As she decided to begin a new stage in her life, the School of Ministries of Boston College recognized her service, not with a diploma or medal but organizing a Symposium that would educate guests on the state of Hispanic Catholics in the United States, a population that continues to grow beyond the areas usually considered of Hispanic population.
During the symposium, Latorre underlined that in the United States “ Hispanics keep searching for God, need God and love God with a sincere simple and true faith and we owe ourselves to serve them with gratitude and gratuitously”.
A recent national study has indicated that among all Catholics that are 18 years old or less, some 65 percent are Hispanics. And this according to Offsman Ospino Director of graduate programs in Hispanic ministry at the School of Theology and Ministry of Boston College, “tells us that the present and the future of Catholicism in this country is closely linked to the presence of Hispanics”.
His remarks and those of other participants in the Symposium were featured in the Diocesan newspaper, The Pilot.
In an interview with the Pilot Ospino pointed out that Latorre has selflessly worked for the advancement of Hispanic catechesis through programs such as the Instituto de Formación de Laicos (Institute for the Formation of the Laity) a program of the Office of Religious Education.
“For four decades there has only been one Pilar Latorre, but considering the needs and the changes in the Catholic population, an office such as the Office of Religious Education or Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Boston should have at least four or five Pilar Latorre's working with Hispanics," he said.
He pointed out that the Haitian and Brazilian communities should have someone in a similar role of catechesis to that of Latorre. Other panelists spoke about catechesis and social justice, the benefit of Catholic schools, and the need for national organizations supporting catechesis and education for Hispanic Catholics.
During the dinner that followed, other guests reflected on the contributions of Latorre to the Archdiocese and recalled her work. Latorre herself offered words of gratitude recalling her beginnings as a catechist in the Cathedral, preparing children for first Communion. She recalled how, at the end of the sixties, Cardinal Umberto Medeiros asked her to begin the Office for Hispanic Catechesis, under the Office of Religious Education. With the passing of years other programs were born: A basic and intermediate course for Catechists formation, and the Program for Faith Education that evolved into the current Formation Institute for the Laity.
“It was from this office that we saw the birth of the Diocesan Congresses for Religious Education in Spanish, the Catechists Retreats and the always welcomed Catechetical Sunday that marked the beginning of a new year of catechesis”, she said. In collaboration with other Diocesan Offices in other parts of the country, Latorre managed to convince the publishing houses to publish books in Spanish and then bilingual books.
Latorre was later on named Assistant to the Director of Hispanic Catechesis and she continued in her post under Cardinal Bernard Law and the current Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
Her work also extended to radio programming and to the formation of Permanent Deacons. Among the cherished events she mentioned in her words at the Symposium are the annual Pilgrimage to the Rosario de Piedra (Stone Rosary) organized by the Marian Sodality and a tradition she began, recalling her students years at the School of the Teresian Association in Madrid, known as ‘el Día de la Virgen’ (Our Lady’s Day) dedicated to make her known.
This untiring evangelizer from Spain, a member of the international lay group, The Teresian Association, arrived in the United States in 1967, after five years of work in Colombia. She had a job as Spanish Professor at Emmanuel College in Boston, a post she held until 1992, alternating it with her service in catechesis. Upon retirement she was recognized as Emeritus Professor during the graduation event of that year. At the Symposium, she recalled how “those years at Emmanuel College were for me a blessing from God. Emmanuel was the place were I came to know and fall in love with the United States, with its variety of peoples and it was the place that opened me not only to the US but to the world”. Working with university youth was for her “a challenge and a gift”.
On June 16, she offered the homage of the symposium and the recognition given to her to the “true protagonists of so many good things that have been occurring in the Hispanic Catechesis of the Archdiocese of Boston since 1971. She recalled names and named groups as she gave thanks to all.
Looking at the future she pointed out “we must continue seeking new paths and offering new programs and new initiatives”.
She insisted in saying that “Yes, there is something new. There is an invitation to live service and self-giving, with the joy of the gospel. May God bless us and bless all our good desires.”
Araceli Cantero Guibert, United States