SALT LAKE CITY — Representatives from Utah joined more than 3,000 Hispanic Latino ministry leaders/delegates from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations from all over the United States from Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas, to celebrate the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (V Encuentro).
Speakers included Archbishop Christopher Pierre, apostolic nuncio and papal ambassador to the U.S.; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J.; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the USCCB vice president; Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S. of San Antonio; and Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe. They were among the more than 3,200 clergy and religious and lay people at the V National Encuentro.
According to Catholic News Services, Archbishop Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic leaders and bishops to continue working toward being an evangelizing church by seeking an encounter with Christ and taking initiative while accompanying those on the peripheries.
“The church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice,” Archbishop Pierre said at the Fifth National Encuentro.
Pope Francis sent a video message to the gathering.
“I hope that, after the V National Encuentro takes place, it continues to bear fruit and that the Church in all its settings will continue to accompany this process with its own reflection and pastoral discernment,” the pope said in the video. “I ask you to consider how your local churches can better respond to the growing presence, gifts and potential of Hispanics and their families. It has also been an instrument of grace that led to a conversion of heart for many people, and above all ... a pastoral conversion through the encounter with one another, of course, in the adoration of Jesus Christ.
“In particular, I ask you to consider how your local churches can better respond to the growing presence, gifts and potential of Hispanic young people and families, and of other cultures. I am aware of the contribution that the Hispanic community offers to the life of the nation and I pray that the V Encuentro continues to contribute to the renewal of society and the ministry of the Church in the United States of America,” Pope Francis said.
The pope closed his message by saying, “Go forward!”
The V Encuentro was one of the priority activities of the USCCB’s strategic plan. The Encuentro is a four-year process of evangelization, mission and consultation. With the theme “V Encuentro Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love,” delegations representing more than 165 dioceses in the United States gathered for the event.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City delegation was comprised of 22 missionary disciples. They were accompanied by Bishop Oscar A. Solis; Fr. Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine; and Maria Cruz Gray, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry.
Speaking in English and Spanish, Archbishop García-Siller gave the opening remarks for the V National Encuentro.
“Today, here, in the United States, Jesus needs us more than ever to be living stones in the Church,” the archbishop said, adding that the Church had received bad news because of the actions of some of its priests and bishops. “They’ve broken your hearts, lay brothers and sisters, and rightly so. You’re right to be broken-hearted.”
Cardinal DiNardo, in his keynote remarks, acknowledged that this is a “time of pain in our Church. … We bishops have fallen short. Amidst this darkness, the V Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward.”
The event included gatherings of delegates by regions, daily Mass, plenary sessions, and breakout sessions focused on 28 ministry areas such as education, evangelization, and stewardship and development.
“It was a great blessing to be able to participate in this great event,” said Junuee Castro, the Salt Lake diocese’s director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, adding that the participation in the V Encounter also implies a great responsibility
“We all are part of the universal Church. … The youth, the formation, the families, the Hispanics, the voice – at all levels we are the Church; we all need to raise our voices and act and go forward,” Castro said.
Many of the national V Encuentro sessions concerned issues regarding youth and young adults in the Church.
The Diocese of Salt Lake City is committed “to keep on discovering what our young Church wants, their desires, their dreams,” Castro said. “We are here and we have to work hard. ... The youth are very important. We want them to come to us, to talk to us, to say, ‘Here I am, and I want to share my talents with our Church!’”
After having attended the national V Encuentro, the diocesan delegations will report the proceedings to their local dioceses. They also will share the final conclusions from the national V Encuentro process for local pastoral planning and implementation.