SEWARD (SNR) – Representatives from parishes with Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln (Lincoln, Crete, Nebraska City, Hastings, Imperial, McCook, Minden, and Tecumseh) gathered at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward Oct. 1 to participate in the diocesan “V Encuentro.”
The V Encuentro is a nationwide process started in 2013 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and as its name implies, it is the fifth of its kind since 1972. Each Encuentro (which is Spanish for “encounter”) has sought to engage Hispanics in conversations about their needs, aspirations and contributions as baptized members of the Church in America and to create a process for new ideas to be shared with national leadership.
Ricardo Izquierdo, director of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Lincoln, explained the process.
“In the Diocese of Lincoln the first step of the V Encuentro consisted of five sessions in parishes, with a central theme of missionary discipleship,” he said.
Those who attended were equipped and invited to make visits to people who would otherwise not have a connection with the Church. In homes or at places of work, participants asked substantial questions about personal obstacles, dreams, and one’s relationship with God and with the Church. Afterward, they filled out consultation forms that would later help form a diocesan working document.
“This working document then became the core guiding text of the diocesan Encuentro (Oct. 1),” Izquierdo said. “The representatives from each parish who had participated in the previous five sessions arrived ready to work.”
The day consisted of a series of talks, group discussions, analysis of key parts of the working document, and a long afternoon of grading the abundance of ideas that were proposed, with criteria such as attainability and evangelistic quality.
Some of the key proposals were an increase of Spanish-speaking priests and Eucharistic adoration. The participants also spent part of the day working alongside Bishop James Conley, presenting their work to him and listening to his words of encouragement.
Izquierdo said the bishop’s presence at the Encuentro was received with much joy.
“It gave the work a sense of its real importance, highlighting the advisory nature of what we were doing and the fact that he was indeed listening to us,” he continued. “All of us there appreciated it when he sat and engaged in the activities alongside the participants, listening, encouraging us, and then sharing a meal with us.”
The next steps are involvement in the regional and national Encuentros. The regional conference will be held in Kansas City in April with representatives from Region IX – which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. The national event will be in Dallas in September 2018.
“The Diocese of Lincoln plans to send delegates to these events and continue to participate in this important process,” Izquierdo said.