Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, urged the Hispanic ministry leaders at the Region 2 V Encuentro in Albany to lead all parishioners—and especially youngsters—to “a living encounter with Jesus.”
The archbishop’s remarks, part of his keynote address, were greeted with a loud standing ovation.
“Unity is not an idea. Unity is a reality that we must build,” Archbishop Pierre said in his June 23 speech at the Desmond Hotel.
He said Pope Francis wants “to unite us, but not through an idea or a discipline; he wants to unite us through Jesus…He wants the Church, all of us in the Church, to be disciples of Jesus, and missionaries of His Word.”
Noting the importance of nurturing Hispanic ministry, Archbishop Pierre added, “The Holy Spirit is beginning something here—the Spirit brings serenity, joy and peace (serenidad, alegria y paz)…In every parish community, there should be motivations to lead people to have a living encounter with Jesus. And the encounter with Jesus Christ is always found through the Church, and then into the family and the community.”
He said that spiritual answers cannot be found in today’s secular world.
“We have an enormous responsibility,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Jesus will awaken in each person the desire to be of Him—as disciples, we are of Him, like the first disciples.
“This gathering is a special opportunity to have an encounter with the Lord, and to have an encounter with one another, to listen to one another on how to identify gifts and talents that can be put into service.”
He said that “the Church affirms the dignity” of all people, so that there is justice for families, for immigrants and for workers. “Listen to the clamor of the people—it is a clamor that seeks a more profound relationship with God and with the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit renews everything.”
The June 22-24 conference, attended by about 350 people, was conducted mostly in Spanish with some English.
The U.S. Church’s National V Encuentro will be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany celebrated the opening Spanish/English Mass before Archbishop Pierre’s keynote June 23. Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo delivered the homily in English.
The gathering featured work sessions, mini-plenary gatherings, presentations, the praying of the Angelus, and a closing Mass. There were nearly 300 delegates from New York’s eight dioceses, plus a team of 23 regional leaders and a team of eight theologians. Both teams report to Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Diocese of Brooklyn, the episcopal representative for the Region 2 Encuentro.
In the homily, Bishop Malone spoke about evangelization and mission, and how it began with Christ. “It’s all about the joy and faith of the Gospel,” he said. “We come here to discern together how we might grow together with our Hispanic/Latino sisters and brothers, and of course with all the Church community.”
He added that as a Church community, all were present to learn how “we might grow more effectively as missionary disciples—witnesses of God’s love.”
Also Saturday, participants viewed a videotaped message from Cardinal Dolan, in which he expressed words of welcome and thanks to Archbishop Pierre and everyone involved with the Albany Encuentro. “This fifth Encuentro, it’s already had a profound impact on Catholics throughout the country. I can attest to that,” the cardinal said.
The June 24 closing Mass, celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, was open to the public. Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brennan, vicar general of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, delivered the homily.
“We have a lot of work to do tomorrow,” Wanda Vasquez, director of the archdiocese’s Hispanic Ministry Office, told the Encuentro delegates during the orientation session June 22. Ms. Vasquez was chairperson of the Region 2 Encuentro.
In interviews with Catholic New York June 22 and 23, delegates and organizers spoke about the event’s importance, and the honor they felt in participating.
Deacon Pedro O’Brien, a delegate from Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Manhattan, said, “This is very important; there is a great necessity, in the families and among the youth. We must promote the importance of the faith.”
Arlet Cartagena, a delegate from St. Mary-St. Peter parish, Kingston, said, “I prayed to the Virgin Mary that I would be selected as a delegate, and here I am. I remember I was very emotional. My prayers were answered. This is an honor for me.”
Yohanna de los Santos, a Region 2 organizer from the Archdiocese of New York, said, “It’s been a wonderful gathering of people who really care about their community…This really identifies the top priorities for Hispanic Catholics from a pastoral point of view.”
Ms. de los Santos is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Astoria, Queens.
Lynnette Saenz, coordinator of cultural ministries for the Diocese of Rochester, said she liked the event’s messages about hope, family and faith. “Even with all that is happening in the country with regard to immigration, the hope that we have as Latinos makes us resilient.”
Ana Castellano, a delegate from Holy Angels parish in the Diocese of Buffalo, said, “I really like the way the nuncio spoke with clear support for Latinos…And I also like Bishop Malone’s homily; he is our bishop. He’s been very supportive of the Hispanic community.”
The event’s discussions focused on the regional working document, highlighting seven areas of ministry: Family Ministry; Leadership Development/Ministry Formation; Evangelization and Mission; Immigration; Youth and Young Adults; Faith Formation; and Intercultural Competencies.
The Encuentro delegates also discussed improving ministries for people with disabilities, based on strategies provided by the national Encuentro team of the U.S. bishops. Delegates discussed challenges and possible solutions based on successful practices.
The Encuentro mission focuses on where Hispanic ministry is now and where it needs to be in the future. One objective is to continue to draw more of the faithful into Hispanic ministries and train them for leadership roles in response to the rising population of Latinos in the United States. Also important is reaching individuals and families who are out in the peripheries.
In an interview with CNY, Archbishop Pierre said the Church should always seek “to make the voice of God heard by the people. So this is our priority. Also, the pope says we should be attentive to the sufferings of people.”
New York Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne, also speaking to CNY, said it is always a priority “to raise issues for people to think about when it comes to reaching out to youth.”
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