SALT LAKE CITY — For the past 18 months, the Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Office of Hispanic Ministry has been part of a national effort that is a priority of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops. However, because Utah was without a Catholic bishop for almost 22 months, “our diocese wasn’t completely involved in it, but now our Bishop Solis is very excited because this is not just a process to unify all the Catholics in the peripheries, but everyone is welcome; besides, this is a process of the New Evangelization,” said Maria Cruz Gray, the Hispanic ministry’s director.
The effort is the fifth National Encuentro, which invites all Catholics across the United States to missionary activity, leadership development and identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization. There have been four other Encuentros, in 1977, 1985 and 2000.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ most recent strategic plan proposes V Encuentro, titled Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love, as a priority activity.
In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the Encuentro has been present since its beginnings in 1972, when a Hispanic/Latino ministry known as ENAVE was started. ENAVE (from the Spanish acronym for National Team of Accompaniment) is a group of 42 national and regional Catholic organizations that directly serve the Hispanic Latino community.
“The main objective of the process of the ENAVE is to discern the way in which Hispanics/Latinos and all Catholics respond as Church,” Gray said.
The ministry held its first national Encuentro (Spanish for encounter) 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 enahve.org.
The current event, which began this year and will continue to 2020, “will encourage us to continue our walk as God’s people, to raise our voice once more, and to discern our pastoral priorities and strategies that are most appropriate at the present time,” enahve.org reads.
“The V Encuentro starts at the grassroots level and calls 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,” Gray said, adding that the plan is to name some pivotal parishes that can host Encuentro presentations for others.
“We have a diocesan team that will be in charge of the presentations, so the attendees can then go to the other parishes and missions and reach out to all the Catholics,” said Gray.
The five-week evangelization process will have 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.
“There are some people that don’t live their faith because they are scared, they have had bad experiences, they don’t know how the Hispanic Catholics started in the United States – we want to gather every one, to have a good time learning and sharing the joy of the Catholic Church,” Gray said.
The priests will select the people from the parishes and missions who will attend the five-week long evangelization process and consultation, “so they can return to the parishes sent by Bishop Solis after a ceremony in the cathedral to go spread the Encuentro in our diocese,” said Gray. “This is a way to keep our Church alive, to let everyone know that we all are one, we are all welcome.”
The evangelization process and consultation and the parishes’ Encuentro in the Diocese of Salt Lake City will be bilingual and are scheduled for the summer.