New initiative prepares young Catholics to lead with social justice in mind

Starting with critical conversations on race and immigration

Catholic Extension has partnered with the Mexican American Catholic College (MACC) on a new initiative to help young Catholics lead within the complex realities of American society.

“Encuentro y Mision: Theological Education for Latino Millennials and Gen Z,” seeks to broaden participants’ understanding of pastoral, social, and economic realities that Americans face today.

Participants are Latino young adults from around the country. These individuals have completed diocesan formation programs, and are now looking for opportunities to learn and serve.

Critical Conversations on Race

Due to the pandemic, the program delayed in-person lessons and immersion trips to marginalized communities. Instead, the instructors developed a virtual series on race and issues of social inequality and injustice, titled “I can’t breathe…” Critical Conversations for Young Adult Faith Leaders.

For the first session, a group of young adults from seven Catholic dioceses met with guest speaker Fr. Roberto Mena, ST.

Father Roberto Mena from Forrest Mississippi
Fr. Roberto Mena, ST

Fr. Roberto is the pastor of St. Michael in Forest, MS, where ICE raided chicken processing plants on the first day of school last August. The raids separated and traumatized hundreds of families. 

But Fr. Roberto was there to accompany them in their suffering. Over the last year, he has tirelessly served those impacted through continuous support from our Holy Family Fund. He told his story over video call, but the message hit close to home for the young adult leaders listening.

Here’s what participants had to say:

I am so grateful and excited to have this opportunity to learn and connect with other Catholic Latinxs who have been called to serve our brothers and sisters in most need. I’m surrounded by good people here in Mississippi, but I also have spoken with folks, even fellow Catholics, who are letting politics guide their thinking instead of their faith which overwhelms me. God knew that this class and this group is exactly what I need right now to help me grow, focus, and to serve as a reminder that I can’t let negativity discourage me.

Daisy from Mississippi

As a daughter of immigrants, I know how it feels to be afraid of losing your parents one day. I feel so grateful that, through this program, we can help other immigrant parents out there.” 

Isabela from North Dakota

This is just the beginning

The next sessions will continue through July and explore the impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism.

In the fall, the young adult leaders will begin a 15-week course called “RESPETO,” a transformational leadership formation program for young Latino Catholics. And when travel is possible, they will embark on a week-long missionary immersion experience in a marginalized American community supported by Catholic Extension.  

Catholic Extension and the Mexican-American Catholic College see this program as a way to raise up a new generation of Catholics committed to lead the Church with a deep understand of the needs, sufferings, hopes and aspirations of our society. 

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