According to the latest Census stats: Latinos make up the largest ethnic minority in the United States The majority — two-thirds — are still traditionally Roman Catholic. However, a growing number, almost 600,000 a year, are leaving the Catholic Church. We can imagine that St Peter Nolasco's heart would be broken at these people leaving the Apostolic Faith. The Mercedarian Third Order in Atlanta, Georgia is doing it's part to preserve the faith of these immigrants.Sheila Appling, the treasurer, tells of their work and prayer:
We are proud and blessed to belong to such an outstanding faith community. We humbly dedicate our lives in the service of the Lord through His Blessed Mother under the title of Mercy. It is a great privilege of grace to work alongside priests, brothers and seminarians of whom we share in the redemptive mission.
The Third Order in Atlanta carries out the redemptive mission through the weekly recitation of the holy rosary with families that invite Our Lady of Mercy into their homes. The families we visit are immigrants mostly from Mexico. We started this mission by knocking on their doors, offering them food, clothing and asking them if they would like to receive Our Lady. Without hesitation they said yes. During these weekly prayer times, we discovered that many of the families were not attending Mass as well as numerous children and adults were in need of the sacraments. We continue the Rosary but have added another dimension of serving the homeless with food collected through donations from the rosary and our members.
Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River. It is the fastest growing state and has a large population of Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico. According to a 2003 Needs Assessment by the Archdiocese of Atlanta the estimated number of Latinos in Atlanta was 460,000. I believe we have surpassed that number. In one of the areas we serve we estimate over 1,000 people living in this small mobile park community. This community is in dire need of evangelizing. We have discovered many adults and children without the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage. They are very opened to the Charism of the Order of Mercy. We, the Third Order of Atlanta,try to visit these captives, "break open the Gospel" and help them return to and be reconciled with Christ and His Church. The harvest is ripe indeed! There is a strong sense of urgency here in Atlanta to help those in danger of losing their faith.
Thank you for taking the time to hear efforts here in Georgia.
In Jesus through Mary,
Third Order of Our Lady of Mercy
For More information about Latinos leaving the Church see: