November 20, 2009

Hispanic ministry coordinator is building bridges in local Church

By Mary Ann Wyand

Margarita Solis DealHispanic and Latino Catholics from many parishes gathered for Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Nov. 3 to celebrate the feast of St. Martin de Porres.

Before the start of the liturgy, Margarita Solis Deal, the new coordinator of Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese, greeted some of the people in the seats in Spanish and welcomed them to the celebration for one of their patron saints.

Conversing in Spanish and English, Solis Deal continued to build new bridges between Hispanic Catholics and the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“Her role is to be in contact with all of the parishes that are involved in Hispanic ministry or feel they need to be, and help them further develop that ministry,” explained Father Kenneth Taylor, director of the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry and pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis.

“Margarita [Solis Deal] is not new to the archdiocese,” Father Taylor said. “She’s been working in Hispanic ministry with the schools through the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education, and that has helped her make this transition. She’s already made a lot of contacts throughout the archdiocese. Now that her role is larger than just the schools, she’s already got the contacts and can move right into this ministry.”

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein announced Solis Deal’s appointment on July 1 in response to the findings of an archdiocesan task force that studied ways to strengthen Hispanic and Latino ministry.

Since then, Solis Deal has worked with staff members of archdiocesan agencies, parishes and schools as well as Hispanic and Latino parents and students as an advocate, liaison, partner and program implementer to help

Spanish-speaking Catholics become more connected with and involved in the Church.

“Of Catholics in the United States that are 25 years old or younger, more than 50 percent are of Hispanic descent,” Solis Deal explained. “That statistic alone tells me we have a lot of work to do. Language is only one part of understanding the culture. My primary focus is to do anything I can to support the full participation of the Hispanic community in the Catholic Church in the archdiocese. That entails quite a bit.”

Solis Deal began working for the Church six years ago as the coordinator of Latino Outreach for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education.

Her bilingual ministry and English As a New Language curriculum were supported by funds from Project EXCEED. In that position, she primarily served Hispanic students at St. Anthony School and St. Philip Neri School, both in Indianapolis.

Her Hispanic and Latino outreach ministry with the Office of Catholic Education was later expanded to include support for other schools serving Spanish-speaking students.

“My role was to be the link between the Hispanic community and the Catholic school community in whatever ways that was defined to meet the needs of principals, teachers, parents and students,” Solis Deal said. “Now we have key people in some of the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies [in the center city of Indianapolis] to present the English As a New Language program. There is an instructor to work with the children and a bilingual presence in some of the schools.”

Two years ago, Archbishop Buechlein convened the Hispanic and Latino ministry task force of pastors, educators and lay leaders to collaborate and examine specific needs in parishes and schools.

Solis Deal facilitated the discussions with task force members to provide recommendations to the archbishop about ways to combine ministry efforts and use resources effectively.

Her new ministry position resulted from the Church’s need to advocate for ways to support Hispanic and Latino Catholics so they can more fully participate in parish life.

“Another recommendation that the task force came up with was to develop a lay leadership training institute for formation in Hispanic ministry,” Solis Deal said. “This would include not only the language needs, but also the cultural perspective, because you can’t separate them.”

She also serves as a resource for archdiocesan agency staff members.

“As an advocate for the Spanish-speaking community,” she said, “I can be a support to ministry leaders about how they are considering and including the Hispanic community in their ministries.”

Collaborative efforts include faith formation as well as chastity education, she said, to make these and other programs more widely available to the Hispanic and Latino community.

“A lot of beautiful work [in Hispanic and Latino ministry] is already being done in some of the parishes,” Solis Deal said. “The leadership in these parishes has been wonderful. The parish needs to be leading the way in responding to the community’s needs. Another one of my roles will be working with the parishes to coordinate archdiocesan support, resources and opportunities. Every parish defines those needs differently.”

Father Carlton Beever, the pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis, is fluent in Spanish. He appreciates Solis Deal’s new archdiocesan ministry, which will help him better serve the large number of Hispanics and Latinos in his parish.

“I think she has a lot of vision and a lot of energy,” Father Beever said. “I think all the pastors feel very comfortable with her in the role of linking agency staff members with individual, family and parish needs that relate to bringing Hispanic Catholics into greater involvement in the Church.”

(To contact Margarita Solis Deal, call her at 317-407-5760, 317-592-4068 or 800-382-9836, ext. 4068, or send an e-mail to

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