ANTONIO (CNS) -- Answer the call to missionary discipleship by addressing the
needs of your church. Meet young people where they are and just listen. Improve
catechetical resources and prepare future leaders.
were some of the strategies discussed by more than 800 delegates representing
18 Catholic dioceses in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, as they participated in a
bilingual three-day Region X encuentro in San Antonio April 13-15.
meetings are the latest phase of preparations for the U.S. Catholic Church's
Fifth National Encuentro, or "V Encuentro," to be held Sept. 20-23 in
Grapevine, Texas. Previous national encuentros were held in 1972, 1977, 1985
is a multiyear process to discern the needs, aspirations, and faith practices
of the 29.7 million Hispanic and Latino Catholics in the United States. First
came parish-level encuentros, then the diocesan gatherings and now the regional
encuentros are taking place.
process for the upcoming national encuentro -- inspired by Pope Francis' 2013 apostolic
exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel") -- began in 2014.
is the Holy Spirit calling us to at this moment as a region?" asked Ken
Johnson-Mondragon, the Fifth National Encuentro's research coordinator, as he
presented to delegates in San Antonio a regional working document based on
diocesan findings. He added that the conversations among participants while
using the document as a discernment tool were most important.
delegates worked in about 80 small groups to talk about challenges,
opportunities and successful practices in areas like evangelization and
mission, faith formation and catechesis, youth, family ministry, immigration
and theology. Their recommendations will be presented before the national encuentro
to the working document, Hispanic Catholics make up 6 million of the estimated
8.4 million Catholics living in the U.S. church's episcopal Region X. Some
dioceses in the region, like Beaumont and Fort Worth, Texas, Oklahoma City and
Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Little Rock, Arkansas, have seen their Hispanic population
increase more than 100 percent between 2006 and 2016.
have seen the growth of the Hispanic community in our region and we are seeing
our needs within the church," said Francisco Lariz of Fort Worth, who came to
the Region X encuentro with 40 members of his diocese. "We hope that with our
contribution we can all find the best ways to fulfill the needs of the future
generations and of those who are here now."
encuentro weekend was full of honest and fruitful dialogue in both Spanish and
English, bilingual presentations, and time for prayer and song. Over 20 bishops
from the region accompanied the delegates throughout the weekend, with many
choosing to participate in the small working groups' conversations.
the discussions, delegates representing different ministries and cultures,
shared some of the early fruits of "V Encuentro," which included increased
participation, more resources for Hispanic ministry and a renewed openness to
encountering Jesus in those most vulnerable.
are going beyond their comfort zones and take time to hear those in need," said
Lily Morales, Hispanic ministry coordinator for the Dioceses of Austin, Texas.
She described how touched people have been by the process of going out and
encountering people in the peripheries during their parishes' encuentros.
parishioner in Morales' encuentro group approached a blind woman and just
listened to her -- as the process encourages. The parishioner discovered that
the woman was struggling financially and did a raffle fundraiser with her
church, Morales said. "She also invited her to the sessions. That person was so
grateful that the church reached out to her."
Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller told Catholic News Services that the "V
Encuentro" process is for every parish.
had made a decision that the culture of encuentro will be part of the
(archdiocesan) pastoral plan, so we are going to be embracing more and more
parishes until our parishes are attached by the 'Joy of the Gospel 'that is the
heart of the whole of 'V Encuentro,'" he said.
and sharing experiences during the Region X encuentro gave delegates ideas on
how to get more involved and serve their community.
mentality has changed," said Silvia Hernandez-Martinez, a parishioner of St.
Anthony in Columbus, Texas, a parish in the Dioceses of Victoria that is
starting a Mass in Spanish as a result of "V Encuentro."
she said, she would only see the church's need to share information in small
towns like hers, but now she wants to inform others about church's resources.
"This encuentro motivates me to be a bridge, to let the diocese know about our
explained that the multiyear "V Encuentro" process seeks to activate at least
20,000 new Hispanic Catholic leaders nationwide. People such as Marco Elizaldi,
who traveled 12 hours to San Antonio with his Tulsa delegation.
joined the church 10 years ago, and said he found out about the encuentro
process when signing his son up to receive his first Communion. Elizaldi, who
is a lector and is looking into becoming a deacon, said he was inspired by
delegates' discussions on leadership development and the different ministries
Hispanic Catholics are joining
"I saw willingness to follow the steps of
Jesus Christ," he told CNS. "Good things happen when you are able to become
that tool to help others."
Flores, a youth minister at St. Thomas More in Tulsa, added that the "V
Encuentro" process encouraged her to evangelize in her community and family.
"The 'V Encuentro' helped us to see that we don't only need to help ourselves
but we need to help others," she said.
priority of "V Encuentro" is to reach out to U.S.-born Latinos, said Julio
Beltran, coordinator for the Pastoral Juvenil (Hispanic Youth and Youth
Ministry) in the Diocese of Beaumont and chair of the Region 10 Team.
a study that says that 60 percent of Catholics under age 18 are Hispanic,
Beltran told delegates, "We need to offer spaces where bicultural and bilingual
youth can use their gifts and take leadership roles."
himself found a second home through youth ministry at his parish when he was a
teenager. This encouraged him to serve the Catholic Church through in Pastoral
Juvenil, which is what he did as soon as he received his Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status and was able to work for the Beaumont
is not "one way" to reach out to the second- or third-generation Hispanic
Catholics, Beltran said, but we can empower them from their reality. "We cannot
have a culture of 'English only,' 'Spanish-only' or 'We have always done it
this way,'" he added.
and dioceses must try to provide a sense of community along with catechetical
and leadership formation for both first and second generation Hispanic
Catholics. Beltran echoed the comments of youth ministers at the regional in San
Antonio by saying that young people yearn for authentic concern for their well-being
and their future and someone willing to accept them as they are and accompany
them in their journey.
Latinos are the present and the future of this country," Beltran said. "We
should not want to evangelize our youth because of fear of having an empty church
tomorrow, we should do it because it's our baptismal responsibility."
three-day Region X encuentro concluded with the celebration of the Mass, with Archbishop
Garcia-Siller as the main celebrant, and a reminder of the baptismal call to be
Francis has insisted that to be missionaries does not happen at the end," said
Archbishop Garcia-Siller. "As you are becoming a disciple, you are missionary."