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Apostolic Movement

Hispanic youth need the Church to listen to us

Inma Álvarez - Aleteia

Martin Soros, a young man belonging to the Schoenstatt movement, is to receive the Wings Award

This interview is being conducted because of the “Wings” award that will be given to Martin at the “Roots and Wings” Congress, organized in Washington DC by the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry in the United States, from April the 26th to the 30th.

Martin fully embraces, without hesitation, one of the most insistent requests from the Latino community to the Catholic hierarchy: a pastoral ministry for Hispanic youth. The fact is that they, to a greater extent than their parents, feel that they belong to two different worlds simultaneously and that they cannot forego either one of them.

“I go to Mass in English, to school in English; everything is in English, I speak perfect English and I feel that it is part of my culture,” explains the young man.

“But I also have something different, that other young people don’t have; it’s a sense of being rooted, a connection to those roots in my home country, to my family, to that culture that is so different from this country’s culture.”

For Martin, the religious influence comes from his father, as his mother declares herself an agnostic. He himself, raised from a young age in an environment of religious freedom, found faith as he matured but she also reinforced in him her own roots.

A new sense of being Hispanic

Courtesy Martín Soros

“My dad goes every year to the Virgin of Luján’s great pilgrimage. He has only missed it twice, once when I was born, and the other time because of the pandemic,” he says with a laugh. Although his mom is not a believer, there is an atmosphere of freedom and respect in the family. “She supports us, sometimes she accompanies us when we pray, these are very nice moments for us”.

Martin is aware that he does not conform to the “typical Hispanic” resident in the United States, mostly from Mexico, Puerto Rico or El Salvador. But he assures that the richness of nationalities creates a “unification in diversity“.

“We each speak Spanish with our distinct accents, with our peculiarities, but we all speak English. I never felt that our different origins created barriers, but rather reasons to share traditions”.

I need to know that the Church cares about me

When I ask him what he needs from the Catholic Church, the young man is surprisingly open.

“Kids my age are leaving the Church in droves; for everyone who stays, six leave. If the Church were a company, it would be bankrupt, I know it’s not. But in any case, someone should be concerned. Someone should realize that there are things that are not being done well”.

Are young people leaving because they disagree with the doctrine on sexual matters, or because of LGTBI, or because of the abuse scandal? “Many say it’s because of that, but it’s really something deeper,” Martin assures.

“We see in the news that bishops are meeting and talking about whether or not to give communion to politicians. It’s an important issue, I’m not saying it’s not.  But I feel like these bishops are up in the clouds debating theology, and I don’t know if they care about my life, my situation, my difficulties.”

“In catechesis and in school I learn doctrine, but they don’t put me in touch with God, they don’t teach me how to have a relationship with Him. If a young person does not feel the catechist’s love, the parents’ love, the priest’s love, how can he understand the Father’s love? In reality, when a young person decides to leave the Church, it is because he has not felt anything for the Church for a long time”.

Hispanic youth
Courtesy Martín Soros

And how to approach young people?

“It is necessary that those who make decisions in the Church listen to us, that they listen to our experiences, but not only those of young people: also, those of women. Also, those of African Americans,” he says. “We need them to talk about our problems, our difficulties, to help us find God in our world.”

“We young people have a great sense of social justice – Martin states -, we need to see that Church that is at the frontier, that is helping the poor, helping immigrants without documents in those detention places”.

For Martin, the “situation of polarization in the Church and in society, but especially in the Church, is “extremely frustrating”.

“It is unbearable. In the Church there are the extreme traditionalists, those who enter the Church, close the door and are stuck there; and then there are the ultra-liberals, who do just the opposite, close the Church door and remain outside.”

“Sometimes there is fear of change. You have to be careful, but change is necessary because the world changes. But also, don’t move too far to the other side, to the other extreme, and ignore parts of the Gospel.”

Young people want change as well as tradition

He wants to talk about this in his speech accepting the “Wings” award. “The Congress itself is called Roots and Wings. It’s not called wings and it’s not called roots. Why? Because both are necessary.”

“We have tradition and modernization, that is, we have to integrate both, we have to become truly integrated in order to move forward. And that’s what many young people want,” he assures.

“I think the Catholic faith is so deep and complex that there is not just one way in. There are a lot of young people who really want traditions, who go to Latin Mass and feel that it’s something that allows them to have a deep encounter with Jesus. And that’s something to respect and value as well.”

“There are many who really like that more traditional side and want to discover the intellectual side of the faith as well. There are many young people like that and then there are others who are not and who prefer to be much more connected to life and to community and to a relationship with Jesus. And I think that both, both ways of discovering the faith, are very valid and both should be respected”.

Martin is already preparing for the leap to University, and there he wants to connect with groups like Focus (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and others. The Wings Award is a responsibility for him: “it is a commitment to continue working with the youth, to continue with the ministry and with the Church trying to make the voice of the young people heard wherever I am“.


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