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Diocese issues warning about misleading ministries

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Father Kevin Collins pastors at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Houston's East End district, home to some of our city's oldest Hispanic neighborhoods.

"Here's one from 1935," Collins said as he opened a registry book, so old it's spine had been reinforced with tape.

The church registry books record dates and information for faithful parishioners.

"Here's our brand new baptism registries," he said. The latest entries were recorded in February because the church didn't hold baptisms during Lent.

Each registry tracks the lives, the sacraments, of everyone baptized at Immaculate Conception, even if they relocate to another parish.

"Then that church where you are confirmed sends a record to me and I enter it here," Collins said. "And then when you're married, that church sends me a record, and I record you're married all in the same register."

And that's how church leaders discovered what they described in a recent newsletter as: non-catholic "ministries," groups offering "misas" which is Spanish for mass, drawing Hispanic people from their Catholic Religion.

It's happened several times over the years, including just last March. According to the newsletter, the group is called "Catholic Church in America."

They have their own priests and a bishop, who travel from another state to offer baptisms and first communions.

Collins says instead of tithes, they ask for payments for their services.

"Over 100 dollars to have their child baptized," he said.

The group is not affiliated with the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

"It's a church," Collins said. "It's a church. They follow a lot of things that the Roman Catholic Church does, but they've broken away and they don't come under the jurisdiction of the pope."

The paid baptism, for example, comes with a certificate, one that many Hispanic Catholics have held tight to in anticipation of their child's next sacrament.

"They'll come in for first communion, and they'll bring and say 'here's my baptism certificate,' Collins said. "And we'll look at it and say it's not legitimate."

The church doesn't turn people away, but similar to the process of recording each parishioners sacraments in the registries, there is a process in attaining each milestone.

And it may be years until parents discover their child hasn't been baptized through their church.

"We will find out in six years when they show up for first communion."

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