Who are sitting in the pews of our parishes and / or attend liturgical and other services in Spanish?
Probably half or maybe more the half of them are the immigrants, -or first generation or new comers- single individuals -who are singles or who have left their families behind-. It could be families whose parents were born outside the United States and children were born either outside or inside the US -legal and illegal-, “abuelitos y/o abuelitas” whose children and grandchildren attend Liturgical Services and other services in English or maybe who don’t practice their faith in community after receiving the three sacraments: couple’s marriage, and children’ baptism and Holy Communion.
One four of them are: Second generation parents with younger children, who wanted to hold the language and culture of their children through institutions like the Church -they could also be illegal.
At the rest will be lay people committed to work with the Latino Population liturgy, religious education, and other Parish leaders.
Their characteristics and needs are diverse as are diverse their ethno-cultural background, their length of time in the United States, their exposure to the mainstream culture as well as their means and reason behind migration.
All have in common: the catholic faith, the hispanic cultural heritage and the language.
And these three -faith, culture and language- needs to be the instruments used for ministering them.
WHAT ARE THEIR NEEDS AND CHARACTERISTICS:
By birth every individual and every family belongs to a defined cultural community which serve as social psychological referents in which create -through historical circumstances- a sense of peoplehood (Gordon, 1964).
These relationships between the individual and the family with its social- psychological-cultural community involve:
mutuality and reciprocity,
social articulation and recognition;
these two relationships create a sense of belonging and of historical continuity for the individual and for the family.
First need: remove the roots…. and find a transitional social cell where there are affinity … and there, learn the why, the how, the what, of the new environment … by respect and experience learn to belong to the new social psychological referent.
Transitional social cell? -friends or members of the community of origin, school, church.
This first step is not only fundamental for the individual and for the whole family but it becomes a requisite :sine qua non”..
Because every family is interwoven in a continuous interchange with its own economic and socio-cultural environment to accomplish its tasks (Bronfenbrenner, 1986).
UNIVERSAL TASKS OF THE FAMILY:
(Familiaris Consortio, 11-22-1981: Pope John Paul II)
THE ROLE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
Family, Become What You Are
17. The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do. The role that God calls the family to perform in history derives from what the family is; its role represents the dynamic and existential development of what it is.
Accordingly, the family must go back to the “beginning” of God’s creative act, ..since in God’s plan it has been established as an “intimate community of life and love, ”(44) the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God….we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.
…with love as its point of departure and making constant reference to it, the recent Synod emphasized four general tasks for the family:
1) forming a community of persons;
2) serving life;
3) participating in the development of society;
4) sharing in the life and mission of the Church.
Through the process of socialization parents conform their children with culturally specific ways or preferred modes of perceiving and relating to others, of understanding the verbal and non-verbal symbols essential for communicating, remembering and thinking, as well as for problem solving and for the use of meaning and logic.
This inculturative or socializing process shapes children’s self-concept and self-esteem while they “absorb” the culture of their parents and “locate” themselves within the first and minute sample of society -their homes and its socio-cultural expectations.
Thus, how a Hispanic family isolated from its socio-cultural environment can perform the above tasks?
The central point of this topic is the understanding of the concept PROCESS OF TRANSITION.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EVENT AND A PROCESS
Encourages decisions Encourages development
Motivates people Matures people
Is a calendar issue Is a cultural issue
Challenges people Changes people
Is easy Is difficult
(John Maxwell’s cited by Sean Taylor Simpson)
Event is an every day To-Do list while the Process is investing in time to modify or change ways of thinking, feeling and being -end product is adjustment to a new task/environment to act more effectively on it.
The Process of Transition (John M Fisher)
How we deal with that change depends on : who initiated the change and what control we have over the events in question.
Any change, no matter how small, has the potential to have a major impact on an individual, their self view (IDENTITY) and subsequent performance.
The anticipated outcome may generate conflict between one’s existing actions, values and beliefs and the anticipated new ones.
One common metaphor for this transition process is that of bridging the gap between two peaks one representing where we are now and the other the goal.
SUCCESS: Depends on how much support, communication, and ownership we feel we have during the journey and our understanding of what the new peak represents.
Much of the speed of transition will depend on the individual’s self perception, locus of control,
past experiences, and how these all combine to create their anticipation of future events.
Much of the actual transition through the stages is done subconsciously.
It is important for an individual to understand the impact that the change will have on their own personal view of the world; and for them to be able to work through the implications for themselves.
One danger for the individual occurs when an individual persists in operating a set of practices that have been consistently shown to fail (or result in an undesirable consequence) in the past and that do not help extend and elaborate their world-view.
Another danger area is that of denial where people maintain operating as they always have denying that there is any change at all.
To help people move through the transition effectively we need to understand their perception of the past, present and future.
What is their past experience of change and how has it impacted on them?,
how did they cope?
Also what will they be losing as part of the change and what will they be gaining?
The process of transition or of progressive change from own cultural set to the host one (acculturation) is possible only through the cumulative interaction between both cultures, and it follows various stages before immigrant person feels again a sense of belonging to the new environment.
Additionally, during the transition from one culture to the other, immigrant person needs to do over and over again, selective adaptations and to undergo processes of differentiation not only for inculturative and position conferring functions but also to help their children to achieve a sense of proper dignity and of unconditional self acceptance as well as affirming their worthiness as individuals.
To migrate is to be born again, not only because of the social nature of human personality and its inextricable relationship to the cultural environment in which person design its own identity but because person has to restructure its cognitive and affective abilities by introducing new meanings, gestures, words to function effectively and to develop the necessary coping mechanisms between itself and the new place.
What happens with the individual members of the family… MUST HAPPENS ALSO WITH THE FAMILY ITSELF:
Immigrant Hispanic families IN CULTURAL TRANSITION must undergo changes that parallel society changes so they can
(1) ROOTS: continue being the matrix of their members’ psychological development,
WINGS: accommodate to the new society and its culture;
to insure some continuity to their own culture.
And this process of learning a new set of coping mechanisms and strategies must be done overtime, in such way that family continuity is maintained while the members go through the process of accommodation.
The ability of immigrant Hispanic families to live their identity and to meet their tasks has been weakened by circumstances beyond their control.
It is: Although in opportunities these families are capable of playing an important role as agents of evangelization and of constructive change in society, there are negative aspects of the same society –domestic violence, migration laws, discrimination, substance abuse among others– that worked to the detriment of their actions and weaken family relationships too.
However, focusing primarily on the numbers could very easily lead us to see immigrant Hispanic families simply as a large social and pastoral PROBLEM, while overlooking the even more important fact that they represent a UNIQUE PASTORAL OPPORTUNITY (US Bishops Pastoral Letter on Hispanic Presence, 1983).
WHAT TO DO AND HOW WE COULD HELP?
PASTORAL FAMILIAR: TIEMPOS, ESTRUCTURAS, AGENTES Y SITUACIONES
I – TIEMPOS DE LA PASTORAL FAMILIAR
La Iglesia acompaña a la familia cristiana en su camino
65. Al igual que toda realidad viviente, también la familia está llamada a desarrollarse y crecer. Después de la preparación durante el noviazgo y la celebración sacramental del matrimonio la pareja comienza el camino cotidiano hacia la progresiva actuación de los valores y deberes del mismo matrimonio.
A la luz de la fe y en virtud de la esperanza, la familia cristiana participa, en comunión con la Iglesia, en la experiencia de la peregrinación terrena hacia la plena revelación y realización del Reino de Dios.
Por ello hay que subrayar una vez más la urgencia de la intervención pastoral de la Iglesia en apoyo de la familia. Hay que llevar a cabo toda clase de esfuerzos para que la pastoral de la familia adquiera consistencia y se desarrolle, dedicándose a un sector verdaderamente prioritario, con la certeza de que la evangelización, en el futuro, depende en gran parte de la Iglesia doméstica.
La solicitud pastoral de la Iglesia no se limitará solamente a las familias cristianas más cercanas, sino que, ampliando los propios horizontes en la medida del Corazón de Cristo, se mostrará más viva aún hacia el conjunto de las familias en general y en particular hacia aquellas que se hallan en situaciones difíciles o irregulares. Para todas ellas la Iglesia tendrá palabras de verdad, de bondad, de comprensión, de esperanza, de viva participación en sus dificultades a veces dramáticas; ofrecerá a todos su ayuda desinteresada, a fin de que puedan acercarse al modelo de familia, que ha querido el Creador «desde el principio» y que Cristo ha renovado con su gracia redentora.
La acción pastoral de la Iglesia debe ser progresiva, incluso en el sentido de que debe seguir a la familia, acompañándola paso a paso en las diversas etapas de su formación y de su desarrollo.
The Catholic Church has historically been an advocate of family life.
Historically too, the United States Catholic Church has been an immigrant Church. It is extremely important that the different organizations and components of United States society and Catholic Church become aware and sensitive to the cultural conflicts and demands that immigrant Hispanic families face.
As Church we must be aware that the disintegration of immigrant Hispanic families implies the non-operation of a basic support system within the society, and within the basic faith community of the Church.
The development of a comprehensive Hispanic family life ministry must be a priority for all dioceses with strong Hispanic presence.
It is not sufficient to bring member of the Hispanic community to the office Staff.
It is not sufficient to translate to Spanish the sacramental preparation and i ts liturgy.
There is a need for a Hispanic Family Life minister who accompany these couples, parents, children and to provide means to strengthen their marriages, their families, their parenting skills.
A minister that plays a role not only as cultural translator but as mediator and model.
A minister who foster positive feelings toward immigrant families cultural identity and who simultaneously help them develop a social commitment to the larger society.
A minister who celebrates and proclaims those Hispanic values that constitutes their major gift to the American Church and Society.
Christian family must stand as a CENTRAL PRIORITY in the life of the Church:
Each Immigrant Hispanic Family in Cultural Transition the IS first small faith community,
IS the source of spirit and of life, that provides the natural framework for the emotional and essential for the faith growth and for the religious development of its members.
The Immigrant Hispanic Family Cultural Transition IS the vital means for preserving and transmitting Gospel values.
▪ we need to encourage programs that support, enrich, enhance and care for Hispanic families in cultural transition,
▪ we need to support families in the fulfillment of their functions, rather than provide substitutes for such functions, ▪
▪ we need to promote the inherent strengths of immigrant Hispanic families, including their great capacity for self-reliance, and stimulate self-sustaining activities on their behalf,
▪ we need to provide family life education which highlights the importance of family in the church and in the society, which increases a better understanding of their functions and problems, which promotes knowledge of the economic, social and demographic processes affecting immigrant Hispanic families and their members, and focus attention upon the rights and responsibilities of all family members,
▪ we need to provide opportunities for Hispanic parents to make them an integral part of the spiritual and psycho-educational faith development process of their children,
▪ we need to provide provide interventions for broken and hurt immigrant Hispanic families but we too need to begin to prevent these situations to happen .
AS CHURCH WE NEED TO CHANGE THE TRADITIONAL ACT OF HELP-GIVER FOR THE EMPOWERMENT PROCESS FOR IMMIGRANT HISPANIC FAMILIES IN CULTURAL TRANSITION.
Fisher J M, (2005), A Time for change, Human Resource Development International vol 8:2 (2005), pp 257 – 264, Taylor & Francis
Marquez G (2000), Immigrant Hispanic Families in Cultural Transition, Thesis Doctoral, Fordham University.
(2011), Finding Myself, Trafford Press.