By: Kevin Bohli, Director of Youth Ministry
At a recent training, I learned that more than half of the Catholics in our country who were born after 1982 are Hispanic — 54 percent, according to a recent Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study . The Office of Youth Ministry has been trying to increase our ministry to young Hispanics with some success, but this statistic served as a real wake-up call. We certainly have the goal to host youth events in this diocese and in our parishes that offer a better reflection of the cultural make-up of the Church.
For each of our events, we advertise in both English and Spanish. Mass is typically bilingual, and we attempt to offer speakers and music who are attractive to young Hispanics. We work hard to make sure that youth from all cultures feel welcomed at all of our diocesan gatherings.
Occasionally, we also offer events that are specifically focused on Hispanic youth, in order to encourage parish Coordinators of Youth Ministry to increase their efforts to invite Hispanic teens from their parish to participate. Two weekends ago, we offered a diocesan Soccer Festival (Festival de Fútbol) for this purpose. This festival allowed youth from throughout the diocese to gather together and compete in a 6-on-6 soccer tournament. Parishes and organizations could enter teams in either the middle or high school division, and families of the teens were encouraged to attend.
This year’s theme for our entire calendar of events is “Go Forth and Make Disciples,” or in Spanish “Vayan Adelante y Hagan Discípulos.” Our emphasis is that all adults who work with young people need to take them from a place where they will simply tolerate spiritual growth and move them toward taking their own initiative to grow spiritually. This happens when adults build relationships with young people and walk alongside them in forming them in the faith.
How appropriate that our diocesan Soccer Festival began with a bilingual Mass celebrated by Fr. Mauricio Pineda, a newly ordained priest and parochial vicar at All Saints in Manassas. Fr. Pineda grew up in the Arlington Diocese, and is a living example of what happens when adults provide ministry focus, specifically upon young Hispanics. When adults build relationships with young people, and act as a witness of Christ in their lives, those young people not only take initiative for their own growth, but then take the initiative to lead others in their spiritual growth. As a young Hispanic priest from the Arlington Diocese, Fr. Pineda now is a role model, and a witness of Christ in leading our next generation of young Hispanics to grow in their faith.
Just before His Ascension, Our Lord entrusted the Church with a mission that is still in need of fulfillment today: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”  Please continue to pray for our diocesan community — that we continue to bring this message to all young people, from all nations.
 USCCB, Hispanic Ministry At A Glance, 2012, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/hispanic-latino/demographics/hispanic-ministry-at-a-glance.cfm.
 Matthew 29:19, NAB.