Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez told Latino leaders it is one thing to acknowledge the fact the country and the U.S. Catholic Church "are becoming more and more Latino and Hispanic," but "what we do with that reality ... is up to us.""I think we all know that we are living in a period of change in which we face some big questions about our nation's direction and future. I believe those questions must form the context for our mission as Hispanic Catholics and faithful citizens," he said.Archbishop Gomez made the comments in an address Aug. 13 in Denver during the sixth annual conference of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, known as CALL.The theme of the Aug. 12-14 gathering was "A Catholic Summit on Faith, Citizenship and Public Policy: Our Challenge and Our Responsibility."Among the speakers was Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru, who spoke about "Our Role in the Universal Church: The Americas and Beyond."Businesswomen Wendy Dominguez, Diana Vela, Nora Urrea and Nancy Hernandez led a panel discussion on "Catholic Public Engagement: Choices, Decisions and Action." Other panels focused on "Immigration Reform: Balancing Politics, Economics, Legal Issues and Our Catholic Faith" and "Faith, Public Policy and Politics."In his talk, Archbishop Gomez cited a number of statistics about Hispanics in the U.S., figures that were discussed in more detail in a presentation by Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.The archbishop noted:— Hispanics now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population and account for almost 60 percent of the nation's growth in the past 10 years. Nearly one-quarter of American children today age 17 and under are Hispanic. — Since 1960, Hispanics have made up 71 percent of the U.S. Catholic Church's growth.— More than one-third of Catholics are of Latino descent. More than half of U.S. Catholics today under the age of 25 are Hispanic.But he said the growing number of Hispanics and their youthfulness "won't mean much unless Latinos choose to become moral and spiritual leaders in our church ... unless we seek to become a force of influence in the cultural and economic renewal of America. Beyond demographics, other forces are changing U.S. society, Archbishop Gomez said, pointing to a "rising anti-life and eugenics mentality ... new legal and cultural attacks on marriage and the family ... (and) a growing hostility toward religious believers and institutions from elite sectors in our society.""Our society increasingly encourages a kind of practical atheism in which people go about their daily lives as if God does not exist," Archbishop Gomez said, adding that it is "this picture we are called to influence with our increasing presence and numbers.""Many of our fellow Americans are coming to realize that secularism and consumerism are no foundation upon which to build a way of life," he added. "They are hungry for what is transcendent. They want God. They want to know his love and his power in their lives."My friends, we need to be the ones our brothers and sisters can turn to — to find God, and to know a true vision for America."Archbishop Charles Chaput, in an address the same day, told the gathering: "Being truly 'Catholic' in 2011 — whether we trace our roots to Mexico or France or Ireland or Korea — means one thing: It means living a life of sacrificial witness. And the privilege of that witness will fall especially on leaders. That means men and women like yourselves."The prelate, Denver's archbishop since 1997, was recently appointed to head the Philadelphia Archdiocese."America, from its beginnings, has been a nation of faith and a nation of immigrants. Its laws and institutions depend not on where her people came from, but on what they are willing to sacrifice to keep the experiment alive," he said."The most important gift you can give to our country is to lead with a courage, wisdom and character rooted in your Catholic faith."Archbishop Chaput said the "central goal in every Catholic life is knowing and loving Jesus Christ — and then bringing other people to do the same.""Political issues are important. We need to address them in the light of the Gospel," he said. "But the main work of a Catholic life is evangelization — in other words, the conversion of the world, beginning with our own hearts and then spreading outward to the culture around us."—CNS
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