Iskali, the ministry Del Real founded, seeks to provide faith formation to young Latinos through retreats, community, formation opportunities, mentorship, and scholarships.
Del Real says he founded Iskali in response to shifting demographics among young Latinos away from a strong practice of the Catholic faith. According to 2014 Pew research, at least a quarter of U.S. Hispanics have left the Catholic Church, and of those, nearly half are now unaffiliated when it comes to religion.
Other Pew studies suggest that only 16% of U.S. Hispanics say being Catholic is an essential part of Hispanic identity.
“Hispanic young people are the future of this country and seeing that many are losing their Catholic faith serves as a reminder to me of how important it is to live our baptismal call, and that we must take responsibility and initiative to do something about it,” Del Real said in comments to CNA.
“We cannot stand [by] uselessly. There is an important urgency to which we have to respond... to go proclaim the gospel to young Hispanics that are U.S.-born.”
Del Real, the youngest of seven children, emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with his family when he was 15.
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After an awakening of his faith in his late teens, Del Real was inspired to create a ministry to nurture the faith of young Latinos who had been born in the United States.
The name of the ministry, “Iskali,” comes from a Nahuatl (Aztec) word meaning “growth,” spoken by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego.
Del Real says many Latino children of immigrants growing up in the United States do not have the same rooted Catholic culture or devotions that their parents may have had, and thus it is important to nurture a “conviction” within young Latinos to live out their faith.