The Latin American Catholic Diaspora

April 8, 2014
DePaul University

Ondina Cortés, RMI
~ Assistant Professor in School of Theology & Ministry, St. Thomas University

Afonso Soares
~ Professor of Theology, Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (Brazil)

Dorian Llywelyn, SJ
~ Associate Professor of Theology & Director of Catholic Studies, Loyola Marymount University

As part of the "Catholics in Diaspora" portion of World Catholicism Week, each speaker presented a different perspective on the Latin American diaspora experience. Sr. Ondina Cortés gave a talk entitled "Diaspora as Mission? Interpreting the Experience of the Cuban Catholic Community in South Florida." The summary she offers is as follows: The Cuban diaspora in the U.S. is known for its economic achievements & political influence. Much less publicized is how faith shapes this community’s self-understanding, particularly within the Cuban Catholic community in South Florida. Catholicism, in its Cuban cultural expression, offers critical theological resources that have enabled the community to face the challenges of diasporic experience & transform them into mission.

The presentation by Afonso Soares was entitled "Syncretism Among Catholic Migrants in Brazil & the Task of Pastoral Theology." Drawing on some collected data, this talk raises some questions that help illuminate the challenges of the pastoral & the theology of migration. The presentation proceeds in three stages: initially, remembering the current concern of the Church's magisterium with the syncretism among Catholic (im)migrants; then, offering some examples of these syncretisms; and finally, focusing on the task of pastoral theology from this suggestion: the way for solution is a careful theology of revelation that dialogues with the theology of religions.

Fr. Dorian Llywelyn spoke on "The Chilotes of Patagonia & Jesús Nazareño: Devotions & Identity in the Diaspora." He summarizes his presentation as follows: Over the course of the last century, many members of the population of the remote Chilean archipelago of Chiloé have emigrated to Chilean & Argentinian Patagonia. In the capital of the Chilean province of Magallanes, the small city of Punta Arenas, the shrine of Jesús Nazareño is the epicenter of a diasporic Chilote identity. Public devotion to a statue of the suffering Christ--itself a copy of a historic original located in the homeland of Chiloé--has engendered a new pride in, and awareness of, a historically marginalized population. This talk examines the history & development of the cult, & considers the role of processions & pilgrimages as expressions of collective identity.

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