LINCOLN (SNR) – More than 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background, as well as 150 bishops, including several cardinals, and four delegates from the Diocese of Lincoln, attended the National V Encuentro in Texas, a culmination of four years of listening to Hispanic Catholics throughout the U.S.
This year’s theme was “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”
Delegates to the Encuentro were selected from the 165 dioceses and the nearly 250,000 people who participated in the local processes over the past year. They discussed topics already explored at the local levels that particularly pertain to Hispanics, such as youth involvement, lay leadership formation, and community outreach and evangelization.
The five main objectives of the meeting were: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”
Ricardo Izquierdo, director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, and one of the diocesan delegates that attended the Encuentro, highlighted the importance of the event.
“To see so many cardinals and bishops make time specifically for Hispanics amidst all their regular work was significant for the people,” he said.
“It was a long and complicated process which brought national attention to the talents and needs of Hispanics,” he continued, “yet ultimately it’s up to individual dioceses, parishes, and individuals to take steps to integrate all cultures into our American ecclesial experience. In our diocese we will read the document that comes from the Encuentro and review our diocesan pastoral plan in light of it.”
The National V Encuentro also included daily Mass, a daybreak rosary, a bishop and young adult dinner encounter, and regional, inter-regional, and ministerial small group sessions.
The National V Encuentro came at a time when Hispanics make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the country, representing about 40 percent of the Church in the United States in 2016.
The Hispanic population is particularly large among youth and young adults in the Church in the US: 50 percent of Catholics ages 14 to 29 are Hispanic, and 55 percent of Catholics under 14 are Hispanic. Though immigration rates from Hispanic countries have begun to slow in recent years, the percentage of Hispanics in the Church in the US is expected to continue growing during the next decade.
The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.
According to a letter issued by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the V Encuentro is an opportunity “to listen with profound attention to the needs, challenges and aspirations that the growing Hispanic/Latino population faces in daily life. It especially prepares us as a Church to better recognize, embrace, and promote the many gifts and talents that the Hispanic community shares in the life and mission of the Church and in the society.”