By Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSPS
The Office of Hispanic Ministry is inviting everyone to participate in the Fifth National Hispanic Encuentro, set for Sept. 20-23, 2018, at the Gaylord Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.
Work toward this national Encuentro is already underway. Much of it was started at the recent diocesan Encuentro in Greenwood. A team of pastoral leaders also met in early June at Winona Sacred Heart to begin training.
The “V Encuentro,” as it is called, is a process rather than an event; it is more than a meeting of pastoral leadership and more than a series of documents on how to minister to the Hispanic community. Its main objective is to discern the pastoral response of the church toward the Hispanic/Latino presence in the U.S. and enhance the response of the Hispanics/Latinos as a church.
We need this Encuentro because we are growing in the country and there is a need for thousands of new leaders; because there is not capacity to meet this growth in leadership and ministerial response in parishes, dioceses, schools and Catholic institutions.
The V Encuentro will have an enormous impact among Hispanics in the United States, in our dioceses and in our parishes since in it will be involved more than 5,000 parishes, 175 dioceses, more than a million people in the suburbs, millions of committed leaders and more than 100 Catholic organizations.
It is imperative to engage the largest group of the Hispanic/Latino presence – youth of second and third generation in this process. New immigrants and their families offer missionary potential and the church needs to keep new Catholic immigrants and help them progress in all dimensions of their lives.
The Encuentro process is motivated by the reading of the signs of the times and convened by the bishops, who are calling on the Hispanic/Latino people to raise their prophetic voice.
This encounter will take place within a process at various levels: parish, diocesan, regional and national. With the support of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, I am creating a diocesan team to facilitate this encounter. The team will be trained by the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) in the coming months. Members will be responsible for raising awareness about the process in local communities, as well as implementing the plan that will come out of the process.
They will also be responsible for providing training to parish teams in the implementation of the resulting plans. This process of evangelization and consultation has its foundation in five sessions inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.”
The guide for the parishes, lay movements and Catholic organizations who will participate in this transformative missionary process will be available in the fall.
All of us will be working under the direction of ENAVE, (a representative group of National Catholic Organizations) and with the support and direction of SEPI.
This encounter will work from the base, this means that everyone in the diocese is important. This process will begin at the parish level, then at the diocesan level, at the regional level and finally to the national level. We are making efforts to involve ecclesial movements and organizations. The greater the contribution of Hispanics and other nationalities, the richer the process will be.
According to the national team, the V Encuentro hopes to reach millions of people who will become missionary disciples – witnesses of the love of God, especially to the young people and families who are living in the margins of society.
We can only accomplish this mission through the participation of a great number of people. Look for announcements about activities in your parish, volunteer through the Office of Hispanic Ministry and pray for those involved in this process. This missionary action is part of our baptismal call to mission and holiness, because we are called to build community and to be responsible for the gifts that God has given us.
With the support of our Bishop, Joseph Kopacz, the Office of Hispanic Ministry, the parish leaders – priests, ministers and ecclesial leaders – lets undertake together and with enthusiasm this path and let ourselves be transformed as the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus, saying that our hearts are burning with joy “by what happened on the way.”
(Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSPS is a pastoral associate in the Office of Hispanic Ministries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)