The national gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholic leaders last weekend in Grapevine, Texas, brought a major burst of positive energy to a Church that lately has sorely needed it.
V Encuentro (Encounter) was the fifth such initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1972 and had as its theme “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.” The 3,000 participants from dioceses and archdioceses around the country were excellent examples of that sentiment, cheering on representatives for each of the 14 episcopal regions as they carried crosses and colorful banners to open the event.
We know how long and hard the organizers worked to make it happen, and we share the joy and excitement of those who were there.
The archdiocesan team led by Wanda Vasquez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, began its planning process in 2016 in local parishes and went on to coordinate with teams from all eight dioceses in New York State.
As in past Encuentros, the mission of this year’s event will continue after the delegates return home, with the goal of effectively ministering to the Hispanic and Latino Catholics that now constitute the largest ethnic group in the U.S. Church.
That’s in line with the goal we also have at Catholic New York, as we expand our Hispanic reader outreach with a new monthly Spanish-language section of eight-to-12 pages to debut on Sept. 27 as part of the regular newspaper edition.
The new section will have a mix of news and feature stories highlighting events and information of interest to the Latino and Hispanic population of the archdiocese; features on a parish or Catholic personality; stories from Catholic News Service; columns by current and new writers; event listings, and other features as well.
At the Sept. 20-23 Encuentro, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the crowd and addressed the need for healing and accountability sparked by the clerical sex abuse scandal, acknowledging that “as bishops, we have fallen short of what God expects of his shepherds.”
He acknowledged as well the spirit of the Encuentro.
“Amidst this darkness, the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, compassion, the love and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace—a gift to us as we rebuild the Church,” he said.
Pope Francis, in a video message to the gathering, called on participants to promote “a culture of encounter” by moving beyond their comfort zones to “look for those who seek a future of hope, especially young people and families that live on the periphery of society.”
He also urged them to continue the process of pastoral conversion at all levels through an encounter with one another centered in the adoration of Jesus Christ.
The pope’s words brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
With a good deal of confidence in the Hispanic leadership in the Church today, both lay and clerical, we believe that message will bear fruit for years to come.