WASHINGTON (CNS) — Acknowledging the growing number of Hispanic Catholics in the United States, diocesan social action directors strategized Feb. 6 on how to better integrate them not just in their local parish, but in the wider church.

There was no shortage of ideas offered during the daylong meeting of the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors, and one of the sponsors of the Feb. 7-10 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

Rich Fowler, a former social action director in the Diocese of Stockton, California, recalled how Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton wanted strong peace and justice communities in every parish in the diocese — and he didn’t want the parish leadership to be just Anglo.

One ready resource for English-speakers, Fowler said, was the “Good News People” program available from JustFaith. But “Good News People” wasn’t available in Spanish, Fowler said, and the possibility existed that a translation into Spanish of Anglo spirituality would not work well with Hispanics.

However, Fowler came upon “La Justicia Brota de la Fe” (“Justice Flows From Faith”), a formation program offered by Renew International that was not only conceived in Spanish, but was imbued with Latin American spirituality. English speakers took the one-year “Good News People” series, while Spanish speakers are just now finishing up the two-year “La Justicia” program.

Representatives of JustFaith and Renew who were in attendance at the Roundtable meeting said they would work to cross-promote the other’s program to twin with their own.

Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, who was the first executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, outlined some the differing approaches to spirituality taken by Anglos and Hispanics.

Anglo approaches to spirituality, he said, tend toward the individual, to reason, the pragmatic, the analytic and the discursive. The Hispanic approach, Father Deck added, is not individual but collective in nature, and often emotive, concrete and immediate, graphic instead of analytical, and stresses both the transcendent and the a “learn by doing” nature.

Symbolism cannot be discounted, Father Deck said. The banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe used by the United Farm Workers union at its start 50 years ago “galvanized a movement,” he added.

Leadership in Hispanic ministry must work together on advocacy issues, said Estela Villagran Manancero, president of the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry, and director of the Office of Latino Ministry for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Such issues go from improving border management to “making college possible for young Latino immigrants,” she said. On schooling issues, she suggested connecting Catholic schools “with the number of young Latino children who would love to be in our schools,” adding it could also foster vocations.

Seemingly simple initiatives could have a profound effect, such as how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is now urging its chapters that run thrift shops to pay a living wage to their workers so the employees don’t have to avail themselves of the bargain-priced goods they sell.

Diocesan “Justice for Immigrants” activities are “organized around the popular celebrations of spirituality” in the Hispanic community “to get people to engage in advocacy,” said Marco Raposo, director of Peace and Justice Ministry for the Diocese of El Paso, Texas.

“We started with posadas, which have been around for hundreds of years,” Raposo said. A posada re-enacts the efforts of Joseph and Mary to find lodging in Bethlehem before the Christ child is born. “Then we turned it into migrant posada. … During Lent we have the migrant Way of the Cross.”