Latino Christian Movement

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PADRES, Las Hermanas
Time Period
A number of Latino Christian movements emerged in the 1960s-1970s in the United States. Inspired by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement's search for equality, the Second Vatican Council’s (1962-1965) willingness to address contemporary needs in the Catholic Church, and Liberation Theology’s blend of so cial justice with Christianity, Latino Christians began voicing desires for equality.

The founding of PADRES in 1969 and Las Hermanas in 1971 were the most prominent organizations addressing issues within Latino Christian community. PADRES, a San Antonio organization composed of Hispanic Catholic priests, called attention to the lack of Hispanic representation in the American Catholic hierarchy and insensitivity toward the Latino culture in Catholicism. Las Hermanas, composed of Hispanic Catholic women, desired inclusivity for women and Hispanics alike, both within the Catholic Church and society more broadly.

These movements highlighted the changing landscape of American Catholicism and the desire for more inclusivity for marginalized groups.
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Social Movements and Religion
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Social Movements and Religion in American History
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Leading Movements

Forty-eight Mexican American priests gathered in San Antonio in 1969 to discuss their shared concern over the challenges facing Hispanics in the Catholic Church and U.S. society. Their ranks included Ralph Ruiz, Patrick Flores, Henry Casso, David Duran and Virgilio Elizondo. Together they founded PADRES (Padres Asociados para Derechos Religiosos, Educativos, y Sociales), an organization of Hispanic Catholic priests. The organization called attention to a number of issues, including the lack of Hispanics in the American Catholic hierarchy, the widespread insensitivity toward the culture of Hispanic Catholicism within the church, the importance of appointing Spanish-speaking priests to predominantly Hispanic parishes, and the economic and social ills afflicting Hispanic communities.

In 1971, a group of Hispanic Catholic women led by Sr. Gregoria Ortega, OLVM, and Sr. Gloria Graciela Gallardo, SHG, founded Las Hermanas. An inclusive organization open to women religious and laity and Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike, it has sought to combat discrimination in the church and society and to empower marginalized populations, with particular attention focused on the needs of Hispanics and women. Since the early 1990s, it has been based on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1991, Fr. Alan Figueroa Deck, SJ, founded the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry. It is designed to serve as an umbrella organization, coordinating the work of a variety of organizations and communities, in order to enhance the potential of Hispanics to serve the church and to promote quality Hispanic ministry.


Members of PADRES and Las Hermanas played essential roles in the establishment of the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC, which now stands for the Mexican American Catholic College). Since its founding in 1972, MACC has educated lay and ordained Catholics, regarding the cultural contours of Hispanic Catholicism and the critical elements of effective Hispanic ministry.

PADRES declined over the 1980s, a victim in part of its own success. By the early 1990s, some 20 Hispanics had been promoted to the rank of bishop. Meanwhile, a series of national meetings, known as encuentros (1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000), contributed to a deeper appreciation of the growing Hispanic presence in the U.S. Catholic Church and the importance of Hispanic ministry. These meetings also helped generate the “National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry,” which was approved by the U.S. bishops in 1987.

Fr Ralph Ruiz, a founder of PADRES- Hathi Trust- Civil Rights Digest v 2.1 (1969)

Patrick Flores, archbishop of San Antonio and member of PADRES- National Archives and Records Administration

Our Lady of the Lake University- Flickr- photo from Boston Public Library (CC BY 2.0)

Virgilio Elizondo- Flickr- photo by Latino Leaders Network (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Robert E. Alvis

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