Catholics’ Integration

By | September 4, 2019


By the middle of the 20th century, millions
of American Catholics began to move beyond their traditional neighborhoods and join mainstream
society. Access to higher education, a more professional
workforce, and deep changes in the life of the Church coincided in shaping a new phase
of Catholicism in the United States. Catholics became a stronger voice in society. Their schools rose up to top levels of recognition
and their political presence significantly increased. Many Catholics–many Catholic families transitioned
to the middle class. This is true in many ways, particularly of
Euro-American Catholics. However, not all Catholics made it in terms
of education or professional achievement or economic advancement. Millions of Catholics in this country did
not experience the benefits of becoming middle class because of the race or social location
or cultural background–and, in some cases, all three together. To this, we must add that during the last
few decades, most of the growth of Catholicism has been concentrated, not in the suburbs
or the wealthy neighborhoods, but in the large cities, in the barrios. Immigration has certainly played an important
role in such growth. Most Catholic immigrants, the majority of
them from Latin America, are not middle class and lack the socio-economic stability of many
of their mainstream Euro-American Catholic sisters and brothers. Because this last group constitutes the fastest
growing sector among Catholics in the country, we are witnessing a social transition back
to the barrio in the city that is deeply reshaping the identity of the Catholic experience in
this country.

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