Did You Know You Were A Blessing?
I direct the question that serves as this column’s headline to readers of The Message who are of predominantly European descent. Your families built this diocese throughout the 1800s and 1900s – long before it became the Diocese of Evansville. You are mostly German, and I am at least a part of you because Mom was a Hostetler.
Like many dioceses across our nation – especially those north of Interstate 40, if you’ll indulge a bit of geographic profiling – European immigrants served as the foundation of American Catholicism. At one time, parish boundaries tended to be more ethnic than geographic in some areas, if not all. Where I grew up, south of Pittsburgh in the western Pennsylvania coal fields, my little home town had several Catholic parishes; they were Polish, Italian, Irish, Slovakian, Lebanese (Maronite Rite) and Greek (Byzantine Rite).
Back to my original question – did you know you were a blessing? I learned how true that statement is several weeks ago when Bishop Joseph M. Siegel and Father Bernie Etienne, our Diocesan Vicar General, were guests of the Latino American Center for a meeting and luncheon. Well-known local businessman Abraham Brown provided an overview of the Latino demographic in the greater Evansville area, and he began with a statement I wasn’t really expecting.
“We are blessed by the diocese and by the Office of Hispanic Ministry,” he said. “The diocese has provided many services to the Latino community for many years.”
So, yes; you … we … have been a collective blessing to our Latino brothers and sisters. And at least partially as a result of our blessings upon them, their community continues to grow as a viable, successful element of our tri-state area.
Brown explained that, as of the day of the meeting more than a month ago, there were 72 Latino-owned businesses in Evansville. Just in the past week, the Evansville Courier and Press published a feature on a new “home cooking” restaurant in Newburgh with Latino ownership, and I suspect that more are on the way. The point is that the Latino community’s business footprint continues to grow larger and more mature in our neighborhoods.
The Latino demographic is largely Mexican-based in Vanderburgh County. Brown said that 70 percent of the Latino population hails from Mexico. One in 10 comes from El Salvador, another one in 10 from Guatemala, and the last one percent includes a mix of Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and people from other Central and South American countries. Brown also said that 40 percent of our Latino community has moved here from other U.S. states.
That tells me that opportunities exist here for our Latino brothers and sisters. That is good, in my opinion. Other indicators of opportunity are the facts that half of the Latinos in our area, according to Brown, immigrated from five poorest states in southern Mexico; and the other half immigrated from the country’s richest states. What a contrast.
What that tells me is that we offer the poor and under-educated chances to find work, and better themselves and their families. It also tells me that we offer those with more substantial means a chance to build businesses and become successful in their chosen fields.
In my perfect world, everyone would be part of the second group; but I realize that can’t be because Americans of all nationalities fall across the socioeconomic spectrum.
To everyone who reads these words: Thank you for whatever you have done, large or small, to support our Latino community. Always remember that they consider you a blessing. As a result, I believe God is smiling.