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Catholic Latino leaders group hosts D.C. launch

WASHINGTON - With several hundred guests for a reception at the Vatican Embassy Sept. 23, the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, or CALL, launched its first national outreach effort at an observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"To be a leader is to have a clear sense of identity," said Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, in welcoming CALL members and hundreds of others to the embassy. "What I wish for all Latino leaders is that you have a sense of identity and of very clearly belonging."

CALL was founded in 2007 under the guidance of then Denver Auxiliary Bishop Jose H. Gomez. Now the head of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archbishop Gomez was among about a dozen bishops and archbishops at the Sept. 23 event. Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, also attended.

Mario Paredes, chairman of CALL's board of directors, said the group came to Washington to introduce the organization to the leadership in the nation's capital.

Among the guests at the event were Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza; Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, several senior staff members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Washingtonians active in politics, public policy and cultural groups with ties to various Latin American countries. Many of the guests said they came out of curiosity, to learn about CALL.

Manny Garcia-Tunon, secretary of the organization, told Catholic News Service that the reception was intended to mark CALL's national presence. Though the group numbers fewer than 50 official members, Garcia-Tunon said local chapters are being developed in Miami, San Antonio, Denver, Houston and Phoenix, all of which will have events in October.

Garcia-Tunon, the vice president of his family's engineering and construction firm and an author and speaker on business topics, said the broad goal of CALL is simply to work with the church for the common good in the service of Latino communities. That starts with goals such as helping Hispanic youth get good educations to enable them to succeed in life, he said.

Promotion of the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage and supporting the church in the promotion of vocations to religious life also are on the group's agenda. He said they also will be working in support of comprehensive immigration reform and health care legislation.

Membership in CALL is by invitation. Its activities so far have included a retreat in June led by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and a formal launch event in 2008, both in San Antonio.

Garcia-Tunon said he's been impressed at the "absolute fellowship" and camaraderie that characterizes all the group's activities, despite the sometimes very different perspectives of its members. Particularly on some political topics, he acknowledged that the views of Latinos of Cuban heritage in Miami, for example, are vastly different from those of Mexican-Americans from Western states. But the commonality of faith and church teaching has gotten the members beyond such differences, he said.

"Regardless of the issues, we need to always make sure we use mercy and justice as our barometer," said Garcia-Tunon.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009