‘V Encuentro’ truly an encounter of people, ideas, faith, Church

| Estela Villagran Manancero | October 25, 2018 | 0 Comments
V Encuentro cross

A message on the V Encuentro cross is seen near Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as he presides over the Sept. 22 Mass for the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Only a few weeks after the national V Encuentro gathering in Grapevine, Texas, the theme song that rocked the house, especially with all the dance movements, still resonates in my head: “Nuestra alegría está en el servicio, nuestra misión es evangelizar. Nuestra cultura es del encuentro con nuestro Dios y la humanidad; Our joy is in service, our mission is evangelization. Our culture is of encounter with our God and humanity.”

In 2013, when the bishops called us, the leadership of Latino organizations, to explore and design the process of the V Encuentro (or “Fifth Encuentro”), they were thinking of the benefit to the whole U.S. Church, not just the Latino Catholics.

This process, based in Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” gave us the chance to gather together delegates from parishes, apostolic groups and Catholic organizations to share our experiences of reflection, discernment, consultation and evangelization.

With the people in the pews, we reflected on the different social, cultural and pastoral realities experienced by us, the Latinos living in the United States. We proposed practical responses to specific needs and the aspirations of our community via a process of reflection and diocesan discernment. With the leadership of our region, we made concrete commitments to work together in the future. We celebrated our sharing with prayer and in the Eucharist.

Finally, in Texas, we met nationally with many expectations and were very excited to encounter one another.

Our very first beautiful surprise was to watch and listen to Pope Francis’ message in Spanish: “I see that the V Encuentro is a concrete way for the Church in the United States to respond to the challenge of going beyond what is comfortable, business as usual, to become a leaven of communion for all those who seek a future of hope, especially young people and families that live in the peripheries of society,” he said.

Throughout the day, following the process, the speakers led us in reflections on taking the first step, getting involved, accompanying everyone, bearing fruit and celebrating.

In his homily, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said how blessed we are that God gave us this Encuentro in the middle of this time of shame for our Church. “It is like an oasis of hope and joy,” he said. He emphasized that women in leadership are key in our Church, just like Mary, the very first disciple, saying “yes” to the Lord.

At the end of his homily, Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, California, broke out in song and all the Spanish-speakers sang in unison: “Let’s sing to the Lord, God is here, honor and glory to you, Lord of love.” That was the moment when I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, when I felt the power of our beloved Church through my sisters and brothers.

A very important moment of this gathering was the dialogue between the bishops and youths. A bishop sat at each table listening to young people. They came up with some recommendations for dioceses: ongoing theological and human formation for leaders who work with youth from catechesis through young adulthood; ongoing formation for youth and young adults, including retreats, workshops and social justice formation; and opportunities for youth-focused Masses, spiritual direction, mentorship and accompaniment. At the end of the dinner, each bishop received a blessing from the youth at his table, which was a very humble moment.

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, asked us to reflect on the question: Who are the poor? In our minds, they must include pregnant girls who do not want to have an abortion and who need people who have time and space in their lives to accompany them along the difficult path. They must include immigrants who live in the shadow of society, who need human attention, who need God and the Gospel, and the sacraments. They must also include young people without hope or trapped by drugs and gangs, or who are tempted by suicide.

The people who know Jesus and his love sense the need to go out to find the encounter with Jesus in the poor. He waits for us among them, and when we accompany them, with humility and sincerity, we discover the Lord who accompanies us.

“My brother bishops, our people are ready for leadership. They are already leaders,” said Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, of Latino Catholics in the United States. “We must place them in leadership positions in all levels of the Church even as we strengthen our programs of leadership training and formation. We must show by our accompaniment that we also love our people, and we must affirm them.”

Manancero is the director of the Office of Latino Ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and president of the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry.

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Category: The Local Church