Robert S. Pelton, CSC
the last 60 years the Small Christian Community (SCC) has staged a comeback. I
had the good fortune to travel and work with communities all over the world.
That is why my contribution may be helpful.[i]
of the particular interests for ecclesial research in Cuba has been the role of
“House Churches.” During the fall semester of 2016 Professor Peter Casarella of
the Theology Department of Notre Dame and I co-taught an advanced course
entitled “The Church and the Dynasty.”[ii]
We visited Cuba during the course.
earlier visits to Cuba, I visited these experimental “Houses of Cuban Prayer.”
This was principally in Havana. See my article “Learning from the Cuban House Churches”
in Joseph Healey and Jeanne Hinton (eds.), Small
Christian Communities Today: Capturing the New Moment, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005;
Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 2006; and Bangalore: Claretian
SCCs elsewhere, the Cuban House Churches have various names: “Houses of
Prayer," “House Churches, “Casas Mision,” “Small Communities,” etc. For
this presentation, I use the term “Houses of Prayer.”
1962, the Cuban government did not allow adding on to church structures, but it
did permit the existence of “Houses of Prayer” that had a pastoral relationship
with the parish and diocese. At the beginning of 1996, the Cuban Church began
serious pastoral planning for the dioceses of the Cuban Church.[iii]
Brief Background for the Cuban Catholic Church in the first Half of the 20th
Century (1900-1950). In this period, there were many private Catholic
schools. There were also private
hospitals, the Catholic Action Movement, various religious orders, etc. This
was radically changed with the Cuban Revolution in 1959. All private education
was forbidden, and church activities were curtailed. In the 1950s worship was limited
to taking place within the churches. Many priests left the country. In 1962,
the government did not give permission to build new churches. In 1986 there
took place the Encuentro Nacional Eclesial Cubano. This was called “A Pentecost
for the Cuban Church.” Then the papal visits began (first Juan Pablo II and then
2012, the Cuban Catholic Church expressed its mission, along with other
Catholic Conferences of Latin America. This has led to definite growth in the
number of “Houses of Prayer” in Cuba. There are about 2,300 Cuban “Houses of
Prayer” at this time.
in 1996 the Cuban Conference and also some dioceses developed pastoral plans
that included types of Small Communities. One study of the dioceses with Houses
of Prayer found that they are 74% rural and the rest are urban. 55% have a
emphasis upon rural communities is an important step for the Cuban Church. It
is opening to the larger world.
[i] January 12,
2017: Statement by Father James O’Halloran on the occasion of German documents
given to the Pelton Collection (Notre Dame).
[ii] Professor Peter
Casarella is my successor as the Director of Latin American/North American
Church Concerns (LANACC) of the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre
[iii] The figures
provided in this article come from a study on the Cuban Catholic Church
referred to in the “Study of the Conference” under the chair of the National
Commission and Bishop Emilio Arangueren of Holquin, Cuba (2012).
Robert S. Pelton, CSC is an American Holy Cross priest based at the University
of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA.
Bob Pelton CSC
Lady of Fatima House
Dame, IN 46556-0929, U.S.A.