A plan to better address the spiritual needs of Asians and Pacific Islanders in Chicago’s Roman Catholic community needs more analysis and planning before it can be implemented throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.
The Office for Asian Catholics is readying a demographic study of predominantly Asian parishes and their members. The main part of the study is expected to begin in October.
“The results and data are going to help the parishes to minister more effectively to Asians in the archdiocese,” the office’s director, Teresita Nuval, said.
Over the past weekend, about 200 young Asian Catholics met at Loyola University Chicago to discuss the specific needs of Asian and Pacific Islanders to provide better service to them within the Catholic church.
Language and cultural differences are among the challenges Asian Catholics face, said Eva J. Diaz, coordinator for intercultural ministries at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, on Friday at the conference.
“Some of the needs are very similar to what they would have been for European Catholics a century ago,” Diaz said. “But even for Asian Catholics who have been here for generations, it’s a different spirituality; it’s a different world view for Asian Catholics.”
One of the goals for the meeting was to arrive at a set of guidelines for ministers to follow when addressing Asian and Pacific congregation members. Nuval said the actions planned there now have to be implemented.
“I think it is a solid effort, a very good beginning. I think we are just scratching the surface. There are so many things we need to know,” Nuval said Friday before the beginning of the conference. “We found out that most of the concerns relate to being Asian and being American at the same time.”
People of Asian descent represent 4.4 percent of faithful in the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, 2008 figures show. That makes them a much smaller ethnic group than Hispanics, who make up more than 40 percent of the archdiocese’s members. However, Asian and Pacific Islanders are expected to grow in numbers in the coming years.
Next to being a comparably small group, another challenge for the Asian Catholic community stems from its diversity. Paul Evangelista, youth minister at Our Lady of Mercy church in Albany Park, said that compared with Hispanic Catholics, Asian and Pacific Islanders were a less homogenous group.
“We have very different languages and backgrounds,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “That is going to be a challenge.”
“There are a lot of different organizations, but they do not necessarily collaborate. The conference helped link those organizations together,” said Evangelista, who also attended the conference.
The planned study will focus on the 70 to 80 parishes with strong Asian membership, Nuval said Wednesday, but information on the survey has been sent out to all parishes in the archdiocese. The North Side of the city, she said, has the most numerous Asian Catholics in Chicago.
An important aspect, Nuval said, is to meet “with the communities to make them feel they are going to own this, this is their study.”
The information gathered will be used to help adjust programs and ministry services to the needs of Asian and Pacific Islanders. “The more pastors get educated in how to write programs like this [for the Asian Catholic community], the better,” Evangelista said.
By Jessica Binsch. This article was written for Medill Reports – Methods.