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Latino leaders seek dialogue within Church

By Jordan McMorrough
February 14th, 2008
Today's Catholic (www.satodayscatholic.com/)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Today’s Catholic) - The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), an organization whose purpose is to work with the church for the common good in the service of Latino communities in this country, held its national inaugural event Jan. 16.

CALL was created last September in Denver after U.S. bishops identified the need for ongoing dialogue with Catholic Latino leaders. The group will provide a forum for members to strengthen their faith in community through prayer, education and service.

San Antonio Archbishop José H. Gomez and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Denver, both ex-officio members of the organization, were in attendance as were clergy and Latino business leaders from across the country.

The inaugural gathering at Club Giraud included a prayer service led by the archbishops, unveiling of the organization’s logo, and introduction and blessing of the Executive Board.

In welcoming attendees to CALL’s first national meeting, Archbishop Gomez described San Antonio as the perfect place to begin this journey, as for more than 300 years this community has been enriched by its Latino roots.

“It is my prayer that one day we will all look back on this beginning as a moment of God’s grace for all people, as we embrace the responsibilities and opportunities that come with the leadership roles we share in our Latino community,” he said.

The archbishop said the event marked the continuation of the commitment of the Catholic Church to the Latino culture, and the leadership of Latinos shaping the past, present and future of the church in the United States. “Now it is our time to make a difference in the life of the church, to bring to mainstream America the blessings of the integration of faith and culture that are a great contribution of Latinos to the culture of our nation,” said the prelate.

‘Effective witnesses of our Catholic faith’

Archbishop Gomez emphasized that the organization’s goal is to not only engage in the public debate, but to have impact on the national dialogue matters and policies vital to Latinos.

“Today, more than ever, our voices must be heard,” he said, citing the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing segment of population in the United States and the Catholic Church, and that 71 percent of all the growth in the U.S. Catholic population since 1960 has come from the Latino community. “We must be prepared to be effective witnesses of our Catholic faith.”

The archbishop lamented that many Latino families are being separated by unjust immigration laws, their hope is being diminished by poverty, and they are still confronted with discrimination.

“We must be committed to lifting up our Latino brothers and sisters so that we all can share in the promise of this great country and live productive lives with dignity and hope. We must share with all men and women seeking the truth, that the Catholic Church has the answer to the deepest yearnings in their hearts,” Archbishop Gomez stressed. “God is calling us not just to be Latino leaders. We are called to be his apostles in every culture and every area of society.”

In his remarks, Archbishop Chaput said he became involved with CALL for two reasons. First, in his own state of Colorado, and throughout the United States, Latinos are a growing percentage of the population. Second, he said, “America has an amazing ability to welcome new immigrants and new leaders. It’s one of the qualities that make America unique in the world.” The archbishop explained that, for the overwhelming majority of Latinos, the Catholic faith lies right at the core of Latino identity. “CALL exists to help Latinos remember and live their identity as Catholics — and by living their faith with zeal, to become a leaven of service within the Latino community and in American society at large,” he said.

Mission: Getting to know God better

Archbishop Chaput commented that the mission of CALL is to help Latino leaders know God more deeply, experience the church more intimately, support each other in the Catholic faith, grow in leadership skills and work together with the bishops to serve and advance the Latino community.

“This is a national mission, and CALL is an acorn that needs to grow into an oak — and the sooner the better,” he said. “CALL’s first goal is to form a new generation of deeply Catholic Latino leaders in service to the Latino community. That’s vital. That’s where we begin. But CALL is much more ambitious than that, because leaders always are.” The archbishop concluded, “In shaping and encouraging Latino leaders and in serving the Latino community, the ultimate mission of CALL is to humanize the public square we all share and the public issues we all face in common as a nation.”

CALL organizers have stated that the group will be focused on core values 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 promoting the evangelization of culture and the common good, all in collaboration with the bishops.

Executive Board members include: Mario J. Paredes, director of Community Business Development for Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. based in New York City; Robert Aguirre, owner of Robert Aguirre Consultants, L.L.C., a strategic planning, organizational development and project management consulting firm in San Antonio; Manny García-Tuñón, vice president of Business Development of Lemartec Engineering and Construction Corporation, headquartered in Miami, Fla.; José Ambrozic, director of the Saint Malo Catholic Retreat, Conference and Spiritual Center in Denver; and Sergio Gutierrez, founder of Montero Capital, L.L.C., a multi-stage private equity investment company headquartered in Denver.

Each of them were presented a Bible and a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe following their commissioning ceremony.

Historic moment

Paredes told attendees they were 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,” he proclaimed.

Paredes, who is serving as president of the Board, thanked Archbishop Gomez for his role in encouraging and supporting this initiative, saying, “He 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.”

Paredes announced that CALL is now recognized as a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Texas with a tax exempt status.

He then explained that the 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,” said the Board president.

Paredes deemed the establishment of CALL “the full realization of our vocation as Christian Catholic leaders.”

In closing, the Merrill Lynch executive issued a 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.”

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