By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
After years of local, regional and national reflection — a process known as Encuentro — Hispanic and Latino Catholics in the United States have determined that ministry to families and young people are priorities.
With the support of the Archdiocese of Louisville, parishes here will spend the next two to five years improving ministry in these two areas, said Eva Gonzalez, the director of Hispanic Ministry in the Archdioese of Louisville who led the process locally and chaired the regional process.
The Office of Multicultural Ministry, which includes the archdiocesan Hispanic ministry, and several parishes have started their work already, she said.
Father Michael Tobin, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in Shelbyville, Ky., said some of the parishes that participated in the Encuentro process are seeing some “wonderful results.”
The Church of the Annunciation was one of 12 parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville to actively participate in the process.
The Shelby County church held a parish Encuentro in the summer of 2017 and Father Tobin served as a delegate to the Fifth National Encuentro, which was held in Grapevine, Texas.
Annunciation, home to about 500 Hispanic families, already has seen some of the fruits of the Encuentro process, said Father Tobin in a recent interview.
His parish recently organized a program where families could learn about Down syndrome. Bianca Saucedo, a nursing student at Berea College and a parishioner, led a question-and-answer session Nov. 25 for about 75 people, including four families who have children born with Down syndrome.
“I think they felt they were being recognized and welcomed and the dignity of all children was evident,” said Father Tobin.
Afterward, he spoke to his congregation about the presentation.
“I couldn’t do a Power Point presentation, but I talked about dignity and that applies to all children,” said Father Tobin. “This is what the Encuentro can do when people at the local level are called upon to question themselves and share it at a diocesan level.”
He noted that youth and young adults in his parish also have taken retreats this year and several couples from the parish participated in natural family planning classes last month.
The natural family planning classes are a new offering for Spanish-speaking Catholics in the archdiocese. Close to 20 couples attended. The plan is to prepare couples to lead these classes in their parishes eventually, Gonzalez said.
Other efforts happening around the archdiocese to strengthen families and ministry with young people include:
n The archdiocese is seeking counselors to provide therapy to members of the Hispanic and Latino community.
“Therapy has become a need due to the environment we’re in,” she said. “Young people are afraid that separation (from their families) can happen due to immigration issues.”
n The OMM is working with Catholic Charities of Louisville to provide social and legal services to the immigrant community.
n The archdiocese is also working with the Southeast Pastoral Institute to offer online faith formation classes. This will especially benefit families that live in rural areas and find it challenging to go to classes, said Gonzalez.
n OMM is also developing a marriage program and retreat for Hispanic and Latino couples.
“People have really been asking for that,” said Gonzalez.
While the Encuentro process has begun to bear fruit, Gonzalez noted that it’s not over yet and there is still work to be done.
In addition to family and young people, the process uncovered six other ministry areas in need of improvement. They are faith formation, accessibility to bilingual priests, promotion of Catholic eduction in the Hispanic and Latino communities, the sacraments, collaboration between the archdiocese and parishes and improvement in the tribunal process, Gonzalez said.