Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Bishop Smith presides at St. Rose of Lima.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Bishop Smith presides at St. Rose of Lima.
Ordination to the Episcopate
Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith

2 p.m., April 29
St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith is grateful for Latino Catholics in the Archdiocese of Portland.

"In the long run, the growing presence of Latino Catholics will enrich the Church, not only with their presence and faith, but also with their customs and traditions," the new bishop says.

He is aware that the number of Anglos in Catholic parishes is declining overall but the number of Latinos, particularly recent immigrants, is increasing. "Latinos bring a strong sense of family and of faith," he says. "To get a quick example of this just look around you at Mass on Ash Wednesday, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Day of the Dead. Many of our churches are packed."

To build bridges among Latinos, Anglos and other cultures, he suggests joint apostolic works and shared celebrations. He knows the situation is not easy.

"It is always a challenge when different cultures are placed together in the same setting, especially involving worship," says the new bishop, who grew up in multicultural South Africa. "Latinos are in the process of adapting to life and the Church in the U.S. In the same way they bring their own faith, traditions, and customs and enrich the Church and life here."

Celebrations like Our Lady of Guadalupe fulfill a role of faith, pride and identity for Latinos in the U.S. much as St. Patrick's Day does for Irish, says the bishop, who is of Scottish-Irish descent.  

"The challenge is we become threatened by something different from that which we are comfortable and familiar with," he says. "This transcends any particular ethnic or cultural group. We all deal with this because we are all human."

The new bishop says Catholics need to involve Latino communities in parishes and leadership. Parishes also need to discover the community's needs.

"They need to be addressed and included as we move forward in the Church together," he says. "When people have good relationships with each other, and see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and not 'us' and 'them,' then we begin to understand and accept each other along with the many gifts each brings."

When in seminary at Mount Angel, Bishop Smith met many Latino classmates from the U.S. and other nations. Two of his confreres in the Brotherhood of the People of Praise, a private association of the faithful, served at St Anne Parish in Gresham for years. The parish is large and largely Latino, with as many as 600 baptisms per year. In his work for the Charismatic Renewal, the new bishop has seen strong growth in prayer groups in many places.   

The new bishop sees the election of a Spanish-speaking pope as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

"Pope Francis' election was the reflection of the fact that 72 percent of Catholics now live in Latin America, Africa and Asia," the new bishop says. "These are 'younger' parts of the Church but now we see them reaching the top levels of Catholicism.  

The Church is very multicultural and embodies elements of all cultures where the faith has taken root. Obviously, it will encourage Latino Catholics in the U.S."

The choice of a pope from the Americas, Bishop Smith says, gives a signal that "the Church is worldwide and that all people of faith are included, whatever their ethnicity or culture."