The Rev. Jose Eugenio Hoyos recently was appointed director of the Spanish Apostolate for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, which includes about 225,000 Hispanics in 21 counties and seven cities in Northern Virginia. Hoyos responded to questions from staff writer Lila de Tantillo.

QWhat is the job of director of the Spanish Apostolate?

AI'm a bridge builder between the many ministries our diocese offers and the Hispanic community. Whether that's youth ministry or gang prevention programs for our teens, faith formation programs for our adults, programs to attract men to the priesthood and women to the religious life, educational opportunities for my brother priests and other parish leaders on the specifics of the Spanish Mass and other Latino Catholic needs, they share the same goal: to unite our communities. After all, we share one faith, one baptism, one Lord.

What does your new position as director mean to the members of the Diocese of Arlington?

Our Latino community is young, energetic and faithful to the church. Moreover, we are the fastest-growing ethnic group within one of the fastest-growing dioceses in the country. The Spanish Apostolate must be attentive to the pastoral, social and emotional needs of this community, quick to respond and unafraid of the challenges.

What are the greatest challenges of the diversity found in this diocese?

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest challenges we face as Latino Catholics is that of integrating into our local faith community without losing our own roots. It is a delicate balance to strike, one which is not new for the Catholic Church. We see this in the Latino Catholic family as in so many other immigrant communities -- often when the subsequent generation loses the culture and the language, they abandon the faith and the values of their parents.

How are you hoping to increase the participation of area Latinos in the Roman Catholic Church?

My foremost hope is that we will continue to open wide the doors of our 67 parishes and 44 Catholic schools, not to mention our many ministries and programs, to Latino Catholics. This will mean expanding programs which build bridges between our communities, such as [English as a Second Language], immigration support, civil education, health fairs and gang prevention. I am excited about the possibilities before us.

How important is the availability of Spanish Masses and Spanish-speaking priests to this effort?

It is critical that every priest in our diocese be available in times of need for the Hispanic community. Bishop [Paul S.] Loverde has mandated Spanish for all seminarians, and in the past decade, the number of parishes offering Spanish Masses has grown from a handful to over half. My brother priests are doing an incredible job of offering Latino Catholics guidance and assistance as they integrate into our society, and I'm confident that this learning curve will continue.

In the long term, how do you hope to fully integrate all the cultures represented in the area?

Our bishop has created an office of multicultural ministries precisely for this fact -- that in the 21 counties of this diocese, you'll find Catholics worshiping in Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Portuguese, to name a few.

The Spanish Apostolate, together with this office, will continue to offer cultural programs, educational opportunities and bilingual liturgical events which unite our people -- no matter the ethnic group -- and invite them to receive the graces offered by Christ and His church.

Jose Eugenio Hoyos