As the United States comes to an end of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15- Oct 15), we share with you words of wisdom that Wayne Romo shared with us last year.
On my campus, about 62% of the undergraduate population are Hispanic. I believe there is an identity crisis among our Hispanic young adults that requires immediate attention. I feel compelled to be a catalyst for such outreach. I am a Catholic campus minister at a small Catholic University in San Antonio, Texas. I am Mexican-American, a Hispanic, and with the growth of Hispanics in the United States Catholic church today, am concerned for the Hispanic young adult Catholics who go to college and universities.
Although the number of Hispanic students in colleges and universities in the United States continues to grow, the number of those completing degrees is low. The rigor of the academics, in many cases very different from most high school learning experiences, and the shock of culture Hispanic students encounter are a couple of challenges that make it difficult for Hispanic young adults to succeed. I believe the current political environment in the U.S. regarding immigration makes it that much more difficult.
One’s identity as a Hispanic, a label placed on a group of individuals, is so complex that instead of helping young adults it has a negative effect. Young adults need to establish a firm foundation in who they are so they can form lasting relationships and develop their talents. Labels lead many to abandon their culture and values in order to survive in higher education. The time has come for us in campus ministry to reassess how we serve Hispanic young adults. Is singing a song in Spanish or offering a reading in Spanish at Mass the best we can do as a means of engagement?
Culture and identity are complex issues. We have an opportunity in Campus Ministry to take empowering the spirit of Hispanic young adults to new levels. College is a time where young adults establish their identities that lead to choices of life-long commitments both personally and professionally. Some of our greatest leaders in the Church today are our Hispanic young adults. The time is now to explore and discover great gifts and talents Hispanic young adults bring to the Church and world.
I went to college immediately following my high school graduation with a deep desire to serve the Church. It was during those years in college where I came to know myself better than ever and found myself surrounded with peers, adults and friends who helped me discover my talents. My time in college truly shaped me and laid a foundation for the path and vocation I now live. Thirty years ago I was introduced to Campus Ministry and to this day, I continue to serve!
Director of University Ministry
St. Mary's University
San Antonio, Texas