In the United States, 42 percent of Catholics are Hispanics, yet less than 10 percent of Church leadership is Hispanic. The Diocese of Yakima, Washington, is finding ways to narrow this gap and to promote a missionary zeal among its seminarians.
The diocese has seen a steady rise in vocations and now has nine seminarians. The majority are Hispanic, reflecting the area’s increasing Hispanic Catholics who are primarily seasonal migrant workers.
As part of their formation, seminarians minister to migrants in the summer. They work side by side with migrants during their long hours, praying with them and offering sacramental preparation. The seminarians organize weekly Masses at the migrant camps to alleviate the transportation challenges migrants face in getting to Church.
Yakima is teaching its seminarians to become missionary priests. Not only do they travel distances to reach people, but they are reminded that the Church must continuously respond to the changing needs of its faithful.
Vocations director Father Felipe Pulido said that the core of his diocese is missionary and, just like Jesus and his apostles, seminarians need to go out to meet people.
Seminarians are required to be bilingual, so Anglos are learning Spanish and Hispanics are learning English.
Catholic Extension has funded seminarian education in the diocese since the mid-1950s. It sponsors the diocese’s migrant ministry program, totaling nearly $1 million in the last five years.