The short pamphlet “Catholic Schools in an Increasingly Hispanic Church” by Dr. Hosffman Ospino and Dr. Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill deserves to be read by every Catholic school leader. This work serves as the summary report from the National Survey of Catholic Schools Serving Hispanic Families and compliments Dr. Ospino’s “Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes,” also published this year.
The work presents relevant statistics:
- Only about 5% of the US population was Hispanic in the middle of the last century. Around that time, national parishes—that is, parishes founded not on geographical boundaries but on language—fell out of favor. Vatican II, however, elevated the vernacular so it thus empowered Hispanics to celebrate Mass in their native language.
- Today more than 40% of Catholics are Hispanic
- Over 60% of Catholics under the age of 18 are Hispanic, 90% of which were born here
- As the number of young Hispanic Catholics has risen, the number of Catholic schools has shrunk
- The K-12 Catholic schools enrollment of 1.9 million students would only serve 15% of the Hispanic Catholic population. If we were to serve all (and only) Hispanic children, we would need to build nearly 15 thousand new schools!
- Hispanics have the largest dropout rate, 62% live in low-income families, and 33% of Hispanic children live in poverty
Ospino and Weitzel-O’Neill analyze the characteristics of Catholic school leaders, finding that the number of Hispanic leaders (14%) or bilingual principals (17%) lacking. The frequency of multicultural training (23%) was also low. The principals recognized the desire to hire more Hispanic teachers and to obtain language training school-wide.
The authors recommend steps for creating a more Hispanic-friendly environment—namely, by utilizing signs and symbols, embracing a more diverse worship practice, and creating a more inclusive academic culture. The authors spotlight the ten TWIN-CS (Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools) schools and the Hispanic-friendly school culture they have created.
The authors continue to offer other suggestions such as collaborating with leaders involved in Hispanic parish or diocesan outreach. Collaborating with other school, parish, and diocesan officials breaks down the silo mentality and promotes collaboration.
The pamphlet works as a reflection guide with questions at the end of each chapter which allow readers to articulate their position and efforts. On pages 50-51, the authors offer as a closing argument “Areas that Require Immediate Attention in Catholic Schools”:
- Only 4% of school-age Hispanic children attend Catholic schools
- 38% of responding schools do not have an enrollment plan
- Only 12% of teachers and 14% of principals identify as Hispanic
- Only 17% of responding principals speak Spanish fluently
- Less than 25% of principals have received explicit training about Hispanic culture
- 52% of principals serving Hispanic families are age 55 or older
- Only 26% of schools offer support for second-language acquisition for staff
- Catholic school environments usually fall short of a welcoming standard for Hispanic families (e.g. signage, bilingual prayers, bilingual liturgies)
- Only 23% of study schools report that their boards have 3 more Hispanic members