This past weekend the Guadalupana’s from San Diego’s Hispanic Catholic Community bid a fond goodbye and retirement party for their Vicar, Auxiliary Bishop Gilberto E. Chavez. It was a heart felt,warm goodbye and tribute to the man who has been their guiding light for the past 33 years.
For San Diego’s Chicano/Hispano community, the appointment of Father Chavez as Auxiliary Bishop had been a triumph. Despite the large numbers of Hispanic Catholic worshippers in the United States in 1974, there was only one other Hispanic Bishop! This fact reflected the trend that prevailed throughout the States, not only in the Catholic community, but in just about every other stratum within our society.
Hispanics and Chicanos were fighting for equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal representation, not only within the Catholic hierarchy but in political circles as well. Hispanic representation across the board was lacking. This fight carried over to the Catholic Church, with the Hispanic community asking that the church reflect their worshippers which accounted for over 50% of the total congregation.
As detailed in today’s story, by Raymond R. Beltran, Father Chavez was a good choice for the Hispanic community. Throughout the past 33, years Bishop Chavez has repeatedly justified his selection as he has fought and stood by the Hispanic community and championed the rights of the underrepresented. And, with the appointment of Bishop Chavez the number of Hispanic priests within the diocese has increased throughout the years.
Now that Bishop Chavez is leaving the church, through mandatory retirement at the age of 75, the question is, will Bishop Brom, appoint another Hispanic as Bishop to be the symbolic leader for the Hispanic community?
At present, it appears that Bishop Brom intends to leave the post unfilled with Auxiliary Bishop Salvatore J. Cordi-leone assuming the responsibilities of Bisphop Chavez. We find this information disconcerting at best. For the Hispanic community, a Hispanic Bishop has been a source of great pride as he has served as their anchor within the diocese, someone they can turn to and know in their heart has looked after their Christian needs.
Without a Hispanic Bishop that anchor by which Hispanic Catholics have become accostumed to will be gone and there will be a sense of loss and disconnect from the Catholic Church, in a sense like lost sheep.
In the ‘70s the Chicano/Hispanic community had to fight for representation. Let us hope that 33 years later we as a society have grown to the point that we no longer have to fight for representation but that it should be self evident that it is in the best interest of the diocese that a Hispanic is appointed to replace Bishop Chavez in the near future.