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Jesuit Father Allan Deck (Luis Gris/Catholic Herald Sacramento photo)
“The demographic trends were already very much in the direction of the Hispanic community becoming very prominent in the Catholic Church. We knew there was a lack of leadership, there was often a lack of services, and we were concerned about serving those that were being left out.” — Jesuit Father Allan Deck
Jesuits Recall Roots of Hispanic Ministry in Southern California
September 16, 2013 — Thirty-five years ago, the Jesuits saw a need they wanted to address: to serve the Latino Catholic community in Southern California. While Hispanic ministry seems commonplace today, in the 1970s it was something of a new idea in the United States. 

The Jesuit team — a handful of young men — was given living quarters at the convent of a church in Buena Park, Calif., and they got to work.

“We began Masses in Spanish in eight different parishes,” recalled Jesuit Father Allan Deck, who was a deacon at the time he moved to Orange County, Calif., as part of the Jesuit team. “Now, more than half of [Orange County parishes] have [Mass in Spanish].”

The Jesuits also established the Centro Pastoral Guadalupe, a nonprofit religious educational institute promoting Hispanic ministry in Orange County, which would later become the Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Orange.

Fr. Deck and Jesuit Father Anastacio Rivera, who are both celebrating 50 years in the Society of Jesus this month, were among those who helped to open the Office of Hispanic Ministry.

Fr. Rivera recalled that prior to the Jesuits’ move to Orange County, few Spanish-language Masses were celebrated there — and then, often, only when a priest could come down from Los Angeles for a weekend.

“The demographic trends were already very much in the direction of the Hispanic community becoming very prominent in the Catholic Church. We knew there was a lack of leadership, there was often a lack of services, and we were concerned about serving those that were being left out,” said Fr. Deck.

“There’s no question but that my experience in Orange was the most influential pastoral experience that I had, that shaped my teaching and my writing,” said Fr. Deck. “I met people who formed me as a priest and made many good friends.”

These energetic priests were soon called to other areas of ministry. Fr. Deck founded the Loyola Institute for Spirituality, based in Orange, Calif., and Fr. Rivera was called back to Los Angeles to head Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese. Fr. Deck later served as founding executive director of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity and is currently the Charles S. Casassa Chair of Catholic Social Values at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

“It does just really seem incredible that 50 years have gone on since we entered,” said Fr. Rivera, who currently serves at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Hollywood. “It just seems like there’s a continuing, never-ending process of deepening who is Christ for me, and where is Christ calling me.” [Orange County Catholic]


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