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Mexican-American Catholics

Today,June 30, I was surprised that the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio, Texas, was crowded as usual- I thought the men would be watching the world soccer championship on TV. The sermon was given by Bishop Patricio, a kind old man who understands what Christianity is all about. He announced that he was leading a group of some 200 parishioners to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and they would also visit the house where Juan Diego lived. He showed no doubt as to the existence of Juan Diego. He also spoke at some length of the sex scandals of the Church, saying that these sins occurred in all professions and groups. This was clearly an attempt to evade the issue, and as usual there was no questioning the celibacy of priests. What the congregation was thinking was not apparent, but the faith of the faithful has clearly been shaken.

Even Hispanic Americans were abandoning the church. Here is the opening section of an AP article entitled:

Hispanics turning to Islam are increasing

Ibrahim Gonzalez, raised as a Catholic, says he didn't convert to Islam - rather, he says, he reverted. Like a small but growing number of Hispanics, the New York-born Puerto Rican has found a spiritual home in a faith with a long history in Spain, stretching to the rule of Muslim Moors from the 700s to the 1400s. Today, Hispanics with roots in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain and Central and South America are turning to Islam. A mix of immigrants and longtime residents, they are expanding the image of American Muslims as Arabs, blacks and South Asians. In 1997, the American Muslim Council counted 40,000 Hispanic Muslims; current estimates range up to 60,000. Estimates of the total number of U.S. Muslims vary wildly, from about 1.8 million to 7 million. Hispanics' reasons for converting to Islam are numerous. Many are former Catholics disenchanted with Catholic tenets. Others were attracted to what they call the faith's simplicity and directness. Some convert because they marry Muslims. "Islam was my choice because of the multiethnic components of Islam, its lack of bureaucratic hierarchy and the fact that it was very direct and gave a young man such as myself a wide purpose in life," said Gonzalez, who founded the Islamic center Alianza Islamica". Is it possible that Hispanic Americans have kept in their collective memory the story of their Islamic heritage, or are they repeating what they have been told by the Alianza Islamica?

The couple which takes care of us is from Tonga, and he is training to become a Methodist minister. They have the Victorian manner of good Methodists. He must have some skill as a preacher, since he is invited o speak in various churches. Last Sunday be preached in a Pentecostal church in Redwood City, near here, where there is a large Mexican-American community. It was the typical Pentecostal ceremony, with the congregation, hands uplifted, swaying in the wind. There is nothing like that in the Cathedral of San Fernando in San Antonio, but there is the mystery of the mass, which seems to have a hold all of its own.

Ronald Hilton - 6/30/02