by Jessica Easthope
Here’s a statistic that’s disturbing Church leaders: Half of young Latinos living in the United States don’t affiliate with any religion.
Gilbert Perez-Moronta said hearing those results from a Pew Research survey tells him a lot of his peers aren’t as lucky as he is.
“They haven’t experienced the same love that I’ve experienced,” Perez-Moronta said. “They are looking for something to fill up the emptiness they have in their heart, but maybe they’re not looking in the right place.”
Studies show American-born Latinos are leaving the Church, with about 1 out of 5, who were raised Catholic, no longer identify as such.
But Perez-Moronta is a sacristan and altar server at Blessed Sacrament Church in Cypress Hills and one of 40 new members of Jornadas de Vida Cristiana.
“I was able to open my heart to the Lord, open my heart to Jesus, and let him do what he does, fill it with love, fill it with mercy, fill it with compassion,” he said.
Jornada for short, is a Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Brooklyn that brings teens and adults together for retreats and faith building reflections that go on to define their lives.
President Felix Perez said, in Jornada you don’t go to a retreat, you live it.
“We say we lived it, because that is a retreat that is now a part of us,” Perez said “I learned a whole bunch of tools about how to make my relationship with God better make my relationship with others better and truly serve and I learned that in the Jornada, it’s now a part of me, and I live like that, so I’ve lived that retreat.”
For members of the movement or Jornadistas, faith isn’t quiet, Sara Pena lives hers out loud.
“When you sing, you pray twice, and God gave me this gift to sing and I gotta give him all the credit, so in return I sing for him,” Pena said.
At her Jornada retreat and at the bi-weekly meetings she’s found a community and a strong sense of purpose.
“The movement is a family and it is a movement,” Pena said. “We keep going, it’s been going on until night since 1967 and I hope it goes on forever.”
Though the church continues to explore new ways to bring young people to Christ at Jornada the focus isn’t on the future, but the present.
“The diocese has seen that the youth is not the future of the church, they are the present they’re here now, and they need to be able to find God on their own terms, our kids can thrive.” Perez said.
Some teens and young adults are worried about being cool or getting a text back but not them.
“Jesus is the coolest person I have ever known and my life without Jesus would be lacking and not cool,” Perez-Moronta said. “Praying is talking to God and I believe that God is our faithful friend that we could always turn to. He’s always there to pick up the phone and answer our prayers.”
Jornada’s mission is ever expanding to meet youth where they are. Their message is delivered in a very personal way.
“To everyone watching, God loves you and he will never leave you alone,” Pena said.
They say Christ has always been there, your time is now.