Later this month, a gathering of about 700 Hispanic ministry leaders and parishioners from throughout the archdiocese will focus on consultation, reflection and fruitfulness about where Hispanic ministry is now and where it needs to be in the future. The archdiocesan Encuentro is part of the U.S. Church’s V Encuentro.
Latino Church leaders are preparing for the archdiocesan Encuentro with enthusiasm and anticipation. The daylong, Spanish-language event is set for Saturday, Feb. 24, in the gymnasium of Mount St. Vincent College in the Riverdale section of the Bronx from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Cardinal Dolan will offer the day’s closing Mass.
Organizers say 60 parishes from the archdiocese each will send 10 delegates to the Encuentro.
“We haven’t had a national plan for Hispanic Ministry since 1987, so the consultation of the V Encuentro is an important component because it’s going to help us identify where we are in the Church for Hispanic ministry, and how we are responding to the needs of the Hispanic realities that are here today,” Wanda Vasquez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, said in a Jan. 25 interview with CNY.
She noted that the Church’s first Encuentro for Hispanic Ministry was in 1972, followed by Encuentros in 1977, 1985, 2000, and now the fifth in 2018. (In 2006, there was a similar national effort, which focused solely on Hispanic youth ministry). The 2018 Regional Encuentro will be held in June in Albany, and the National Encuentro is planned for September in Grapevine, Texas.
“Encuentro touches every ministry at every level,” Ms. Vasquez said. “It’s a coming together to provide accompaniment for those people who have strayed away from the Church, bring them on board to the Church and be the voice of our Hispanic population—to make them leaders.”
The fruits of the archdiocesan Encuentro will include a planning document for the Regional Encuentro, which will include dioceses from throughout New York state. The document will be submitted to Cardinal Dolan for his approval.
Participants will not sit with members of their own parishes at Mount St. Vincent. Instead, the groups will be mixed, so attendees can get to know their counterparts from other parishes. Indeed, encuentro in Spanish means encounter, or to meet.
There will be a keynote address in the morning, followed by breakout group sessions. At noon, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne will lead the Angelus, and there will be a pop-up exhibit, coordinated by the archdiocesan Archives, about the History of Hispanics in the Archdiocese.
Afternoon breakout group sessions will focus on youth and young adult ministries. A breakout session will focus on the discernment of delegates for the Regional Encuentro.
Parishes have experienced increases in membership during the archdiocesan Encuentro preparation process, and church leaders are delighted.
St. Brigid-St. Emeric parish in lower Manhattan is among the parishes that will send delegates to the archdiocesan Encuentro. The pastor is Father Lorenzo Ato, who is also director of communications at the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry.
“I am so happy, there is a lot of enthusiasm,” Father Ato told CNY last week, in discussing the preparation process for the archdiocesan Encuentro. “As Pope Francis has said, it is important that we make an effort to form more ministry leaders. This is a renewal, and it is the Holy Spirit that can renew the Church.”
Father Ato said his parish staff members and lead volunteers have seen a growing number of volunteers for parish ministries in recent years, including the Hispanic Ministry and Encuentro efforts.
Of special note, the pastor said, are increases in parishioners volunteering to serve as Eucharistic ministers for the sick and the elderly, especially the homebound. The new volunteers are of various ages. Their enthusiasm and camaraderie are an inspiration, Father Ato said, as church members recruit relatives, friends and acquaintances.