necessarily have reduced self-esteem, but I was definitely aware that I was different and stood out quite a bit.

    That's very interesting about the crucifix and Hispanic Catholic culture. You definitely have some things to talk about with them though. You could dialogue and discuss the way they see and undertand the cross and contrast your different viewpoint. I think your idea of the cross is much richer and more evangelizing. Maybe that will open up new ideas for them.

  2. Yes, the Cross as "a way through" is indeed richer, but I sense that as the children of an oppressed people with a racial memory of suffering, they may have a better understanding of Paschal Mystery and where human suffering connects. I think we may all be enriched before this class is over.