A few months ago, Bishop Jose Gomez, Auxiliary of Denver, and one of the leading voices of Hispanic Catholicism in the United States, explained why Hispanic immigrants do not contribute financially to their parishes as much as American Catholics do, even after they have reached a moderate financial situation.
Providing some historical roots, Bishop Gomez explained to a large audience of English-speaking Catholics in Northern Colorado the two very different ways in which the Catholic Church was established in Latin America and in North America.
“While the Spanish Crown provided all the means needed for the propagation of the Church – the building of parishes and the assistance to the needy in the colonies – in the U.S., Catholics had to fight their way into the American culture, a fight that required the commitment of each and every single Catholic,” the bishop explained.
As a consequence, while American Catholics developed the commitment to support their local Church as something critical for the survival of their Church, sustaining the Catholic Church was not their direct concern for Hispanics.
Besides, “Mexicans do not enroll in parishes, do not fill envelopes or send money by mail because they don’t trust the mail service, and especially poor Mexicans see the parish as a refuge more than as a place to contribute,” the bishop explained.
Also, unlike most U.S. parishes, typical parishes in Latin America hardly have budgets for personnel: the choir master, the secretary, the singers, the heads of the different ministers and even the workers who make reparations are mostly volunteers.
“Most Mexicans find it dishonorable to charge anything to the Church, so they offer their time and energy as much as they can or as much as they perceive is needed,” the auxiliary of Denver said.
“Catholic immigrants have certainly to adapt to the way parishes operate in the U.S., but in the process the local Church could gain something by assimilating part of the approach Hispanics have for lesser, more simple parish structures,” he concluded.
…And how they are learning to do it
Antoninho Tatto is a Brazilian Catholic, father of six children, who after a successful career in advertising, decided to devote all of his time to a particularly difficult ministry: promoting stewardship among Brazilians and Hispanics.
For this purpose, Tatto founded the Missionaries for Evangelization and Promotion of Communities, whose goal is to promote tithing among Latino Catholics.
Surprisingly, there is no word for “stewardship” in Spanish or Portuguese, but that has not prevented Tatto from making tithing a key concept to secure financial resources to parishes and foster the spiritual renewal of parishes in Latin America.
“Tithing has generated a tremendous sense of responsibility and, as a consequence, more generous giving and a stronger commitment to the faith and the life of the local Church,” says Bishop Miguel Irizar of Callao (Peru). Bishop Irizar is a pioneer in launching the “Campaña del Diezmo” – The Tithing Campaign – promoted by Tatto.
According to the Brazilian lay evangelist, “the dream of stewardship calls for a radical change in the way parishes and dioceses in Latin America are supported, from dependence on others to self-sufficiency, in pursuit of the Church’s evangelizing mission.”
Tatto, who has broadly translated “stewardship” for “corresponsabilidad” (co-responsibility) says the tithing campaign, which he promotes with two booklets and a crash course, is changing the way Latinos are contributing to the Catholic Church in the U.S., especially in places with a large concentration of Hispanics, such as Miami.
“When they (Latino Catholic) discover that it is not about changing their giving patterns but changing their lives, then they realize how important and how liberating it is to share with the local Church the gifts of God,” Tatto says.