Dioceses gather in Louisville for training on pastoral plan for Hispanic and Latino ministry

Participants in a day of training, including Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, far right, listened to a presentation June 22 at the Flaget Retreat Center. The day was intended for Hispanic and Latino Catholics to get an overview of the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministry. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Hispanic and Latino Catholics from Kentucky and Tennessee gathered June 22 at the Flaget Retreat Center, 1935 Lewiston Drive, for a day of training on the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministry.

“The goal is to have an understanding of the national plan so they can start looking at what things apply to them and how they can take action,” said Eva Gonzalez, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Hispanic Ministry. 

The plan, approved by the U.S. bishops in June of 2023, is the “final fruit,” she said, of various Encuentro gatherings conducted at the local, regional and national levels over the last decade. 

The day drew Catholics from the Archdiocese of Louisville and the dioceses of Lexington, Owensboro, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville. They heard presentations and participated in small-group discussions on themes in the pastoral plan, including:

  • How to share the fruit of a bilingual parish and how to integrate the members.
  • How to support leadership based on individual’s gifts and talents.
  • How to listen to the ideas of youth and young adults and give them a place at the table.
  • How to make formation and education a priority.

The pastoral plan seeks for Hispanics and Latinos to connect beyond culture and language — a connection based on Jesus’ desire that “they all may be one,” said Oga Villar, executive director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute based in Miami. The institute organized the day along with the Archdiocese of Louisville.   

The day of training is meant to help Hispanics and Latinos “realize the Catholic faith is not isolated in a single parish. It’s part of a larger reality,” Villar said. “It helps expand the vision and understanding that the Body of Christ is not dismantled but one that wants to be united in diversity. The more we understand that, in our own culture and language, the easier it becomes to connect to other ethnic families.”

Hispanic and Latino Catholics listened and took notes during a presentation June 22 at a day of training on the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministry. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington accompanied those in attendance, listening to the presentations and later celebrating Mass in the Flaget chapel. Archbishop Fabre was traveling in Vietnam at the time.

During his homily, given in Spanish, Bishop Stowe called Hispanic and Latino Catholics a “renewing force” in the U.S. church.

He drew attention to the Gospel reading from the sixth chapter of Matthew. In the Gospel story, Jesus tells his followers not to worry about daily things, such as what they will eat or drink or wear, but to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

“We know that it’s always a battle placing the Kingdom of God first because there are many things vying for our attention,” said Bishop Stowe. “How can we put all those things behind our search for the Kingdom of God? It’s not easy. At the same time, the Lord tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough trouble of its own. It’s not easy putting this into practice but it’s a requirement of the faith.”

Reflecting on the first reading, Bishop Stowe said that individuals are often tempted to think the stories about idolatry pertain only to the days of the Old Testament. That’s not true, he said. There are presently many idols, maybe even more than there were in the Old Testament. 

“There are many things competing for the place of God in our life,” he said.

There are two lines running through the stories in the Bible starting in the Old Testament, he noted. One is constant and very straight — the line that depicts God’s love and faithfulness to his people. The other is crooked and not very constant — the response of God’s people to his faithfulness, he said.

“We are always trying to correct our unfaithfulness, to return to giving God priority,” he said. “ ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you as well.’ It’s not easy to always remember this. 

“That’s why we need each other in the community. That’s why we need a guide, a pastoral plan to give priority to what should be our priority,” Bishop Stowe said.

Participants in a day of training presented the results of a small-group discussion June 22 at the Flaget Retreat Center. The day was intended for Hispanic and Latino Catholics to get an overview of the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministry. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
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