While immigrants to the United States may face discrimination in some areas of the country, the Catholic Church welcomes them as their numbers keep the pews filled and continue to replenish its ranks year after year. One such church, St Helena’s of north Philadelphia, was actually built by immigrants from Germany and Ireland almost 100 years ago, and continues to see a wide range of nationalities in attendance every week. The senior priest of the church, Reverend Joseph Trinh, is himself an immigrant from Vietnam, and says that it is his and his colleagues responsibility to continue keeping the church alive and welcoming new generations as they were once welcomed.
Of course, the makeup of the Catholic Church as a whole is changing. Recent numbers show that the white population in attendance at Mass is decreasing, while the participation of Hispanic, Asian, and other minorities is steadily on the rise. This shift is most notable in urban parishes, especially across the Northeast – many have had to close due to lack of attendance, while churches like St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Oakland, California, see Spanish Masses both Saturdays and Sundays full to bursting with entire families.
William D’Antonio, a sociologist who has been studying trends in US Catholicism for almost 60 years, says, “We’re in the twilight of the white ethnic European Catholic Church. We are in a new era. Within 40 years, this will be a colorful church.”
Memberships in the Catholic Church overall are dropping, according to a study done by the Pew Research Center, but the trend would be much steeper if not for immigrant members. Greg Smith, Pew’s associate research director, says, “Immigrants are a large and important part of the church in the United States and their importance to the Catholic faithful will only grow, because they’re much younger than the Catholic population as a whole.”
For this reason, many Catholic leaders in the United States are outspoken about immigration reform and the need to support it. Two archbishops – Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Charles Chaput of Philadelphia – have both criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his recent anti-immigration comments, as well as the Obama administration for its current deportation policy.
Pope Francis, too, on his visit to the USA, is likely to speak about immigration reform during his address at the World Meeting of Families, and he is also visiting an immigration school in New York before personally meeting with immigrant families.
If you would like more information on immigration reform, or if you would like more information about immigration to the United States in general, Lyttle Law is happy to help. Please get in touch either via the Lyttle Law Firm website or by calling 215-512-5225.