Immigrant success story

Church biggest influence in family's acculturation
October 31, 2003

Editor's note: The following essay was written in response to a letter criticizing Hispanic immigrants that was published in an earlier issue.

As a third-generation Mexican-American, I strongly support and encourage the Episcopal Church to further expand its ministry to Hispanics.

When my grandparents came to the then-territory of Arizona and the State of California more than 100 years ago, they chose to leave the state religion of Mexico, Roman Catholicism, because they were more fully embraced and evangelized by the welcoming Christian missions

The second generation of family members became members of Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal churches due to their outreach. This generation graduated from high school, became blue- and white-collar workers and small business operators, served in the military (proudly in World War II), moved to the suburbs and bought homes and further acculturated by joining English-speaking churches. One of my uncles actually attained a masters degree and became a high school teacher.

A large portion of the third generation of my extended family graduated from college and attained graduate degrees, several at the masters level and a couple of Ph.D.s. The various professions they entered included nursing, teaching in public school and university settings, performing arts, casting agent consulting, leadership development and executive coaching, photography and private investigating. Two became Peace Corps volunteers.

The emerging fourth generation includes a social worker, a marketing specialist, an engineer, an architect, a computer consultant, two psychologists in the making and a recently ordained Episcopal priest.

I have reflected on how it was that my extended family was able to develop their gifts so quickly and contribute back to society. In my opinion, the single-most important factor was their evangelization and acculturation through the church. Yes, the first generation needed to be addressed in their own language; however, through them the seeds were planted for fuller participation in and contribution to this wonderful country by the succeeding generations.

Over and over, in the gospel, we are urged to minister to those in need and to the marginalized without judgment. In this process of ministry occurs a holy alchemy that transforms both giver and receiver. It is where we meet Christ!

Jesus was deeply moved by the material and spiritual poverty of the people he encountered. In John, Jesus asks several times, "Do you love me," and when Peter affirms that he does, Jesus responds, "Feed my sheep."

As the church, the Body of Christ, so must we.