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New York’s Encuentro Must ‘Announce The Gospel,’ Vatican Archbishop Says
Christian Cisneros
Cardinal Dolan offers the closing Mass at the Archdiocesan Encuentro, a gathering of some 650 Hispanic ministry leaders and parishioners from throughout the archdiocese. The Spanish-language event was held Feb. 24 in the gymnasium of the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. To the cardinal’s left is Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. To the cardinal’s right is Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne and, standing next to Bishop Byrne is Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh.

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization told Hispanic ministry leaders at the Archdiocese of New York’s V Encuentro they must first have a sincere “personal encounter with Jesus” before they can truly help others in their spiritual journeys.

“We are a Church that supports everyone, and excludes absolutely no one,” Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas said during his morning keynote address Feb. 24 at the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. “As Pope Francis says, we must be missionary disciples.”

The archbishop offered the example of helping one another in a natural disaster or other crises no matter the differences in cultural or religious background. One must live the Gospel, he said, not just speak it.

Archbishop Ruiz, a Colombian prelate who serves at the Vatican, said the faithful should not be afraid, alluding to the Lord’s comforting words. One should not be afraid of personal challenges or societal struggles, he said, citing worries that stem from unjust immigration laws. Trust in the Lord, he added, and in the intercession of Mary.

“God is love,” the archbishop said, asserting the significance of spreading the Gospel, the teachings of Christ, and holding up Jesus as the protagonist of missionary efforts. “We must announce the Evangelization filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy; we cannot be passive. We must be disciples and missionaries. That is the vocation of the Church, to announce the Gospel.”

“We are called to the New Evangelization,” the archbishop stressed in his Encuentro address, noting the importance of family and community, and addressing the needs of youth and the elderly.

The day’s activities occurred in the campus gymnasium, Sharp Athletic/Recreation Center, and next door in the Cardinal Hayes Auditorium. The Spanish-language event was organized by the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, led by director Wanda Vasquez.

Cardinal Dolan celebrated the closing Mass of the daylong archdiocesan Encuentro, which drew 650 Hispanic ministry leaders and parishioners from throughout the archdiocese. Archbishop Ruiz served as the homilist.

Encuentro participants focused on consultation, reflection and fruitfulness about where Hispanic ministry is now and where it needs to go in the future. An important goal is to continue to recruit more of the faithful into Hispanic ministries and train them for leadership roles in response to the rising population of Hispanics in the United States. Also important, organizers say, is reaching people out in the peripheries. The archdiocesan Encuentro is part of the U.S. Church’s V Encuentro.

“Gracias por su presencia (Thank you for your presence),” Cardinal Dolan said to Archbishop Ruiz at the start of the Mass. He also thanked Auxiliary Bishops Gerald Walsh and Peter Byrne for serving among the dozen concelebrants.

The cardinal said he was grateful for the presence of everyone who gathered in the auditorium for the special Mass, acknowledging the presence and work of the organizers. “My brothers and sisters in Christ, I am very content to be here,” Cardinal Dolan said.

During his homily, Archbishop Ruiz reaffirmed some of his remarks from his keynote address, noting, “We must be witnesses of Jesus.” He talked about the power of mercy; and he spoke of the importance of faith and trust, alluding to the story of the Wedding at Cana, the story of Abraham and his son, and the Transfiguration of the Lord.

A morning breakout session with groups focused on discussing a working document to address what needs to advance at the parish and diocesan levels. An afternoon breakout session included discussions on youth and young adult ministries.

Father Jean-Paul Soler, pastor of St. Clement-St. Michael parish on Staten Island, spoke to attendees before the afternoon session. He cited the importance of faith-based family living and respect life values.

“You must connect with the Light of Christ,” Father Soler said. “If you live with the Light of Christ, you will pass on the Light of Christ.” Father Soler is also a member of the archdiocesan Pastoral Advisory Council for Hispanic Ministry.

This year’s V Encuentro follows previous Encuentros held in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000.

The 2018 Region 2 Encuentro will be held June 22-24 in Albany, and the National Encuentro is scheduled Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

Encuentro in Spanish means encounter, or to meet. Organizers said the effort was a coming together to provide accompaniment for those people who have strayed from the Church, to bring them on board with the Church and be the voice of the Catholic Latino population, to make them leaders. Participants did not sit with members of their own parishes. Instead, the groups were mixed so that attendees could get to know their counterparts from other parish communities—to share best-practice approaches in their ministries.

At lunchtime, Archbishop Ruiz led the Angelus, and the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Choir provided rhythmic, faith-based salsa numbers for entertainment. The choir singers and musicians came from various parishes. The Mass procession featured an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue donated to Cardinal Dolan by the Mexican community four years ago. The procession also featured a cross for the archdiocese made by migrants from Colombia now living in New Rochelle.

The fruits of the archdiocesan V Encuentro will include a planning document for the Region 2 Encuentro, which will include all eight dioceses in New York state. The document will be submitted to Cardinal Dolan for his approval. It will be written by Father Adaly Rosado Jr., parochial vicar of St. Joseph parish in Spring Valley, and Luis Peña, assistant to the director of the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry.

At the end of the Encuentro Mass, Archbishop Ruiz and Cardinal Dolan each were presented with a plaque of appreciation, a gesture that drew applause from the congregation. The cardinal asked the archbishop to tell Pope Francis that he and the New York delegates send warm greetings.


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