What works fort worth delegates compare notes on hispanic ministry with 18 dioceses electricity in water

Culminating years of preparation in parishes and dioceses, the regional event brought together 800 lay ministers, parishioners, religious women, and clergy from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas for one purpose: to improve the quality of ministry to Hispanic/Latino Catholics so they become more engaged in the life of the Church.

“I’m hoping to do my best to represent all the Hispanic people and the needs they have,” said Ricardo Romero, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi in Grapevine. “We have the opportunity to share and identify with others the things that will bring more people to the faith, as well as help those who ‘just go to church’ but are not really a part of it.”

During a process that involved reviewing ideas and suggestions culled from working documents submitted by 18 dioceses in Region X, delegates were assigned to small groups where the conversation was limited to one ministerial area. Focusing their discussions on areas such as evangelization and mission, stewardship, faith formation, family life, immigration, and more, participants prioritized recommendations and strategies to best serve Hispanic and Latino Catholics.

V Encuentro is an initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops who want to respond and reach out to the growing number of Hispanics in the country — especially the young and those living on the periphery of society. Efforts made at the diocesan and regional level will lead up to the V National Encuentro gathering, hosted by the Diocese of Fort Worth from Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine.

Previous Encuentros took place in 1972, 1977, 1985, and 2000. The goal of V Encuentro is to discern ways the U.S. Catholic Church can better respond to the presence of Hispanics and Latinos and strengthen ways they can respond to the New Evangelization call for missionary disciples serving the entire Church.

A procession of representatives from every diocese in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, led by the Cross of the Encuentros, welcomed delegates to the opening of the Region X gathering. Blessed by Pope Francis, the oak cross bears the inscription “Hispanic People: Joyful Disciples in Mission” and is engraved with thorns and resurrection lilies. It symbolizes the faith journey of Hispanic and Latino Catholics in the U.S. over the past 50 years.

“This cross reminds us that long before the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia, immigrant missionaries from Spain and Latin America were already at work,” said one of the event’s emcees, Father Hector Madrigal from the Diocese of Amarillo. “La Cruz de los Encuentros reminds us that the Catholic faith of the Latino people shaped the American story from the very beginning.”

Current U.S. census estimates show Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic population in the country with about 29.7 million Hispanic Latinos identifying as Catholics. Sixty percent of American Catholics under the age of 18 are also of Hispanic descent.

“These statistics are a clear indication why the V Encuentro is so important,” observed Diocese of Austin Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, addressing delegates during the opening ceremony. “Hispanics are now found in every state in our country. They are contributing to the vitality of this country and our Church.”

“They are our brothers and sisters, classmates, and coworkers. We pray together. We worship together,” he pointed out. “The Church will continue to defend their rights and dignity as children of God. We’re called to reach out to the peripheries where many people feel abandoned and often times disconnected.”

“Our conversations included a diocese with a community of Nigerians,” said the 26-year-old. “It was very insightful and I learned things. At the same time, I was able to share the reality of our diocese and how we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 in a big way.”

The 3,000 delegates expected at the V National Encuentro in Grapevine will review the recommendations submitted by the regional delegations then publish a working document outlining the pastoral priorities and strategies appropriate to the present time.