Bishops call for ‘Encuentro’ to discern how best to serve U.S. Hispanics [VIDEOS]

V Encuentro

Orientation Sessions
  • 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Feb. 3 San Francisco de Asís Parish, 1600 E. Route 66, Flagstaff
  • 9-10:30 a.m., Feb. 11, Diocesan Pastoral Center, 400 E. Monroe St.
Click here for more information.
To get involved, contact your pastor or co-chairs

At one time, Hispanic pastoral ministry in the United States meant offering resources in Spanish. While there is still a need to do so, there is a growing population of second- and third-generation Hispanics whose dominant language is English. It is the need to serve this emerging demographic that has led the U.S. Bishops to call for a two-year process known as the “V Encuentro,” the fifth such initiative done in the United States.

The first Encuentro, Spanish for “encounter,” was held in 1972 and they have been held periodically since then. The process calls for an ecclesial reflection within the parishes that would then be shared at the diocesan level, then the region and finally at the national level.

“This pastoral effort is a unique opportunity to engage more deeply with our Hispanic brothers and sisters in Christ. It is hoped that we will learn how the Church can best respond to this growing population and how best to strengthen our response to our baptismal call,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in a letter to priests of the diocese asking for their participation in the process.

According to a report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), 59 percent of Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix are Hispanic. Diocesan Chancellor Dr. Maria Chavira said that the ecclesial reflection will involve thinking about, talking to, observing and reflecting on what the needs are of that particular demographic and how to help them encounter Jesus.

“Through the consultation process we may discover something new. That’s all going to be a part of the process,” said Chavira. “The other piece will be to strengthen how all Catholics respond to their baptismal call, not just Hispanics.”

As an example, Chavira pointed to the same CARA report which says nationally, the majority of English-dominant Hispanics would like to be more involved in some type of leadership role at their parishes, yet 74 percent of them attend Mass and are not involved.

“There’s a disconnect there,” said Chavira. “What kind of things are we going to learn from that? Where is it that they would like to put their leadership skills to use? Maybe there are areas they see we haven’t thought about before. That will be part of the discovery. Part of the end goal would be to look at how locally at the parish level this will help with future pastoral ministry.”

Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministry and co-chair of the Encuentro Committee, said that even though there’s a particular emphasis on Hispanic ministry, the Enceuntro is for everybody.

“The material that we’re going to be provided whether in Spanish or English is going to help us in that strengthening of becoming missionary disciples,” he said. “Certainly there’s a strong emphasis on the Hispanic presence not only in the nation but here in Phoenix and that is going to help guide the process, but I think the invitation is open to others to participate in. It’s not a moment of exclusion, [but] a moment of inclusion.”

That call to be missionary disciples, Rodriguez said, means following Pope Francis’ call to go into the peripheries, which means not only engaging with the poor and marginalized, but also “reaching out to those Catholics who are not practicing their faith.”

Pastors are asked to recommend parish team leaders by Feb. 15 to help lead the process at the parish level. Parishes can then apply what they learn to their own pastoral plan, for example. Parish team leaders and anybody else who’s interested may attend the diocesan Encuentro this fall. The Diocese of Phoenix will also be hosting the regional Encuentro for Region XIII, which encompasses Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming in February 2018. The national Encuentro will be held in September 2018 in Grapevine, Texas.

In a video message to the bishops of the U.S., Pope Francis offered his support for the V Encuentro, challenging them and their flocks to create a “culture of encounter which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of their traditions and experience; to break down walls and to build bridges.”

“The Church in America as elsewhere is called to go out from its comfort zone and be a leaven of communion; communion among ourselves, with our fellow Christians, and with all who seek a future of hope. We need to become ever more fully a community of missionary disciples, filled with love of the Lord Jesus and enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel,” the pope said. “It is my hope that the Church in your country, at every level, will accompany the Encuentro with its own reflection and pastoral discernment. In a particular way, I ask you to consider how your local churches can best respond to the growing presence, gifts, and potential of the Hispanic community.”