February 19, 2016

New Hispanic Ministry coordinator brings experience and ‘fresh eyes’

(En Español)

By Natalie Hoefer

Oscar CastellanosWhen Oscar Castellanos left his studies of theology at the University of Notre Dame several years ago to return to Hillsboro, Ore., little did he imagine he would return to Indiana in the not so distant future.

This time he has come to stay—not as a student, but as coordinator of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“I was already familiar with the state, and some friends I studied with at Notre Dame who live here recommended I apply for this job,” said Castellanos, 34 and a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.

With the position of Hispanic Ministry coordinator remaining vacant for more than a year, Castellanos knows he has his work cut out for him.

He said that Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, former archdiocesan Intercultural Ministry director, “laid down everything that was going on in Hispanic Ministry” before he left for Spokane, Wash., for graduate studies at Gonzaga University in November.

“He said we’re doing everything we can, but sometimes it’s not enough. [The need for Hispanic ministry] is just growing so fast that it’s quite a challenge.”

First generation immigrants tend to move around, following jobs, he explained. But second generations and beyond tend to settle down where they know they can find a faith community.

Then the need for Hispanic ministry begins—not just for Mass in Spanish, but for all that follows the life of a Church-going Catholic, Castellanos said.

“Once you have Mass in Spanish, you start having baptisms, marriages, quinceañeras [the rite of passage for young Latina women when they turn 15],” the new coordinator explained. “Then you open the door of sacramental preparation and classes [in Spanish]. The next step is to find the right people to teach the classes—not just anyone, but capable, trained leaders.”

From there comes a need in the parish office for translators and translating documents as Spanish-speaking parishioners register for classes. Then comes the need for providing ongoing religious education classes, and again, the right people to teach them.

Castellanos’ role is to support parishes as they move in this direction, helping pastors to “find the means, and start them little by little so eventually every parish is doing its own Hispanic ministry.”

One institution already in place in the archdiocese to help meet the need for Hispanic leaders is the Hispanic Pastoral Leadership program.

“The majority of dioceses have [something like] that, but this one is very solid, [meeting] every week for two years,” Castellanos said. “They’re integrating theology with the necessary tools to do ministry as a volunteer or staff member. At the same time, [the program is building] the aspect of human formation.”

Another responsibility he takes on is meeting with a group of Hispanic pastoral associates and directors of religious education who brainstorm ideas for how to face the challenges of providing Hispanic ministry at the parish level.

“There’s a huge list of things they’re working on,” Castellanos admitted.

He also hopes to work with other archdiocesan offices to raise awareness of Hispanic needs and advocate for solutions.

“And that [help] goes both ways,” he added.

He will also work with integrating grass-roots faith-based movements into parishes, such as Cursillo, and to promote Encuentro—a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ initiative to seek input from Hispanic Catholics at the parish level to develop a national plan in 2018 for addressing Hispanic ministry.

Castellanos comes to the job with his feet firmly planted in two cultures and his head proven capable of wearing many hats.

During his youth, his family moved back and forth between Las Vegas, Nev., and Guadalajara, Mexico, until permanently settling in Las Vegas in 1996.

“I’m a U.S. citizen, but I say I’m Mexican, because that’s the culture I absorbed,” he said.

He felt a call to religious life early, entering a seminary of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit at age 17.

Castellanos said he never intentionally chose Hispanic ministry. Rather, internships, volunteer efforts and jobs— both as a seminarian and after he left the seminary—led him to experiences with Hispanic ministry involving youths, music, liturgy, catechesis, marriage preparation and even canon law.

After 10 years as a seminarian, Castellanos discerned a call to leave the community while he was studying at Notre Dame. He returned to Oregon to a town near Mount Angel Seminary in the Archdiocese of Portland where he had studied philosophy. Castellanos worked for a while, then determined he still had a call to ministry work. He completed his theology degree at Mount Angel, then eased his way into ministry work.

“I started part time as a receptionist in a parish,” he said. “I knew if I wanted to be a leader in ministry, I would need to know how things work from the ground up—answering phones, taking orders, maybe using the broom,” he said with a laugh.

Less than a year later, Castellanos took a position as pastoral associate in a parish with the largest Hispanic population in the Archdiocese of Portland. His next stop—the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Despite his wide range of experience, Castellanos said he is “still learning.

“I feel like a sponge. My background helps, but I still need to grow. I’m hungry to continue to form myself as a leader.

“I come with a fresh set of eyes, and I’m a good listener. Before I make any changes, I want to hear what people have to say.”

After he has settled more into his position and “after the cold [weather] has gone away,” the married father of three hopes to become involved in his second passion: soccer.

“I love to coach soccer—youth, high school, college,” he said.

Perhaps one day he’ll coach his own children, who are currently ages 4 1/2, 2 1/2 and 11 months.

That will come in time, he said.

Meanwhile, Castellanos said he is “very happy, very thrilled” with his new position as archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry coordinator.

“I knew leadership would be a key area where I could contribute,” he said of his life’s journey so far. “It was my call.” †

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