SALT LAKE CITY — Implementation of the V Encuentro started in 2017 as part of the U.S. Catholic Church’s New Evangelization effort. It emphasizes the importance of involving young, second- and third-generation Hispanics/Latinos in the life of the Church.
One of the main goals of the V Encuentro is to equip pastoral leaders with a better understanding of the Catholic population they are called to serve.
The Encuentro process started in 1972 with a Hispanic/Latino ministry known as ENAVE (from the Spanish acronym for National Team of Accompaniment), a group of 42 national and regional Catholic organizations that directly serve the Hispanic Latino community.
The first national Encuentro (Spanish for encounter) also was held in 1972, which “allowed us to come out of the shadows and to express our needs, aspirations and contributions as baptized persons living in the Church in the United States,” according to the website vencuentro.org.
Other Encuentros have been held since 1972; the V Encuentro is the most recent; its process will continue until 2020.
In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the Encuentro has been present since the beginning. In 2017, 165 Encuentro delegates from the diocese went through a five-week evangelization process based on five themes: Called to a Loving Encounter with Jesus, With Words and Actions: Do it!, Walking Together with Jesus, Bearing Fruits of New Life and Celebrating the Joy of Being Missionary Disciples. The delegates then went to their parishes to spread the V Encuentro throughout the diocese.
As part of the ongoing efforts, on Sept. 8 dozens of Encuentro delegates gathered in the diocesan Pastoral Center to share some of the findings of the process and to learn more about the process. Bishop Oscar A. Solis joined them.
“We are encouraged to continue our walk as God’s people, to raise our voice once more, and to discern our pastoral priorities and strategies,” said Maria Cruz Gray, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministries.
“The V Encuentro started at the grassroots level and called for the development of resources and initiatives to better serve the fast-growing Hispanic population in the diocese, parishes, ecclesial movements, and other Catholic organizations and institutions, and it still continues,” Gray said.
The Diocese of Salt Lake City is part of the Region XIII of the V Encuentro, which includes the dioceses and archdioceses in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The regional V Encuentro convention took place in February 2018, and the national gathering was last September. At the recent meeting in Salt Lake City, Gray told the delegates that some of the results of the national and regional reports were already available.
The reports were prepared by the research teams from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The early fruits of the V Encuentro process are that there is an increased awareness of the presence and needs of the Hispanic Catholics among clergy and diocesan staff,” the report reads in part. “The dioceses are seeing major improvements in the attitudes and concern for Hispanic Catholics, starting with greater engagement from the bishop. New pastoral initiatives are evolving and there is greater collaboration with other diocese offices, especially catechesis/evangelization and youth and young adult ministry.”
The results of the Encuentro reports are in alignment with the goals of the diocesan Pastoral Plan.
The Encuentro “is the grace in the middle of the entire crisis that we are confronting,” said Gray, asking the delegates to share their comments and proposals for the region.
Some of the suggestions were to “have internal peace as we listen and learn … to help our brothers and sisters,” to have a commitment to volunteer rather than wait to be called to into action, to work together as community, to recognize the abilities and capacities of others, to recognize that God “is with us no matter the challenges,” and to delegate and work hard.
“This is the moment that we need strong leaders, committed people,” Gray said.