Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Encuentro Priorities Help Shape Hispanic Ministry In U.S.

By Norma Montenegro Flynn, Catholic News Service
Shown are the 200 attendees �

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) – Hispanic ministry leaders from 13 dioceses in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin gathered last month at the University of Notre Dame for their Region VII encuentro.

            Among the main issues participants considered as priorities for their region were evangelization and leadership development among youth and young adults; support and care for immigrants who are in the country without documents; accompaniment of families; the development of intercultural competencies in parishes; and the need to grow more vocations.

            "The encuentro has really brought to light to the authorities of the church the voices of the people. That's why these encuentros are so important," said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas, chairman of the Region VII encuentro.

            Like other regional encuentros being held around the country, the gathering at Notre Dame was part of the process leading up to the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry – or V Encuentro – to take place Sept. 20-23, in Grapevine, Texas.

            Participants working in small groups selected their main challenges, priorities and strategies in 10 ministerial areas that were discussed and agreed on by all participants. Those areas were: vocations, ministry to youth and young adults, family ministry, faith formation and catechesis, liturgy, development and training of leaders, higher education and immigration.

            During the plenary sessions, participants in the different ministerial areas stressed the importance of reaching out to families at all ages and stages. They discussed ways to provide support in faith formation, access to sacraments, strengthening marriages, getting to know their struggles and reasons why some might stop going to church and inviting them back.

            Strategies on how to develop and promote Hispanic vocations to the priesthood and the diaconate from within their communities also were considered. Many leaders hope to see more access to opportunities in Spanish to deepen and strengthen their knowledge of the Catholic faith at all levels.

            Many participants also voiced the need to have parish priests, bishops and personnel be open to understanding their culture and highlighted the need for more intercultural training and collaboration at all levels within parishes and dioceses.

            Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the host diocese for the Region VII encuentro, said he felt enriched by listening to participants' needs, views, contributions and struggles. He joined the plenaries and the small group sessions that focused on outreach to youth and young adults.

            "Their commitment and their faith are so evident, but also some of the challenges that they face," Bishop Rhoades said about Hispanic young adults. "I was really impressed by this idea of Latino youth evangelizing other Latino youth and talking about ways to do that."

            Besides Bishops Rhoades and Rojas, other bishops participating in the weekend event included Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis; retired Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, who resides in Chicago; and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette. Also in attendance was Msgr. James Bartylla, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison, Wis.