By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Thousands of Hispanic/Latino leaders are gathering in Grapevine, Texas on Thursday for the opening of the Fifth National Encuentro (Meeting). These leaders serve in dioceses, schools, universities and other Catholic organizations in the US. In remarks presented at the US Bishops’ Spring General Assembly, Bishop Nelson Pérez, Chairman of the USCCB’s Cultural Diversity Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, said that these leaders will explore together and “establish ways in which the Catholic Church can respond to the Hispanic presence in parishes and promote the New Evangelization”.
Although this 4-day meeting begins on 20 September, participants have been preparing for it since the beginning of 2017. “During that time, more than 330,000 people have been engaged in a process of mission, consultation, and community building”, Bishop Pérez said. Smaller “encuentros” were also held in 125 dioceses in which over 100 bishops and 5,500 regional delegates participated. Preparation also included a comprehensive survey regarding Hispanic Ministry which was completed by 177 dioceses.
An estimated 3,400 leaders are registered and 130 bishops are attending this national meeting. Archbishop Christoph Pierre (Apostolic Nuncio to the United States), Dr Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour (Secretary for the Pontifical Commission for Latin America), and Bishop Juan Espinoza (General Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America—CELAM) are expected to attend.
Joyful ecclesial celebration
“The National Encuentro is being planned as a joyful, ecclesial celebration that inspires conversion, communion, solidarity, missionary discipleship”, Bishop Pérez explained. Vibrant bi-lingual liturgies “will frame the whole event”, he said. Topics for dialogue and presentations include ministry to the marginalized, best practices regarding missionary discipleship, and the future of Hispanic ministry particularly to young people and families. Bishop Pérez also said that “the recommendations that have emerged from the massive consultation process designed to move forward in Hispanic Ministry in the Catholic Church in the US” will also be presented and discussed. Presentations will be delivered in both Spanish and English with simultaneous translations available.
Bishop Pérez summed up the experience saying that,
We will witness and take part in inspiring presentations, faith witness, and joyful expressions of faith and life…. It’s a great moment of grace – a mountain-top experience – a point of arrival after a 20-month journey. We also see it as a point of departure to strengthen ministry among Hispanic/Latinos so that they can better respond as missionary disciples of Christ, as leaders at the service of the entire Church, and in society.