“How are we handing on the Catholic faith to the large number of young Latino Catholics, who are the present and the future of the Church in this country?”
— Timothy Matovina
Timothy Matovina is a professor of theology and co-director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in U.S. Catholic and U.S. Latino theology and religion.
My research focuses on many aspects of Catholicism in the United States but especially Latino Catholics and all aspects of their Catholicism—their religious practices, the history of their presence in the U.S. Catholic Church, the theology behind them, how they're involved in public activities, voting patterns, and especially the all-important issue: How are we handing on the Catholic faith to the large number of young Latino Catholics, who are the present and the future of the Church in this country?
Latino Catholics are very important but they're not just important because of the numbers—there are many of them, that's certainly true—but they're also important because they bring so much to the Church, such deep Catholic values, a sacramental view of the world, they're beautiful religious traditions, the sense that the faith is not just something you do on Sunday but something that's part of every day of your life. I've become a better Catholic because I've been involved with Latino Catholics for more than 30 years.
I first got drawn to studying Latino Catholics when I was in graduate school and I got to do a special semester of study at the Mexican American Cultural Center, a Catholic training center in San Antonio, Texas. I just fell in love with it. I went there knowing almost nothing about Latino Catholics, and when I left, I decided I was going to dedicate the rest of my life to serving, working, and researching this important development within our Church.
What I'm working on now is a history of the theology and the devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has been going on for almost 500 years in Mexico, throughout this hemisphere and now around the world. Guadalupe appears everywhere: on T-shirts, on home altars, in churches, on buildings, in little plaques that people put in their cars. What is it about this story, this image, this tradition, that has such a powerful influence in people's lives?
I was part of the first faculty group that was brought in to strengthen Notre Dame's work with Latino studies and I'm delighted with all the progress we've been making and continue to want to make to advance the Institute for Latino Studies and all of our efforts to make Latino studies part of Notre Dame. We're at the center of the research that says: How can we foster, not just bringing these numbers of people in, but how can we foster the many gifts that they bring being put at the service of the Church and being put at the service of our country?