Monday, January 14, 2008

Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) Inauguration Speech

Your Excellencies, colleagues and dear friends,

It is a joy and a privilege to stand in front of you today and speak on behalf of all of the members of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. The organization we refer to as C.A.L.L.

Historic moment: Today we are experiencing a historic moment. For the first time in our life in the United States - and in the life of the Catholic Church in this country - we have a group of Hispanic Latino business and professional leaders that have come together to reflect and work on the issues that concern our community from the perspective of the Catholic faith and tradition. There are many Hispanic and Latino groups throughout the Nation, but none created to convene Latino leadership that openly profess their Catholic faith and beliefs.

The importance of Latinos: We are all aware of the magnitude of the Hispanic presence in the United States. According to an American Community Survey conducted by the US Census, in 2006 there were approximately 45 million Hispanics in the US, representing 15% of the total population. The Selig Center estimates Hispanic purchasing power will surpass all U.S. minority groups by 2007 with a buying power of $863.1 billion, and is expected to be almost $1.2 trillion by 2011. That's more than 450 percent growth from 1990 to 2011. In contrast, non-Hispanic buying power’s rate of growth is estimated to be 176% over the same period.

Support of Archbishops: This historic gathering is taking place thanks to the leadership and vision of Archbishop Jose Gomez from this important Archdiocese of San Antonio. Archbishop Gomez has engaged in continuous dialogue with Latino leaders in various professional fields in the hope that they will actively participate in conversations with the dominant culture in our society, speaking with well-informed opinions and from the perspective of our Catholic tradition.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was the first prelate in the Church to encourage and support Archbishop Gomez in this noble initiative. This process began three years ago with an annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. We have now arrived at this moment: we have a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Texas with a tax exempt status.

Mission of CALL: Heeding God’s call as members of His Church and active participants in her mission of evangelization, and recognizing our responsibility as leaders within our Hispanic communities, our mission is to work within the context of our culture and in communion with our bishops to promote the common good of Latinos in the United States. This Catholic Association of Latino Leaders will provide a forum for members to strengthen their faith in community through prayer, education and service. We commit to being a national voice for Hispanics on social justice issues and to impact the national dialogue and its outcome in favor of improving our nation’s policies affecting Latinos.

We are people that believe in ethical values, and know they are neither a limitation nor a restraint on business but rather an opportunity that furthers efficiency and business objectives. Moral values are not enemies of the economy nor of its business enterprises, on the contrary they are their best allies. Immorality does not help business rather it weakens it.

Placing it within the Catholic Church’s Framework: The social doctrine of our Church places a very high importance on entrepreneurship, which is a reflection of God’s creativity; this social doctrine does not in any way contain the idea of an intrinsically evil economy that is to be restrained with the reins of ethics like a ferocious beast that must be tamed. On the contrary, it reasserts that the economy, a resolve of human activity, has meaning and longevity only when it corresponds to an anthropological reality. Our late Holy Father, John Paul II, explained the failure of Communism as a result of a major anthropological error which could only lead to economic failure. He also criticized Capitalism, not for its economic system, but for the weakening of the entire social system as it limits itself to producing goods and services, and falls into an equally condemnable materialism.

We cannot deny that the Church and the business world have suffered an ambiguous relationship. Today, we have the opportunity to recognize the positive role of the market rather than condemn its ideology as anti-religious, inhuman, and socially unsustainable. The Catholic life cannot be lived in a dichotomy. Faith matters. All of our being calls us to have an integral personal development. We cannot pretend to be religious in the Church and ruthless in the workplace or community. This is a false interpretation of the human person.

Fr. Bartolome Las Casas of the 16th century, a Dominican Spanish priest, criticized the oppression of the Conquistadores. Las Casas condemned slavery because it presumed that non-Christians had no rights and no souls worth saving. Fr. Las Casas was a critic of power and a genuine champion of liberation who never lost site of the primary focus on the individual person.

Joseph Ratzinger was a champion of the Second Vatican Council that declared the unequivocal right to religious freedom and thus the wisdom of separating Church from the State. The Pope’s support for the politics of freedom grows out of his ideal of a depoliticized faith. In his visit to Brazil his message was to demonstrate that one can care about justice for the poor without constructing a practice that calls for even more power to the State. “What is real?” Benedict asked in a speech in Brazil. “Only material goods, social and economical problems? No, the conscience and soul are also real.”

CALL: CALL will be the full realization of our vocation as Christian Catholic leaders. CALL is the organization where there will be no place for double standards, for immorality or unethical actions. The call that we have received by joining this organization is to work for a better society to improve our communities and for the integration of our Christian principles which are rooted in our Catholic tradition, and experience of the Church. This is the challenge we have received.

Specifics: We actively embrace the issues of preserving and promoting Catholic values such as the sanctity and dignity of life, of marriage and family life, Catholic faith formation and education, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, promoting the dignity of every person, and furthering the evangelization of culture and the common good, all in collaboration with our bishops. The current debate on immigration is one of the most tragic experiences in recent time. To single out an entire community of people as the detestable is to regress in time and history and to have a mean spirit.
According to a recent study from the Pew Hispanic Center, two-thirds of Hispanics (64%) say the debate over immigration policy and the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill have made life more difficult for Latinos living in this country. The same study states that roughly half of all Hispanics report the increased public attention to immigration issues has negatively impacted their lives in one or more ways. This unresolved debate has been for the Nation, the opinion makers and the politicians a lost opportunity to build a solution to the immigration question inspired by authentic humanism. The human person is sacred and in the United States all people are recognized by the Constitution as having inalienable rights.

Call to action:
We would like to invite anyone, moved by the teaching of the Gospels, of our Lord Jesus Christ, to join us in this remarkable journey to further the Christian mission that will enrich individual and cultural transformation full of love, generosity and hope.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL)

Our Reality...

In recent decades, the reality of the Hispanic Community living in the United States of America – and which the National Census Bureau and the most diverse statistics imaginable seek to capture in figures – has become a boundless and ever-changing one.

Not counting those who reside in Puerto Rico, the Census Bureau now counts 34 million Hispanics living in this Nation, 60% of them born within US territory.

The Bureau also reports that the educational and academic indices of the Hispanic Community are on the rise: There are now more Hispanics in US schools and a growing number of them are graduating and receiving diplomas from North American universities.

In politics, the figures indicate that if more than 6.5 million Hispanics took part in the last presidential race, as many as 8.6 million could participate in the upcoming presidential elections, a fact that represents an unquestionably important variable, capable of tipping the balance when it comes to defining and choosing those who will govern the destiny of the Nation.

In business, the increase in the participation, leadership and purchasing power of Hispanics has been noteworthy. More than 2 million businesses in the United States are today owned by proprietors of Hispanic origin. The National Census Bureau confirms what has become evident: the undeniable, growing, far-reaching and decisive presence of the Hispanic Community in all walks of North American life and society.

But, beyond this, we also find and have proof that the reasons why Hispanics immigrate to this Nation and the profile of the Hispanic immigrant as such are changing: In the past decade, Hispanic families hailing from the different countries of Latin America have arrived here with high standards of living and education and have set up housekeeping in the United States for reasons of security and business.

Furthermore, a new profile has emerged in ties between the United States and Latin American countries, especially in the face of the Free Trade Agreements signed, for example, with Mexico, Chile, Peru, Central America, the Dominican Republic, and those to be approved and signed soon with Panama and Colombia. All of this implies new realities for the American Continent, realities that pose new challenges.

Mainly Catholic from our origins as Latin American peoples and nations, the Hispanic Community in the United States has not, however, altogether found its place in the Catholic Church that forms part of this country, nor has the Roman Catholic Church managed, through its evangelizing mission, to permeate the life of the Hispanic Community in the United States at all levels.

The effects of this divorce, this estrangement, this oversight that exists between Hispanic life in the United States and our faith and identity as Roman Catholics are especially hard-felt in Hispanic Catholic circles of political, professional and economic leadership at the heart of the Hispanic Community that have the capacity to relate to and engage in dialog with the different strata of life and society in this Nation.

Our Response...

Immersed in the current reality of the Hispanic Community present in the United States – as briefly described above – aware too of the growing importance of the Hispanic presence in this Nation and, at the same time, conscious of the gap and serious neglect that exists between the Roman Catholic Church of the United States and we Hispanics who make our way, with our history, culture and Catholic faith, through life on North American soil, and still further aware of the lack of and urgent need for a professional organization of Latinos capable of congregating business and professional people from different fields of knowledge, Catholic Archbishops José Gómez of San Antonio and Charles Chaput of Denver are encouraging a dialog that springs from within the Hispanic Community, the Church and American Society as a whole. Knowledgeable like few others of the “Hispanic phenomenon” in the United States, they have been holding talks with professionals and business people with the aim of founding a much lacking and much needed organization: an Hispanic association with the kind of qualified representation necessary to articulate the major concerns of the Hispanic Community within and in relation with the Catholic Church and at the highest levels of society in the United States of America.

The aim is to create a lay organization of Catholic professionals and business leaders which – enlightened by the principles and values of the Holy Gospel, inspired by the humanism lived and preached by Jesus Christ, in harmony with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and imbued with the deeply human and Christian values that are so much a part of the Hispanic essence (solidarity, sharing even in poverty, the sense of celebrating life, of festivity, of sorrow, of death, the importance of family and work, and the value of friendship) – will be capable of contributing the best that Hispanic culture has to offer to US society and culture as a whole.

The Church, Mother and Teacher, has much to teach, to accompany and to learn in this segment of the Hispanic Community, a segment made up of leaders from the professional and business worlds. These men and women themselves belong to, are and indeed make up part of the Church and, as such – based on Christian humanism, on the model of Man and society proposed by Jesus Christ and the Word of the Holy Scriptures – can engage with new impetus in the defense of life and of every person as a child of God and as brothers and sisters among themselves, while testifying to the value of work, home, education, health, freedom, honesty, social justice, peace, progress, integration, communion, participation, responsible citizenship, national dialog, the search for the common good among men and nations alike, and so on. And all of these things in a clear response against the culture of death in all of its multiple and concern-provoking manifestations that have become so much a part of society and culture. An authentic discipleship, through conscious, committed and active participation in the Church can, then, provide members of this organization with important tools for use in developing personal, social and Christian life.

The Church, with its worldwide evangelizing mission, has much to contribute and accompany and much to teach and learn in the interior of the Hispanic Community and, more concretely, among its professional and business leaders and among those from the fields of science and the arts and those connected with the development of contemporary culture. And all of this constitutes an urgent need, a challenge, a pending task, a responsibility and a hope, especially when these spaces in the life of Man appear today to be ignored, worryingly abandoned, forgotten, neglected, impervious to the Gospel.

This, then, is why Bishops Gómez and Chaput recently called a meeting of Catholic Hispanic leaders, at which the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) was founded. At this meeting, CALL also elected its first Board of Directors and the author of these lines is honored to have been named Chairman. In order to initiate this drive of hope, we have legally established the Association under the laws of the State of Texas and obtained our Charter, setting up our headquarters at the Archbishopric of San Antonio. CALL is to be financed by its members themselves and three major annual events have already been programmed:

  • A Spiritual Retreat for Hispanic professionals.
  • A Meeting of members of the Association.
  • An annual professional conference for Catholic Hispanic business and professional people.

There will be other regional activities in major urban centers around the United States where large Spanish-speaking populations are found, such as: San Antonio, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago, among others.

Our Identity: Vision and Mission...

Within the varied landscape of already existing Hispanic groups throughout the United States, with all of their diverse aims, CALL does not aspire to be just one more organization. CALL is, instead, a Catholic Association at the service of leadership in the Hispanic Community of the United States. It is formed from among professional and business men and women, enlightened by and committed to the values and principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as espoused by the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and incorporated into the cultural and historical identity of our nations as part of the necessary, equitable, respectful and just dialog that must be permanently established between the Hispanic Community and the rest of North American and Latin American Society.

To this end, CALL will seek to be:

  • A forum for Catholic leaders from the Hispanic/Latino Community in the United States of America, with its aim being to serve as an instrument for dialog with the dominant culture, while offering a professional and responsible voice and presence in defense of the Hispanic Catholic essence.

  • A venue that makes possible and accompanies the training of Hispanic Catholic professionals and business people to stand at the forefront of the Hispanic Community’s presence in the political, economic, social and cultural life and events of this Nation.

  • A center for national dialog and education to provide for maturity in Hispanic Catholic leadership and within the entire Hispanic community present in the United States, and for the development of its urgent role in the present and future of the Nation.

Our Hope...

From the outset of this journey, full of hope and goodwill at the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Church and inserted within the world at large, ready as we are to serve the Hispanic Community within the context of new North and Latin American realities that face us on this pilgrimage with our Catholic faith, it is encouraging to note that this Association is responding to the meaning of the acronym that stands for its name: CALL. This is, indeed an organization built on a “calling”, a “convocation” of wills, a “vocation”.

We Catholic laymen and, more concretely, we professionals and business people who are Catholic Hispanics living in the United States, have the primary vocation of living our humanity in the image and likeness of God, being, as we are, his creations and his children as followers of Christ. We have the vocation of being disciples of the Gospel, each within his or her status, style, condition and life circumstances. And, in accordance with the aims of CALL, we also have the vocation to be proper, conscientious and responsible leaders of the Hispanic Community’s presence in this Nation, backed by our origins, our history, our culture, our values and our faith and those of our ancestors.

A calling always encompasses a mission. And the acronym that stands for our Association is, at once, then, a calling, a challenge, and a task.

Ladies and gentlemen, Catholic and Hispanic business people and professionals residing in the United States of America, I invite you, call upon you and convoke you, through CALL, to join me in rising to the challenge and demands posed by the Hispanic Community in this Nation.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Making This a Truly “New” Year

According to our calendars, our way of measuring time, one year ends and another begins. This is always a propitious occasion on which to pause in order to evaluate and reflect on what lies behind us in life, so as to weigh our present and calculate and foresee our future, both as individuals and as a community.

It is also a time of celebration: We celebrate the life we leave behind. We celebrate everything that we are and everything that we have in the present. But above all, we celebrate our fondest aspirations for the human race as a whole.

Each year arrives with its own novelties and surprises at an individual, family, social, national and worldwide level.

In the case of those of us living in the United States of America, New Year 2008 involves a presidential campaign and election. We are not unaware of the fact that the results of this political race will have a marked influence not only at a local and domestic level, but also on an international and worldwide plane.

The coming electoral process is characterized by a degree of political and social erosion that is unparalleled in the recent history of this Nation. The presidential campaign has begun early and will be long. And it is a campaign that – misguided and mishandled like so many others in so many other places on earth – could well undermine politics and the political process, social values and the common good, democracy and public service, and may end up exhausting the voters already overwhelmed by the millions upon millions of dollars squandered on deceitful, pernicious advertising and on the kind of degrading and defamatory advertising that only serves to distort reality.

Despite all of this, and without ignoring the major problems currently facing the United States and the grave institutional and economic crisis in which it finds itself, and without forgetting the institutional and economic crises that the rest of the community of Nations is facing, and remaining fully conscious of the fact that the country we inhabit is the most influential Nation on earth, we cannot elude the historical, political and social responsibility of asking ourselves – on the eve of yet another New Year – what our deepest and fondest aspirations are and which among them are the most urgent and advisable for ourselves and for the future of mankind as a whole.

There is an urgent need, then, to take part in the public debate, and for these elections to be active, aware, discerning, reasoned, reasonable, democratic and responsible. Participation should be free from political intrigue, demagoguery, falsehoods and the skewed vision of vested interests and should champion a constructive attitude at the service of public welfare and for the good of everyone.

The Hispanic Community, as a growing presence and in ever greater numbers in this Nation, can and should break with the traditional mindset that, up to the present, has balanced and shared out the workings of politics between left and right, between conservatives and liberals, between the blue and the red, and between Democrats and Republicans. The Hispanic Community has, here and now, a political responsibility to participate, in order to suggest, lead, demand, reinvent, innovate on, promote and choose political alternatives that are different from and better than the present ones. Within the current situation and under current circumstances, the Hispanic Community of this Nation has the urgent, unavoidable and inalienable opportunity to make a difference.

Through the political participation of the Hispanic Community, it is time to clarify and bring to a close the shameful process of immigration policies by which political manipulators and pettifogging shysters have played with the public and made a mockery of the hopes and just claims of millions of people. It is time to end the humiliating and ignoble situation in which millions of our migrant brothers and sisters live without proper papers in this Nation and beyond our borders as well.

Decades after the apparent end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of dictators and despotic political systems that are today a shameful stain on the annals of the history of civilization, we find ourselves shamed once more as spectators of war, as observers of hostility on the US-Mexican border, of the construction of new physical walls and walls too in the hearts of men, of persecutions, exclusions and marginalization, of the exploitation of individuals and whole peoples, of racism and discrimination fostered by the Social Communications Media, and of so very many other forms of injustice that impoverish the human spirit.

Those of us who root our lives in our faith in a Semitic and biblical mentality, know that it is within the meantime of the afterlife, in the here and now of historical space and time, that the pages of our calendars (kronos) inexorably turn and our days pass, and in which comes the time for the action, intervention and salvation of Almighty God in the history of Man (kayros). That it is in this time (kronos) that we build the Kingdom of Heaven among us (kayros) by doing His will.

The end of one year and the start of another provide a propitious opportunity for us – through the political participation of the Hispanic Community – to tear down the walls and myths erected against Hispanic migration, and for us to demand the noble place – past and present – that we deserve in the building of this Nation’s future. Only then shall we truly have a prosperous and blessed 2008!