Lost and Found: Immigrant Conversion Stories, the New Evangelization, and Parish Life

Brett C. Hoover


The author reflects on a conversion narrative that emerged in the context of a yearlong ethnographic study of a Catholic parish in the Midwest. The study was intended to uncover the practices and understandings of parish life in a shared parish, that is, a parish with two or more distinct cultural communities with their own masses and ministries but sharing the same parish facilities. The “lost and found” narrative of conversion that emerged in the parish’s Latino/a community has roots in Latin American manifestations of the new evangelization but has taken particular form here in the United States. It frames conversion as the outcome of religious education, and it offers both gifts and limitations. On the one hand, immigrant parishioners receive a rich template for articulating their own stories of faith, especially in the midst of the dramatic change associated with migration to a new country. On the other hand, that same template has some polemical and reductionist themes that will trouble pastoral leaders and that may not serve the second generation well. Pastoral leaders and theologians do well to note both the advantages and ambiguities of this faith narrative as Latino/a Catholics move toward becoming the majority of U.S. Catholics.


Hispanic ministry; New Evangelization; conversion; parish

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ISSN: 2169-1088