By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
In September of 2018 in Grapevine, Texas, the Catholic Church in the United States plans to hold a national gathering, called Encuentro, focused on Hispanic and Latino Catholics.
The 2018 gathering, convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will be the fifth such meeting since the first was held in 1972. The last national Encuentro, which means “encounter” in Spanish, was held in 2000.
As the name implies, Encuentro is more than a meeting; it’s a process that begins well in advance of the national gathering.
It’s a “two-year process of missionary activity, consultation, leadership development and pastoral discernment in parishes, dioceses and episcopal regions that culminates with a national event,” according to the USCCB.
Hispanic and Latino Catholics, plus those who are interested in ministering to that community, are invited to participate. As early as this January, parishioners in the Archdiocese of Louisville will start preparing for the event.
And Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz hopes that the wider Catholic community will become involved.
Archbishop Kurtz said many of the “conversations and activities” of the Encuentro process will involve the Latino community directly, but it’s important for everyone. For example, he said, “when we celebrate a marriage we ask everyone to rejoice in the married couple. We’re one community in the body of Christ.”
The archbishop describes Encuentro as a “celebration of gifts” and an “opportunity for planning” within the archdiocese.
“We plan to look at Encuentro as an opportunity for us to raise up and celebrate the Latino community in the archdiocese,
then together with the whole church look to find ways to move forward in receiving the gifts and assisting with challenges,” he said.
The archbishop said he’s hopeful that the local church can serve as an example to the nation, showing that it’s possible to come together to “promote the common good” when dealing with the larger issues of immigration and the arrival of refugees.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that often times in the 1800s the arrival of immigrants to the United States was marked by “violence and unrest.” Events like Encuentro provide an opportunity for the church to “model how great civility and respect can surround our efforts” in confronting these issues, he said.
Here in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Eva Gonzalez, director of Hispanic Ministry in the Office of Multicultural Ministry, is leading the preparation efforts.
Gonzalez said that between January and June Hispanic and Latino parishioners will begin to prepare for the fifth Encuentro. The preparation process will include small gatherings for discussion, opportunities for reflection and a ministry of evangelization.
Those who take part will be “asking questions that explore the reality of the Hispanic community,” said Gonzalez. They will be “looking for those things that are affecting and enriching the Hispanic community.”
Parish-based Encuentros are being planned for this spring, a diocesan Encuentro is planned for September 2017, and in 2018 there will be a regional Encuentro.
Ultimately, the USCCB hopes the Encuentro process and gatherings will look at the pastoral needs of Hispanics and Latino Catholics and to find the best ways to improve the quality of ministry available.
According to a recent report, there are close to 30 million Hispanic or Latino Catholics in the United States.
The report, which was presented to the U.S. bishops Nov. 15 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, also stated that 54 percent of “millennial-generation Catholics,” born in 1982 or later, are Hispanic or Latino.
To learn more about the fifth National Encuentro visit www.vencuentro.org.