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Posted November 14, 2005

Taken from the Instituto Fe y Vida’s Resource Center report:

Youth Ministry and the Socioreligious Lives of White and Hispanic Catholic Teens in the U.S. [NSYR]

as reported in the CARA Report Vol. 11, No.2 Fall 2005.
For more information contact CARA CARA@georgetown.edu

One of NSYR’s goals was to identify how the religious interests, concerns, and practices of American youth vary between people of different races, ages, social classes, and between boys and girls.

The majority of Hispanic and white Catholic adolescents live at opposite ends of the economic, social, and educational spectrum. This fact reinforces the need for a differentiated pastoral ministry, even with the Hispanic teens who speak English. It cannot be assumed that programs and approaches that work for white Catholic teens will work for Hispanic Catholic teens and vice-versa.

Although Hispanic and white Catholic youths shared remarkably similar educational goals, the actual educational attainment of Hispanic teens and young adults falls considerably short of the education attained by their white peers. Nevertheless, young Hispanics in the United States are quickly becoming more educated than their parents.

Young Hispanic and white Catholics reported very similar religious beliefs when it comes to certain basic Christian teachings. However, Hispanics reported more frequent experiences of personal and family religious practices, while the white teens were more likely to participate in parish and Catholic school-based religious programs and activities.

About 73 percent of both white and Hispanic Catholic adolescents have received their First Communion, but many fewer in both groups have been confirmed. The Spanish-dominant Hispanic respondents, most of whom are immigrants to the United States, were just as likely as the white respondents to be confirmed (47 percent). But the English-dominant Hispanic respondents, typically born in the United States, were much likely to have been confirmed (28 percent)

White and Hispanic adolescents participating in their parish youth groups generally scored higher on measures of educational attitudes, religious practices, family well-being, and avoiding at-risk behaviors than their respective non-participating peers.

Nationwide, about 30 percent of white Catholic adolescents were involved in their parish youth group, with the exception of youth from the Northeast, where only 12 percent were participating. At the same time, Hispanic teens participating in parish youth and young and groups (in either English or Spanish) ranged about 10 percent in the West to almost 17 percent in the South. About 20 to 25 percent of the Hispanic teens participating in parish youth groups belong to groups that meet in Spanish (pastoral juvenil).

For both white and Hispanic adolescents, attending a parish with a paid youth minister increased the likelihood of their participation by a large margin (75 percent for white, 150 percent for Hispanic teens) compared to teens in parishes with a volunteer or no youth minister.

There are a large number of “culturally squeezed” young Hispanic Catholics who are not being served in Catholic youth ministry programs because they do not fit in either the high school youth group that currently serves mostly the upper middle class teens of the dominant culture, or the pastoral juvenil approach that is serving older teens and young adults in Spanish.

The data here raise the very important question: What more needs to be done to find/educate teachers capable of relating to the Hispanic youth? Is there need to cultivate a new type of teacher/social worker who is a specialist in reaching youth of another culture? In the past, we had CYO athletic programs and similar parish/neighbor programs that attracted youth and got them off the streets. What new, creative programs are needed to attract a youth that is bombarded with distractions that move away from the parish and parish programs?