The Catholic Church in the United States has been growing among the population partly due to Hispanics or Latinos and Latinas immigrating to this country from Latin America, mostly from Mexico since it lies along the southern border of the United States. Immigration from Mexico has been legal and illegal, but the Catholic Church - no matter the immigrants’ status - still wishes to minister to and help them. In some states, this is a risky venture.
Fr. Eduardo C. Fernandez, S.J., wrote Mexican-American Catholics to help clergy, religious and lay ministers better minister to the Mexican and Mexican-American Catholics in their parishes. This is the third volume in the Paulist Press’s “Pastoral Spirituality” series. Fernandez’s being of Mexican-American heritage, having spent time researching Mexican spirituality and culture, and also being involved in the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) places him in a good position to write on this topic. He teaches pastoral theology and missiology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union. He earned his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1995.
The book consists of seven chapters. In chapter one Fernandez summarizes the history of Mexico and its religious history - there are 30 centuries involved in this short history. The Indian cultures of the Mayas, Aztecs, and others have influenced Mexican spirituality, as has the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary, the mother of Jesus appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531 as an Indian maiden, and the image that was left on St. Juan’s cloak helped to convert many Indians. Mary still holds a high position in Mexican spirituality.
In chapter two, Fernandez discusses Mexican-American religious and secular history in the United States. Mexican-Americans have not been treated very well historically by American Catholics and other Americans. American bishops who were sometimes immigrants did not understand the Mexican culture, and some did not try. The Catholic Church in the United States created national parishes, which have over time disappeared. There seems to be a need for Mexican or Spanish-language national parishes today, but this cannot always be done due to the shortage of Spanish-speaking priests.
Fernandez presents Mexican spirituality in chapter three. Mexican spirituality is on the emotional level, with an abundance of ritual, processions, devotions, music, and color for an emotional experience when they go to church. Protestant churches have used these predilections to convert Mexicans to their churches. In chapter four, Fernandez examines some of the Mexican feasts and customs. Many feasts involve food and great celebrations revolving around the family and community. Mexicans like to celebrate baptisms, first communions, confirmations and other sacraments on a grand scale. Both immediate and extended family are very important on these occasions.
Chapter five discusses Hispanic theology and theologians who are Catholic and Protestant. The leading theologians in creating a Hispanic theology are men and women from Latin American, the United States and Europe. Liberation theology has an influence on this theology. In chapter six, Fernandez presents the common questions about Hispanic ministry and how to better minister to this growing community in the American Church. Chapter seven is on sources to help in Hispanic ministry. Fernandez lists books, Internet sites, and more. He ends the book with endnotes and a glossary.
Fr. Fernandez is a co-author of United States Hispanic Catholics: Trends and Works, 1990-2000 (2005). Mexican-American Catholics (Pastoral Spirituality) is highly recommended to those needing information for Hispanic ministry and those wanting information on Mexican culture and spirituality.