I remember reading ten years ago that second-generation Mexican immigrants to the United States leave the Church at an alarming rate. Something like 85%. If I recall correctly, the theory is that the American Catholic Churches aren’t very welcoming, especially in their worship services, which have devolved from staid Irish norms and don’t match the more flamboyant inclinations of Latinos. If that’s the case, maybe something like this will help. It certainly ain’t my cup of tea (heck, I don’t even like to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer), but if it’s okay with the Holy See, it’s okay with me.
By joining the Charismatic movement, Latinos can have those kinds of intense spiritual experiences without cutting their ties with the Catholic Church.
Belinda De Los Santos says she had her first direct encounter with the Holy Spirit after becoming a carismatica. “In that moment, I laughed, I cried, I fell into the Holy Spirit,” says De Los Santos.
Bronx native Johnny Torres is a former drug addict who joined the Charismatic Catholic movement 10 years ago. Growing up, his parents’ more tempered style of Catholicism never really caught his interest.
“The first time I came over here, I started crying, my body started shaking, but I didn’t know what it was,” says Torres.
Charismatic Catholicism in the U.S. dates back about 50 years. Latinos are a driving force in the movement today.
The Rev. Jim Sheehan, a Charismatic priest and chaplain at Bronx Community College, says traditional Catholicism just isn’t connecting with the Latinos he ministers to, especially recent immigrants who are struggling.
“I think that many of us have a distant relationship with a God of the future,” says Sheehan. “Charismatics, Latinos expect God to come today — hoy día.”
Despite the Charismatic movement’s success in engaging Latinos, Sheehan says, some more conservative members of the Catholic Church disapprove of the healings and speaking in tongues.