-Text, Washington D.C., United States. Journalist and communications consultant
The V National Encuentro has brought Hispanic Catholics out of invisibility, highlighting their contributions, and demonstrates the desire for deeper accompaniment by the Catholic Church. The numbers show that the future of Catholics in the country is among Hispanics, who currently make up 40 percent of all Catholics. And among young Catholics between the ages of 14 and 29, Hispanics make up 50 percent. The V Encuentro is a process that began in 2013, and through missionary activity, consultations, leadership development and pastoral discernment in parishes, dioceses, episcopal regions and at the national level, seeks to discern pastoral practices and priorities that will help the church respond more effectively to this community.
"The V Encuentro has significantly increased awareness and appreciation of the Hispanic/Latino people as a blessing to the Church and society." Arturo Cepeda, auxiliary bishop of Detroit and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, said in an interview with Palabra.
"The bishops are very aware of this reality and that the Hispanic people have great potential to offer this leadership in service to the whole Church in parishes, dioceses and other Catholic institutions." added the prelate. Guided by the country's bishops, the V Encuentro has identified about 20,000 new leaders, and more than 250,000 missionary disciples through the process that took place in nearly all of the 4,473 parishes with Hispanic ministries in the country. The results, recommendations, and practical applications that emerged after the national gathering just over a year ago in Gaylord, Texas - which Palabra reported on in October 2018 in an extensive chronicle - and its previous processes in parishes, dioceses and Episcopal regions, have been compiled in the final document entitled. Proceedings and Conclusions of the V National Meeting.
Among the most important priorities and recommendations are the need for accompaniment and better pastoral formation for Hispanic families, the need to help and welcome migrant families suffering from persecution, family separations and deportations, and the identification and training of Hispanic leaders serving in church ministries.
The V Meeting today
The post-Encounter meetings began this fall and will continue until spring in the 14 episcopal regions of the country with the purpose of discerning the final priorities corresponding to each region working on the basis of the final document. These regional conclusions and recommendations will be delivered to the dioceses with the goal of integrating them into pastoral plans according to the needs of each diocese, and to be shared with parishes so that they may adopt similar processes.
"The V Encuentro is not only for Hispanics, it is for the entire Church in the United States. But the truth is that in a hierarchical institution this is not going to happen by magic. The bishops have to take the initiative and they have to make sure that the pastoral plan gets into the hands of their pastoral leaders and they know them." Hosffman Ospino, professor of pastoral theology and catechesis at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, and member of the V Encuentro National Accompaniment Team (ENAVE), told Palabra Hosffman Ospino.
"The V Encuentro is not only for Hispanics, it is for the whole Church in the United States."Hosffman OspinoProfessor of Pastoral Theology and Catechesis (Boston College)
One of those post-Encuentro meetings was held in October 2019 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where about 50 delegates from seven dioceses and archdioceses that make up the fourth episcopal region once again carried out the process of discernment and consultation on priority issues. One of the most important issues in that region is the pastoral accompaniment of Hispanic families and in particular immigrant families affected by the threat of deportations and family separations that affect thousands. Through information sessions conducted by the Catholic non-profit organization of the archdiocese, Catholic Charities of Washington, information and training on immigration is already being provided to pastors, priests, ministry leaders and parishioners.
"It is important that all Catholics are able to understand the sufferings and struggles that migrants have gone through in order to come to this country, so we need to see in them practically the face of Christ." said Celia Rivas, service coordinator for Catholic Charities during her presentation.
Pope Francis has followed in the footsteps of the V Encuentro almost from its inception. In September 2019, a delegation of bishops and ENAVE traveled to the Vatican and presented to the Pope and the leadership of various dicasteries and Pontifical Councils the conclusions and recommendations generated by the national consultation. "Pope Francis showed great interest in the conclusions of the V Meeting and his commitment to creating a culture of encounter. The process was very well received by members of the Curia, who affirmed the synodal nature of the process, with its dimensions of mission and consultation in the peripheries." said Monsignor Cepeda. "The Holy Father motivated us to move forward with the vision of a church on the way out and gave us his blessing."he added. In 2018, the participants of the national meeting received a touching video message from the Holy Father, which was echoed by Palabra in a dossier together with the preparations for the Meeting.
Results and outcomes
Among the accomplishments of the V Encuentro, one of the most important is the encouragement, hope and renewed energy it has injected into the thousands of leaders in 159 dioceses with Hispanic ministry in the country. In a recent report to the annual plenary session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Cepeda informed the body of bishops about the results of the process compiled in the final document.
Among the most relevant results was the need for a more welcoming and missionary model of Church that seeks ecclesial integration and not cultural assimilation. Also identified was the need for parishes and dioceses to invest in the formation and development of Hispanic leaders, the need to increase personnel with intercultural skills in schools, parishes, dioceses and seminaries, and the need for the accompaniment of families in addition to faith formation at all levels.
"The V Encuentro helped us to achieve a deeper unity in Hispanic ministry, to listen to each other better, to recognize our talents more clearly and to put them at the service of the mission of the Church in the United States, said Bishop Cepeda. "It also helped us to identify new leaders, especially young people, and to collaborate on a common project in a synodal way. The V Encuentro process helped us, in a very intentional way, to go out to the peripheries to listen, get involved and accompany our brothers and sisters who live on the peripheries of society and the Church."he added.
The effects of the V Encuentro will be seen in the next 10 to 15 years, Ospino predicts; however, some positive effects are already being observed. "The V Encounter helpsó to bring Hispanics out of invisibility,"Ospino points out as one of the most significant effects of the process. The report of the V Meeting is available at www.vencuentro.org.
Journalist and communications consultant in Washington, D.C.