By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
The new evangelization, catechesis and vocations were among the topics addressed during a special gathering of Catholics from Latin America on Oct. 12.
About 200 people — from preschool age to adults — registered for the program held at St. Pius X Church. It was called “Encuentro” — an encounter or gathering in Spanish. And it was intended to bring together Hispanic and Latino communities from around the Archdiocese of Louisville. Participants came from about a dozen parishes — from as far away as Glasgow, Ky. It was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Ministry.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, the first speaker at the day-long formation event, told his listeners, “Your presence is very important.”
He went on to tell them he had just returned from a trip to Rome where he met Pope Francis for the first time.
“Did you know that Pope Francis is Latino?” he asked them, with a broad, knowing smile. A resounding “yes” answered him. “Isn’t that great? Pope Francis has been a great gift to the church and the world.”
The archbishop spoke primarily in English and his words were interpreted by Father
Pablo Hernandez, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Hodgenville, Ky. During his nearly one-hour speech, he prayed with the group, joined in singing and offered a catechetical lesson on the encyclical Lumen Fidei.
He also called on lay Hispanic and Latino Catholics to share their faith.
He quoted Pope Francis, formerly the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, who said during a homily at World Youth Day in Brazil last July, “Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history.”
“You are here, too, because the church in the United States, the Catholic Church, continues to grow,” he said.
He noted that a recent study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University revealed 34 percent of U.S. Catholics are of Latino background.
“That’s one in every three Catholics in the whole United States,” he said. “It is important for us to gather, to pray, to learn and to reach out and share our faith.”
“It is so important for us to first live our faith and then to share it with others,” he added. “As we share our faith with others, our faith will grow stronger.”
He also urged his listeners to pray for vocations —- for priests such as Father Hernandez; for deacons, such as Deacon Aurelio Puga of St. Rita Church and for religious, such as Sister Isa Garcia, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth. All three were in attendance at the event.
Among others who attended the archbishop’s talk was a large group from St. Rita Church, as well as people from the churches of St. Edward; St. Bartholomew; Immaculate Conception in La Grange, Ky.; Annunciation in Shelbyville, Ky.; St. Joseph in Butchertown; Holy Name; St. James in Elizabethtown, Ky.; and St. Helen Church in Glasgow, Ky.
A group of four people from Glasgow traveled about an hour and a half for the Encuentro. They said they attended to learn more about their faith and to share some time with the broader community. They intend to share what they learned with the three dozen or so Hispanic and Latino families in their parish.
Juan Magana, a member of St. Helen who attended with his wife Maria, said the archbishop was right about the need to share one’s faith, but said the prelate’s words pose a challenge.
“I believe it is very necessary to give to others what has been given to you,” he said. “It’s very important to share what you know. It’s your obligation to share what you know about your faith.
“It’s a hard thing today, especially in this time,” he added. “People are very distracted with electronics, especially young people.”
Outreach to Hispanic and Latino Catholics in the United States began formally in 1945 and the church has held three National Hispanic Encuentros since then. Last Saturday’s event was the local church’s first Encuentro, according to Eva Gonzales, the director of Hispanic Ministry for the Office of Multicultural Ministry.
The event also featured sessions for children and teenagers and several speakers for the adults, including Father Emilio Sotomayor, a priest from the Southeast Pastoral Institute. Known as SEPI, the institute is “an educational and service organization that assists the Catholic bishops of nine southeastern states in the training and development of a Hispanic leadership,” according to its web page on the website of the Archdiocese of Miami.