Last week, I touched upon the impact of bureaucracy on the Quinceañera and of requiring young Latinas to enroll in catechetical programs. Many of you shared your experience, frustrations, and asked about what to include in a Quinceañera formation program. In this second part, I will address formation and the cost of parish formation programs.
Formation of young Latinas
Last week I also mentioned the importance of including leadership development as well as focusing on the promotion of education amongst our quinceañeras. In dialoguing with a few of my colleagues in Hispanic ministry, I came across one program that really stood out for me. The Diocese of Stockton offers quinceañera retreats at the diocesan level. Although there is no diocesan policy as to what type of formation is to be offered, Jose Lopez, Director of Campesino Ministry and Hispanic Youth Ministry noted that the majority of their parishes make this a requirement for all of their quinceañeras. They offer the retreat four time a year and it consists of a Friday night 2 ½ hour gathering with parents and the quinceañera. They learn about the tradition, the liturgy, music, and get informed about stewardship. On Saturday, the girls return for a seven-hour retreat. The program touches on self-esteem, sacraments with a focus on the Eucharist, women in the bible, education, and the human person. Young adults, who are closer to their age and who have an established career or have gone to college, offer the instruction as a means to model and promote education. The retreat is free, and there is a charge of $20 for the resource book that they provide and it also includes lunch. Parents are informed that the retreat is free so that they know that the Church accompanies them during this special moment. They view this as an opportunity to invite and welcome back families that may not be involved in parish life, and to encourage them to enroll in formation/parish programs.
In the Diocese of San Jose, Lupita Vital, Director of Hispanic Ministry, indicated that the diocese provides a binder as a resource for parishes. It is a bilingual catechetical preparation that focuses on the Eucharist, which can be offered in six sessions or less. They ask that the young ladies have received their first communion in order to celebrate the Mass of blessing. Some pastors make exceptions and offer a blessing outside of the Mass if they have not received their first communion. They recommend that they enroll in a confirmation program but it is not required, since it is not a sacrament. They also recommend that young adults offer the program.
As you can see, here are some great examples of how dioceses are offering programs without confirmation/catechetical requirements and providing a welcoming and inviting spirit. Now I shall discuss one of my biggest concerns, money. No one likes to talk about money but here we go….
The Quinceañera as a cash cow
Sometimes I am just shocked by the amount of money that is requested for this blessing. In a year, my husband and I have the honor of being padrinos/goparents for my niece at her Quinceañera. They are charging $500 for the formation and to celebrate the Mass. That seems like a lot of money for me, but brace yourselves. I recently heard of one parish charging $1,800!!! Yes, you heard me right! I was furious. In calculating parish expenses, the majority of the expense go towards building upkeep and the formation program. Some may include the choir. That would probably cost a couple hundred, lets hope they are getting great formation for that amount of money. Now, if we also require that they pay upfront for two years worth of catechetical formation, it will be very difficult for families to pay for the donation.
Some pastors use donations collected for quinceañeras and weddings, to offset for the lack of stewardship. These parishes tend to be disadvantaged and rather than building a great stewardship program, they hike up the prices to cover their parish expenses. Pastors complain that they will never make it if they do not charge such fees.Some pastors raise the prices to discourage young Latina’s from having the blessing/Mass, while others feel if they are spending so much money on the party, they can afford to pay. In my experience, I have found that the most humble and disadvantaged are more likely to give, so I don’t buy into such thinking. If families feel they belong to their parish and that they are being served and accompanied, they will donate. I know that some of you are thinking that so much money is spent on the dress, the reception, limos, food, etc. I won’t deny that some of these expenses have gotten out of hand (trust me, sometimes I’m left speechless by the amount spent), but please remember that many quinceañeras are often blessed with many padrinos who generously help offset the costs to the family. Families also pay for expenses for a year or more in advance through monthly installments. Do we as a Church offer the same options or do we require they pay upfront? We should also look to the quinceañera formation program as an opportunity to teach about stewardship and simple living. Our young women can then become conscious of the other and of the needs of our parish community. In addition to faith formation, we should incorporate our Catholic Social teaching and invite young Latinas to help with the work that Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities are engaged in, and support the Missionary work of the Church.
As I wrap up this two part series, my hope is that as the Latino Catholic presence in the U.S. continues to grow, we will become more sensitive to the reality of the families that we serve. I also dream that we will look within ourselves and create more dynamic and engaging programs that welcome and invite rather than force and impose. Let us look to the example of Pope Francis who proclaimed,
“The Church is not a bureaucratic organization, but a love story.”
The quinceañera is an opportunity to express the love of God to our young Latina women, many who are thirsting for such a relationship.