ALLOUEZ, Wis. (CNS) -- Increased
vocations, Spanish-speaking priests and faith formation opportunities were some
of the recommendations made by Hispanic Catholics attending the Diocese of
Green Bay's encuentro at the diocesan chancery.
More than 120 Hispanic
Catholics representing eight parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay took part in an Oct.
22 daylong gathering, which is being repeated by dioceses across the country
this fall and in early 2018.
diocesan encuentros, or "encounters," are part of the
process leading to the U.S. Catholic Church's Fifth National Encuentro, or
"V Encuentro," to be held next September in Grapevine, Texas.
The four-year process of
reflection and pastoral planning began with developing and training parish encuentro
teams, followed by parish gatherings and recommendations that lead to the
The next step will be
regional encounters in early 2018 that further define recommendations, then
comes the V Encuentro.
The overall goal of V
Encuentro, according to organizers, is to find ways to better respond to the
growing Hispanic/Latino presence in the United States and prepare them to
answer the call to the new evangelization as missionary disciples.
Carlos Hernandez, director
of the diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office, told the group at the chancery that
their efforts to organize and welcome other Hispanics as missionary disciples
build upon Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken's pastoral plan, "Disciples on the
representatives were given handouts that listed recommendations gleaned from
earlier parish gatherings. They included eight areas of concern: pastoral
services, ministry formation for Hispanics, education, faith formation,
evangelization, vocations, youth and young adult ministry, and liturgy.
Under each area were three
or four needs. For example, in pastoral services, the recommendations included
more bilingual and bicultural priests; more Hispanic priests; more bilingual
and bicultural pastoral coordinators; and more programs and materials in
throughout the day allowed those groups to discern their most important
One of the outcomes of V
Encuentro has been the development of Hispanic community leaders who have
stepped forward to serve as parish encuentro organizers.
Among those leaders were
Cesar Quiroz of St. Willebrord Parish and Marcello Flores of St. Philip Parish,
both in Green Bay.
Quiroz, who was born in
Peru and moved to the United States 13 years ago, said the Hispanic community's
growth in northeast Wisconsin requires better organization and utilization of
"Maybe 20, 30 years ago,
the Hispanic people were few, but now it's maybe 50 percent of the Catholic
population in the United States," he said. "The big question (for Hispanic
Catholics) is, what do you do for this country, what do you do for your
religion, for the Catholic people? There are 57.5 million Hispanics in the U.S.
and 30 million are Catholics. That's a lot. They need organization."
Flores, who attended the
gathering with his wife, Evangelina, and their children, Francisco and
Kristina, spoke about how the church helped the family through medical
challenges when Christina was born premature.
Flores, who arrived in
Green Bay 17 years ago from Mexico, said his hope is that V Encuentro brings
people closer together as family.
"For example in my case,
we don't have any family here and, when that happens, you don't have many
friends," he said. "If I know somebody is in need of help, I can help him. We
can try to live more in communion with people. That is the hope."
Deacon Tony Abts,
director of the diocesan Diaconate and Ministry Formation Department, which
includes Hispanic ministry, told the group that the day's event was historic.
"We have a tremendous
opportunity today," he said. "We are gathered together, all of us, who care
about Hispanic ministry here in the diocese. … This is an opportunity to make
some changes and make things better. It's a time for creating a new vision for
ministry through the diocese, including ministry to the Hispanic population.
"And there is a commitment from the diocese after this planning process to
provide the resources necessary to make it happen," he added.
Auxiliary Bishop Alberto
Rojas of Chicago was in attendance along with other representatives from Region
VII, which encompasses dioceses in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He is the
only Hispanic bishop in Region VII and one of about 30 Hispanic bishops in the
"I hope that something
good is going to come out of the encuentro that will benefit the youth," he
said. "I think that 60 percent of young Latinos in the United States are born
in the U.S. and they speak English probably more than they speak Spanish, so we
want to focus our attention to them at this time. It's one of the priorities of
Bishop Rojas acknowledged
that the church needs to address why it is losing young Hispanics and said that
need is vocations.
Later in the day, in his
homily at Mass, Bishop
Rojas reminded Hispanic families that religious vocations begin in the home. He
encouraged parents and other adults to plant the seed in young people, to ask
if they have considered the priesthood or religious life.
One of the day's
emotional moments took place as parish representatives listed their top two
A member of St. Thomas
the Apostle Parish in Newton identifying himself only as Flavio P. said having
priests who speak Spanish and providing financial resources for pastoral
ministers were his parish's recommendations.
He briefly shared his story
as a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and
how his desire to first enter the seminary to study for the priesthood and
later to study for the diaconate was thwarted because of his legal citizenship
"My question to the
USCCB: What can you do for us?" he said in a quivering voice, referring to the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which advocated for immigrants regularly.
"It's hard, the life of
an immigrant," said Flavio. "We want our voices to be heard because there are
so many barriers. All we ask of the bishops is what can you do for us?"
After Communion at a Mass
he celebrated with Bishop Rojas, Bishop Ricken thanked those gathered for the
encuentro and said he would study their recommendations.
"I promise I will work with
parishes and with you to strive to (respond to) what you have asked," he said.
"So together, with the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I can change this