A Brief Account of Instituto Fe y Vida’s Ministry
In the late 1980s, the Christian Brothers of the Midwest District recognized both the challenge and the opportunity presented by the large number of Latino men and women who had immigrated to the United States. Saint Mary’s Press, a ministry of the District, started a Hispanic publications project and mentored a talented group of Latino pastoral professionals to produce resources for ministry with young Hispanics. In recognition of the significant pastoral needs of Latino adolescents and young adults, that original project led to the founding of Instituto Fe y Vida (Fe y Vida) in 1994 as a separate 501(c)(3) organization. Fe y Vida was designed to offer leadership formation programs to help dioceses and parishes keep the Catholic tradition alive among young immigrants. In 1995, Fe y Vida offered its first annual national training program.
All of Fe y Vida’s staff members were employed by the Press at that time. In 2000, the Press made a substantial gift to Fe y Vida to enable it to operate independently and expand its work to meet the pastoral needs of young Latinos.
Over two decades, Fe y Vida became the leading publisher and formation institute for ministry with Latino jóvenes—adolescents and young adults. While at Saint Mary’s Press, Fe y Vida’s staff published a series of books that provided a solid foundation for pastoral juvenil in the United States. The Annual Summer Program that began with the leadership formation symposium in 1995, today offers four alternative programs each year and gathers as many as 150 young adult leaders and ministers from nearly 40 dioceses.
Fe y Vida’s Leadership Formation System now includes more than 20 programs from basic pastoral formation to a training of trainers’ level. Each year, Fe y Vida conducts a week-long national program and offers local programs in more than 20 dioceses. Through its alumni, programs and publications, Fe y Vida is contributing to the ministry of our Church among young Latinos in nearly every diocese in the United States. More than 6,000 people have been trained as pastoral leaders in these first two decades.
The greatest contribution of Fe y Vida’s ministry undoubtedly is La Biblia Católica para Jóvenes, published in 2005 with the help of the Knights of Columbus. It has been translated into Italian and Portuguese, and more than 750,000 copies of the Spanish language version have been sold. Fe y Vida has developed a series of training programs and biblical publications—the Biblical Initiative—to help Latinos in the United States and Latin America read and understand the Word of God, pray with it, and apply it to their daily lives. Its biblical Facebook page has more than 500,000 followers, principally ages 13 to 30.
Along the way, Fe y Vida has attracted many stakeholders and supporters. Hundreds of people have volunteered in support of Fe y Vida programs. More than forty pastoral team members teach and lead ministry groups in all parts of the nation. Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ, Bishop Emeritus of Yakima, WA, has served as Board Chairman since 2004. Cardinals Francis George, Theodore McCarrick and Séan O’Malley have chaired Fe y Vida’s Development program among the bishops, and Archbishop José Gomez, from Los Angeles, chairs a twelve-member Bishop’s Advisory Council for Fe y Vida.
With 20 years of experience, six full-time staff and over 40 pastoral team members, Fe y Vida is the only national institution serving young Latino Catholics with proven capacities in designing and leading formation programs, publishing for this ministry, and conducting applied research. Its joint work with other institutions enables Fe y Vida to multiply its impact, leveraging its experience and expertise to better address the pastoral needs of this vital segment of the Church.