By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Fifteen delegates — who will represent Hispanic and Latino Catholics at the Fifth National Encuentro in September — gathered Aug. 4 at the Maloney Center to get to know each other and prepare for the national event.
The Aug. 4 gathering was the last for delegates before the national event — a meeting of Hispanic and Latino Catholics convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops four years in the making. The Fifth National Encuentro is scheduled to take place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.
The local meeting brought together individuals from the province of Louisville including the Archdiocese of Louisville, Diocese of Lexington, Ky., Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., Diocese of Covington, Ky., and the Diocese of Memphis, Tenn.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz was present at the beginning of the meeting where he said an opening prayer and greeted those who’d gathered.
Father Rafael Capó — a priest from the Archdiocese of Miami who serves as director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute — led the meeting. Father Capó opened by talking about what it means to be a delegate. “A delegate is one who is sent,” said Father Capó in Spanish. He reminded the group that they were not representing themselves at the Fifth National Encuentro, but that they would be sent to share the voices of Catholics in the Southeast dioceses.
The Aug. 4 meeting, said Father Capó, served three purposes — to allow delegates to get to know each other, review the conclusions of the Regional Encuentro and build enthusiasm for the upcoming national event.
The diverse group of participants hailed from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain and Mexico. Members of the clergy from Louisville, Lexington, Covington, and Knoxville were also a part of the group.
From the Archdiocese of Louisville Father Joseph Rankin, pastor of St. Rita and St. Luke churches and vicar for Hispanic ministry and Father Michael Tobin, pastor of Church of the Annunciation and St. John Chrysostom attended. Fermin Luna, a seminarian of Mexican descent in formation for the Archdiocese of Louisville was also present.
Participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about their ministry. Many shared that immigration issues make ministering to the Hispanic and Latino community challenging. They also talked about the enriching experiences they’ve had working towards the national Encuentro.
Father Capó also led participants in a discussion of the working document which came out of the Southeast Regional Encuentro held Feb. 22-24 in Miami. The group discussed the challenges, opportunities and best practices mentioned in the document, but concentrated mostly on 13 areas of ministry that were identified as “top priority,” said Father Capó.
Among those priorities, noted Father Capó, are evangelization and mission, family life ministry, youth and young adult ministry, faith formation, catechesis and vocations.
All delegates were tasked with studying the regional document, so that they are well-versed come September at the national event. The delegates also had the opportunity to learn about what will happen at the national event. During the three-day event in Texas, delegates will attend break-out sessions based on region as well as sessions based on ministerial areas they are interested in. The result of that work will be sent to the U.S. bishops with the hope that they will respond with a pastoral plan that can “help accompany our Hispanic and Latino brothers and sisters and empower them to become leaders of evangelization for the church in the U.S.,” said Father Capó.
“This process is of great importance for the church in the U.S. not just for Hispanics and Latinos, because it will stress the importance of evangelization, creating and fostering community in the church in response to Pope Francis’ call to missionary discipleship and St. John Paul II’s call to the new evangelization.”
For more information on the Fifth National Encuentro, visit https://vencuentro.org/.