University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Deborah Winslow, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Anthropology
An Anthropological Study of the Reciprocal Relationship Between Hispanic Women and the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire
This anthropological study examines Hispanic women's contribution to the church community and explores their relationship with the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire. In 1990, the Manchester diocese established an Office of Hispanic Ministry to meet the needs of New Hampshire's rapidly growing Hispanic population. Between 1969 and 1990, the only ministry for the small Hispanic community was an occasional Spanish Mass. By 1990, however, the Hispanic population had grown to an estimated 15,000 (Tidings 10 July 1995), and it became evident that the church needed to do more to minister to their needs.
With a focus on gender, I observed two of the three Hispanic parishes in the state to explore the relationship between women and the church. I participated in church and family activities, and I conducted formal interviews with Hispanic women and the parish priests. After analyzing my data, I conclude that there is a reciprocal relationship between Hispanic women and the Roman Catholic church. Rather than being passive, submissive subjects of a dominant church, Hispanic women are active agents in the relationship. I further conclude that the women in these parishes contribute significantly to the life of the community through their work in the church. Their contributions, however, are often unrecognized and rarely acknowledged. It is my hope that this study will lead to a better understanding of the relationship between Hispanic women and the Roman Catholic church, and increased appreciation for their contribution to the church community.