US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Read: Latino Catholicism

By Meinrad Scherer-Emunds | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
By Timothy Matovina (Princeton University Press, 2012)

Thirty-one years ago a Fides/Claretian book from the publishers who bring you this magazine chronicled The Browning of America: The Hispanic Revolution in the American Church. Today University of Notre Dame theologian Timothy Matovina’s study Latino Catholicism provides a fascinating and comprehensive update of that ongoing revolution—or “transformation,” as he prefers to call it. And in spite of what the earlier book title might suggest, Matovina sees this transformation going more than one way as he shows “how the U.S. context, the U.S. Catholic Church, and Latinos mutually transform one another.”

Matovina covers almost all important subthemes—expertly treating history, integration, Hispanic ministry, parishes and apostolic movements, leadership, worship and devotion, public Catholicism, and passing on the faith (a chapter on the faith, role, and aspirations of Hispanic women perhaps being one notable omission). In doing so, he joins a wealth of academic research with the insights and stories of ordinary Latino Catholics while providing his own solid analysis. In bringing all this together in this highly readable book, Matovina has done an invaluable service for today’s U.S. Catholic Church, whose future depends on responding better to the many challenges and promises its growing Latino population present.

Throughout, Matovina resists facile, one-size-fits-all answers and instead mines the considerable demographic, sociological, and theological research to differentiate, clarify, and pinpoint the most important challenges the church needs to address. This is a must-read for all who have leadership roles in today’s Catholic Church and who need to come together, employ greater creativity, and work harder to find the resources to serve the diverse needs of the different generations and subgroups of Hispanic Catholics. Such work will undoubtedly bear much fruit.

This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 5, page 43).