By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – As parishes come to the end of their five listening sessions of the V Encuentro, the Office of Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Jackson is asking parishes to save the date for the two diocesan-wide Encuentros.
The word Encuentro loosely translates as ‘encounter’ and is meant to describe the start of a new relationship and exchange of ideas, a strengthening of faith. These diocesan gatherings are the next step in a national process. In Tupelo, the Encuentro is scheduled for Saturday, October 7, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at St. James Parish. The Jackson-area Encuentro will be held on Saturday, October 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Madison St. Francis Parish.
The registration fee for youth and adults is $25, which includes lunch and a t-shirt. The cost for children ages six to 12 is $5, but does not include a T-shirt. There will be activities planned for these children in keeping with the theme of the V Encuentro. There will be no childcare for children younger than the age of six.
These gatherings are part of a process which will take several years to complete. First, dioceses across the country have assembled Encuentro teams to lead group discussions. Then, those teams host listening sessions at individual parishes to discuss specific issues facing the Hispanic Catholic community in America. These parish groups lead to a parish Encuentro to invite the whole community to participate.
Parishes will bring the results of their discussions to the diocsean Encuentro meetings. Finally, the dioceses will present their thoughts and themes at a national Ecuentro set for 2018 in Texas. National organizers hope to get an accurate picture of the Hispanic Catholic Church in America and to use that information to evangelize and strengthen the church overall.
Two parish meetings have been held so far, one in Hazlehurst on Sunday, July 16, at St. Martin’s Catholic Church and the other was held Saturday, August 19, at Carthage St. Ann Parish. Other communities in the diocese will continue to hold these Encuentros until all have participated.
In her presentation at the parish Encuentro in Hazlehurst, Patricia Lopez told the participants she understands that they may have felt a little unprepared to be a part of the Encuentro process. “But we must remember that when God chooses us to do something for Him, he does not leave us alone, since God does not call those who are prepared, but prepares each one who is called,” she explained. “When Jesus chose his apostles, these were people who had no preparation, they only knew how to fish. Jesus only had to ask them if they wanted to be fishers of men, and they followed him.”
Miguel Cruz, vice president of the Jackson-area Christian Family Movement, said he was very motivated because the attendees of the sessions have learned how to be leaders. One of the parts of the training he valued the most was learning how to meet their brothers and sisters who have moved away from the church.
“They have motivated us to not sit idly by, to get out there and to meet the needy in our communities. I am happy to be living this process which is the experience of new evangelization that Pope Francis has entrusted to us,” he said.
The themes covered in the sessions will help Brenda Valdez of Madison St. Francis Parish in Madison, be a missionary of Christ. She is pleased to have the opportunity to live this encounter. “I’m learning a lot of new things, especially the problems that some of the Hispanics are going through in the state and the needs that exist in different communities,” she said.
According to the national organizers of this process, more than 5,000 parishes, 175 dioceses and more than one million people are participating in the country. Millions of committed leaders have participated in its implementation.
To register or find more information, visit the Hispanic Ministry page on the Diocese of Jackson website, http://jacksondiocese.org/about/offices/hispanic-ministry or call 601-949-6931.
By Elsa Baughman