Get to Know: Cristofer Pereyra

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We’ll talk to Cristofer Pereyra, the new director of the Hispanic Mission Office for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix about how he plans to help the Diocese in its efforts to strengthen the faith of Hispanic Catholics in the community.

Roman Catholic diocese of Phoenix has a new director of the Hispanic mission office, outreached dedicated to providing insight into how the Church can best serve the increasing number of Hispanic Catholics in one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. Joining me now as we get to know Cristofer Pereyra. Welcome to "Horizonte."

Cristofer Pereyra: Thank you, Jose.

Jose Cardenas: This is not the first effort by the diocese to reach out to Hispanics, but this is a new office. Explain that.

Cristofer Pereyra: Sure. The Hispanic mission office was born out of the Hispanic ministry office. It evolved out of that office -- used to be the director of, rest in peace, but the reason why it had to change is because like the bishop said, needs of the diocese have changed. When he started -- hardly anybody spoke Spanish, and there weren't that many Hispanic or people knowledgeable of the Hispanic culture in the diocese at the pastoral center to take care of Hispanic Catholics in the diocese. That's no longer the case. Just about every department has somebody that is bilingual. Who is going to be doing Spanish ministry now? Everybody. My office has a very specific mission. And those are the four areas of focus that I had mentioned to you before we came on the air.

Jose Cardenas: The bishop himself speaks Spanish. Auxiliary bishop who speaks Spanish.

Cristofer Pereyra: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: Talk about the four areas of focus.

Cristofer Pereyra: Sure. There to serve with media relations, community and church relations, stewardship, which I can explain what that is, and also internal resource, and what that means, somewhat of a consultant in the -- at the pastoral center for the diocese with matters that have to do with the Hispanic community.

Jose Cardenas: I want to get into a little more detail on the four areas of focus, before we do that, what does the diocese look like in terms of the number of Hispanics who are members?

Cristofer Pereyra: Sure. Right now we know there are at least 100,000 Catholics in the diocese of Phoenix. Out of those --

Jose Cardenas: 100,000 --

Cristofer Pereyra: I'm sorry, 800,000 Catholics in the diocese of Phoenix. Out of those, we believe that at least half are Hispanic Catholics, but those numbers were -- the way in which we gathered that information, because we know that those numbers are less than the actual numbers of Catholics in general and Hispanic Catholics, and the reason is, particularly with Hispanic Catholics, many of them, the recent immigrants who come from maybe smaller towns in Latin America or Mexico, they don't have that culture in their parishes. I have talked to some of the Spanish-speaking priests, and many of them have told me out of all of the people that attend mass on Sunday, sometimes at some parishes, half of them are not raised there. We know that there are more Hispanic Catholics in the diocese than the numbers that we officially have to show for it.

Jose Cardenas: You talk about an increase in the number of Hispanics in the diocese.

Cristofer Pereyra: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: Is there also a concern with the number of Hispanics leaving the church either to become members of evangelical churches which seem to have made inroads in this area and is that part of your job?

Cristofer Pereyra: My job as I see it is to create a more fertile ground for the pastors, bishops themselves, and the priests, to come in and do what they do, which is proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But now there is always distractions in the world, and not only other religion, but many things that could have Catholics stray away from their faith. We're always concerned about that. But we're blessed to know that the diocese of Phoenix membership, Hispanic Catholics is growing. More Catholics every day, more and more Hispanic Catholics in the diocese, and that's due to many of the efforts that bishop has put in place. He really has his heart set on serving the pastoral needs of the Hispanic community.

Jose Cardenas: As you mentioned, we had an opportunity to chat off camera. And you had said that part of your job involves an aspect of voting, at least, explain that.

Cristofer Pereyra: What I said is one of the things that we are promoting particularly these days -- just in the diocese in general, is something that is talked about is the importance of your conscience in the polls, using your conscience, thinking about what moral implications that are when you go to the polls -- that goes out to the English and Spanish communities in the church. The bishop has written a book, Catholics in the public square, that talks about that, that reflects on that.

Jose Cardenas: How do you or what role, if any, do you play in communicating to the Hispanic community, members of the Catholic church here, on issues that are somewhat controversial. For example, last week, the decision in Arizona to allow gay marriage. Bishop made a statement about that. What role would you be playing in that regard?

Cristofer Pereyra: Well, I support the department of communications, particularly with Hispanic media, and what we do, when it comes to things like this, like that decision, the bishops of Arizona like to talk as one voice. So, you read that -- that statement that went out and basically I supported -- and the diocese in getting those messages out.

Jose Cardenas: One last question and then we have to wrap up the interview. On the subject of immigration, at least in the past, the church, local church has been criticized for not being forceful enough on that subject. What, if any, role will you play in communicating the church's position on immigration?

Cristofer Pereyra: Well, the church always promotes -- promotes and defends the dignity of every human person, and that includes immigrants, that includes the unborn, that includes everyone. So that's always been what the church has said, bishops have said. So, me as a person that is out there, again, trying to lay a fertile ground for the church to do its pastoral work in the Hispanic community, I just simply convey that same message.

Jose Cardenas: Cristofer Pereyra congratulations on your new position and thank you for joining us.

Cristofer Pereyra: Real quick, I have a gift for you.

Jose Cardenas: Thank you so much. That is very kind of you. Thank you for joining us.

Cristofer Pereyra:Director, Hispanic Mission Office at Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix;

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