Catholic Latino leaders set ambitious goals for future

CALLsummit Archbishop José Gomez, with President and CEO Robert B. Aguirre (left) and Chairman Ruben Escobedo (right)

Members of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) gathered this weekend at St. Malo Retreat and Conference Center near Denver, Colo. to evaluate their first four years of existence and set new, ambitious goals for their future growth.

CALL was founded in Denver in 2006, under the auspices of Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., and by then Auxiliary Bishop Jose H. Gomez. Archbishop Gomez was recently appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles.

The CALL annual members meeting opened on Friday evening, July 23, with a greeting from Archbishop Chaput.

“In my 22 years as a bishop, being part of CALL has been - and still is - one of the important and enjoyable tasks I’ve had,” the Archbishop of Denver wrote. “The leadership of Archbishop Gomez has been outstanding; without his vision and guidance, CALL would not exist.”

“CALL is now poised to play an even more effective role in mobilizing Latino Catholic leaders and renewing American society with the values of family, faith, hard work and moral character,” Archbishop Chaput's greeting concluded.

“The idea of CALL is very simple,” Archbishop Gomez explained during the first working session. “There is a need to reach out to Latinos that have been successful, because of the growing importance of Latinos in the Catholic Church and in the country.”

The Pew Hispanic Center conducted a major study last year on the way Hispanics are covered in the news media. Researchers looked at 55 different news outlets in the country—newspapers, cable and broadcast news, websites, and radio talk shows—from February 2009 to August 2009.

Out of almost 34,500 stories during that six-month period, only 645 contained substantial references to Hispanics. Of those, only 57 stories focused directly on the lives of Hispanics in the United States.

“This means that most Americans do not know well what Latinos are about. And if there is someone, some group that can help understand the Latinos and change their perception, it is an organization such as CALL. There is no doubt in my mind that our mission is to bring the reality of the Catholic Latino culture to the American culture, Archbishop Gomez continued.

“What CALL has to offer is what accountants like to call an ‘intangible good or service,’” said the coadjutor of Los Angeles, joking about his CPA background. “What we offer is spiritual growth and a way of helping other people. These are not things that you can ‘see’ or measure.”

“What is the ‘return on investment’ we offer to our members? I hope we will be able to say that it is this: Friendship, meaningful relationships," he listed, adding, "the regular chance for husbands and wives to grow in their faith, to hear engaging speakers, the opportunity to get away and go on pilgrimage. A means to get involved in their communities and in our nation’s political life."

“To create these opportunities is a practical, ‘do-able’ objective for us in the coming year,” Archbishop Gomez said.

CALL’s president and CEO, Robert B. Aguirre, offered information about the current demographic trends of the Hispanic community in the U.S. Numbering more than 47.7 million, Hispanics are 15% of the nation’s population and 15 million larger than all of Canada’s population. Hispanic buying power is growing at three times the Consumer Price Index, while the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew by 31% and produced 222 billion in revenue over the last 10 years.

“CALL has been very aware of these trends in these past years, through its many initiatives. We have done an excellent job of branding the organization and establishing it within the Church but this day … this moment ... is filled with opportunities to evangelize and to speak out on issues important to our community, our country and our Church,” Aguirre said.

Among other measures discussed by CALL members was the creation of new CALL chapters in the U.S.

“There will be difficulties down the road, but these difficulties do not mean that this should not be happening or that God does not want it,” said Most Reverend Thomas Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, Ariz., commenting on CALL’s plans for expansion and growth.

“On the contrary, the Gospel teaches us that difficulties and the opposition of the Evil One are part of our Christian pilgrimage,” Bishop Olmsted added during his homily on Saturday.

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“We are at the beginning of a new journey for Latino leaders, and we are starting the same way we start everyday events: with the first step,” CALL Chairman Ruben Escobedo explained.

Escobedo will be responsible for increasing fundraising among Catholic Hispanics and leading the Catholic Latino organization in its projected expansion in areas such as in Northern California, Arizona, Northern Texas and New York.

“The Latino presence in our country is growing every day. And that means that every day the need for this organization, for CALL is growing too,” Archbishop Gomez on Sunday, during the closing session.

“We are a part of something great here. We are part of a movement that is bigger than any one of us. America is changing and we are in the vanguard of the next America. We are pioneers, leaders for a new generation.”

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