The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders met last weekend to discuss the theme, “Keeping and Transmitting Our Values in the 21st Century.” Speakers, such as Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, and Archbishop of San Antonio, Jose H. Gomez challenged conference participants to live as virtuous leaders and help change American society with the truth of Christ.
The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), an organization which strives to work with the Catholic Church for the good of Latinos in the U.S., organized the conference that was held August 22-24 at St. Malo Retreat Center near Estes Park, Colorado.
Besides the archbishops who presented talks, others in attendance were Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona; Bishop Alfonso Cortez, Auxiliary of Monterrey (Mexico); and priests representing the Dioceses of Fort Worth, Texas and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Archbishop Chaput’s Address
A Generation of Latinos to Impact Society
Opening the conference on Friday, Archbishop Charles Chaput, President of the Advisory Committee, challenged the more than 30 entrepreneurs and Latino leaders to be “willing to do the work to have an impact on American Catholic life and American society.”
Archbishop Chaput explained to the conference participants that the Catholic Church in the U.S. “has been fueled by several major waves of immigrants.”
“The very heavy Irish influence in shaping the American Church over the past 150 years has obviously been based in the demographic realities. The Irish were the largest single Catholic ethnic group in the country. But the really interesting thing is this: Their actual influence was even greater than their numbers.”
Why were they so influential? he asked. “It’s because unlike all the other ethnic groups that came to America, the Irish developed a highly organized and effective leadership. The Irish, with their own priests and religious, created an extraordinary cultural system that impacted not only the organization of the Catholic Church in the United States, but also the whole political and social environment. In essence, the Irish turned a persecuted minority into a cultural, economic and religious force in the United States.”
The Archbishop of Denver compared the Irish immigrants to the Latino population in the United States. “Today, Latinos are by far the largest Catholic ethnic group in the country.”
“What the Church really needs is a generation of Latino leaders willing to do the work to have an impact on American Catholic life and American society. We need leaders willing to vigorously promote priestly vocations and pastoral ministers. We need leaders eager to show by their example that success in the financial, political or social environment can be achieved by reaffirming, not relinquishing, their Catholic values. We need leaders willing to strengthen the Latino family as the domestic Church, which is the cornerstone of a renewal of American culture.”
Archbishop Chaput called on the conference participants to lead both as Catholics and as Latinos. “And if you lead, if you accept God’s call, then the future will be full of hope -- not only for the Latino community, but for everyone who shares this great and beautiful nation.”
Archbishop Gomez’s Address
Ambassadors of Faith, Heralds of Hope, and Messengers of Love
The following day, Archbishop Gomez from San Antonio, who is one of the founders of CALL and also the Episcopal Advisor to the group, encouraged Latino leaders to renew the culture by living the three theological virtues—faith, hope and charity.
We are being called to lead a greatly needed renewal, the archbishop explained. “We all want to move beyond this culture of secularism, materialism, and selfishness, with all its empty promises, false freedoms, and false roads to happiness. But in order to do that, our country needs to be evangelized again.”
Archbishop Gomez pointed out that this cannot be done solely by “elegant proofs and arguments.” Rather, we must work to change the hearts and minds of our countrymen by becoming “living examples of the Gospel we’re called to proclaim,” he said.
To do this, the archbishop urged his audience to practice the virtues. “Your mission, my friends—what the Church expects, what the nation expects, and what God requires—is that you become men and women of virtue.”
The key virtues to focus on, Archbishop Gomez said, are the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity (love).
“So when I say you must be men and women of virtue, I’m saying that you must be saints. And this isn’t something extraordinary. It’s what God created us to be. St. Gregory of Nyssa said: “The goal of the life of virtue is to become like God’.”
The prelate stated that we must live out these virtues by becoming, “ambassadors of faith, heralds of hope, and messengers of love.”
To be an ambassador of faith, he stressed, one must “stand up against the forces of our secular society” which isolates faith to only private matters.
This is a mentality that must be rejected, Archbishop Gomez explained. Faith is much more than “private prayer and personal devotion. Your faith must illuminate everything you do. From how you love your spouses and raise your children, to how you run your businesses, to the kind of policies and politicians you support.”
“God still has something to say to this world that he created. This world he shed his own blood to redeem. And he wants to make his appeal to the world through you. Through the witness of your life.”
The archbishop also called upon his audience to become heralds of hope, a virtue necessary because many people today “have accepted the lie that they don’t need God to be happy.”
Instead, “they put their hope in things that can’t last. They seek happiness in pleasures that will never satisfy. So many of them are like broken cups— desperately trying to fill themselves up, but never being able to.”
We must talk to our neighbors about our great hope – “about heaven and eternal life. Pray that the star of Christian hope will rise in the hearts of all our neighbors.”
“Finally, my friends, the archbishop concluded, “You must be messengers of love. We can’t say we love God if we aren’t working to help our neighbors in need. We can’t say we love our neighbors if we aren’t willing to share with them the whole truth about God and the human person.”
True love will always come at a cost. “Jesus taught us that love means laying down your life for your brothers and sisters. For you, laying down your life might mean risking your reputation, your job, your re-election. But we have the promise of our Lord. That if we lose our lives for the sake of his Gospel, we will find our lives forever in him,” Archbishop Gomez encouraged.
“You may be the only Christians your neighbors and co-workers come in contact with on a regular basis. This is a great responsibility. And a great opportunity, he emphasized.
The key to reaching these people, the archbishop explained, is to allow ourselves to undergo conversion. “You can’t read the Bible to them or recite the Catechism. Only a changed life will change lives. So what you must do is show them a life transformed by the Gospel. You must be men and women of virtue—ambassadors of faith, heralds of hope, messengers of love.”
The Archbishop of San Antonio finished his talk by calling the Latino leaders to evangelize. “Our nation is waiting for your witness. This new evangelization that proceeds from heart to heart, from soul to soul. An evangelization that once again opens our culture to the saving power of Jesus Christ.”