More millennials leave the Catholic Church than any other age demographic, and are increasingly more likely to identify as “nones,” according to recent studies.

It is this population the Diocese of Phoenix is trying to reach through the V Encuentro – Fifth Encounter.

The Encuentro is national initiative reflecting on the changing face of Hispanic ministry in the United States. In the diocese that’s been translated into inviting the millennial population, mindful that most are Hispanic, to an “Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ.”

“They’re very cause-driven, and they want to be of service,” said Monica Villalobos, who led the Encuentro efforts at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale. “Traditional philanthropy is not meaningful. They’re wanting to find ways to give back more meaningfully. That’s going to be one of the ways to attract more millennials.”

Participants in the Catholic Youth Congreso carry the official traveling Encuentro cross which came to Phoenix for the June 3-4 event this summer. The U.S. Church is ramping up intentional efforts to keep millennial Catholics engaged in their faith and related service efforts. (Photo courtesy of Gilberto Zazueta)

Each parish in the diocese was asked to engage in the Encuentro process to not only better serve millennials, but to invite them to be missionary disciples.

During the summer, each parish in the Northern Deanery gathered their teams together so they could prepare to set up small groups this month.

Kathy Mansker, coordinator of Hispanic Ministries for San Francisco de Asís Parish, said she liked the format of the V Encuentro material and its potential for evangelization that all parishes could adopt. She said the program could easily accommodate different sized groups and would work for groups who are able to meet weekly, biweekly or monthly.


V Encuentro – Fifth Encounter

When: 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Oct. 28, followed by a closing Mass

Where: St. Paul Parish,
330 W. Coral Gables Dr.

Cost: $20 per person

V Encuentro — National

Symbolism of the cross

National site


Para jóvenes


“Everything is done for you, which is why I love the program,” Mansker said. “You don’t have to be a trained teacher to teach.”

After the parishes complete their own Encuentro processes, there will be a diocesan Encuentro held, not coincidentally, on Oct. 28, the Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, which is a diocesan feast day, at St. Paul Parish.

The Diocese of Phoenix conducted an online survey that was live Aug. 30-Sept. 11, to collect information from millennials about how their needs were being met in the diocese. The results of the survey will be addressed at the diocesan Encuentro.

“What’s going to be important for us as a diocese is the gathering at St. Paul, because that’s really going to be the way that we hear peoples’ voices,” said Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries and diocesan co-chair of the Encuentro Committee. “The survey will have been answered, we’ll have some good concrete information gathered, and we’ll be able to present that in a really formal way so that people can see what it is and how millennials responded to the survey.”

Those interested in attending the diocesan Encuentro can go as either representatives of their parishes or on their own, and are invited to share their voices.

Rodriguez noted that it’s no longer necessarily language that’s engaging young Hispanics. “You have to find different avenues of how to reach them spiritually. With Hispanics it’s through the culture, and through symbols and through the religious piety,” he said.

“It’s an exciting time for the Church here in Phoenix to be able to bring this process and to enter it and then to see really what the Holy Spirit has in store for the Church in Phoenix.”

Prayer for the Fifth Encuentro

Merciful God,
you set out to encounter
the disciples on the road to Emmaus
to walk alongside them,
listen to their concerns,
explain the Scriptures to them,
prepare them to recognize you
in the breaking of the bread,
and send them out to share
the joy of the Gospel.

As we prepare for the
Fifth National Encuentro on Hispanic Ministry,
grant us a missionary spirit
that is willing to go forth and encounter
our brothers and sisters
on their daily walk through life,
listen about their joys and sorrows,
and help them to recognize you in the Eucharist.
May the fire of your Word rekindle their hearts
and prepare them to become missionary disciples
ready to share the joy of the Gospel
to present and future generations
of every race, culture and language.

We ask this
with burning hearts
filled with the Holy Spirit;
through the intercession of our Mother,
Mary of Guadalupe
Star of the New Evangelization,
and in the name of your beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ.