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.

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