Our Catholic bishops have proclaimed that “Hispanic Catholics are a blessing from God and a prophetic presence that has transformed many dioceses and parishes into more welcoming, vibrant, and evangelizing faith communities” (Encuentro and Mission, no. 6). But often our conversations about ministry focus on the challenges the Latino presence poses rather than the many ways Latinos are a blessing.

cursilloOne of the most important blessings is Latino leadership in apostolic movements such as the Cursillo, which Eduardo Bonnín and other Spanish laymen in Mallorca, Spain established after World War II. In 1957 two of their countrymen assigned to a Waco, Texas military base collaborated with Father Gabriel Fernández to lead the first Cursillo weekend retreat in the United States. Four years later, Cursillista team members from previous Spanish-language weekends led the first English-language Cursillo. Over the next twenty years nearly every diocese in the United States introduced the Cursillo movement, impacting literally millions of Catholics. As Cursillo spread a number of similar retreat programs branched off from it, such as Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), Search and its Spanish counterpart Búsqueda, Kairos, Christ Renews His Parish, and the Protestant Walk to Emmaus and youth-oriented Chrysalis retreats. Though they are rarely given credit for it, in Cursillo Latinos founded the most influential weekend retreat movement in the history of the United States.

emThe widespread Marriage Encounter (Encuentro Matrimonial) movement also has Latino origins. Father Gabriel Calvo was a leader for the first Encounter weekend in his native Spain in 1958. Calvo and Maryknoll priest Donald Hessler promoted the initial Encounter weekends in the United States in 1966. Subsequently the movement spread most rapidly among English-speaking Catholics, until the following decade when Roberto and Rosie Piña of San Antonio took the initiative to expand the Marriage Encounter among the Spanish-speaking.


rcThe most widespread apostolic movement among Latino Catholics today is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Well over one third of parishes engaged in Hispanic ministry have Charismatic groups or activities. Father José Eugenio Hoyos of the Arlington, Virginia diocese deems Latino Charismatics the “engine of the Church” because of their enthusiastic leadership in evangelization, faith formation, and parish ministries. Latino Catholic Charismatics continue a long practice of Latino involvement in apostolic movements that is indeed a blessing from God we all need to celebrate and foster.


© 2013 Timothy Matovina. All rights Reserved.
Sacred Heart Photo by Dyanna Hyde