Encuentro's lessons are for everyone
Our diocese recently hosted more than 3,000 Catholics from across the U.S. at the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry in Grapevine from Sept. 20-23. We caught up with Bishop Michael Olson to get his thoughts on the four-year process which aims to develop pastoral recommendations to better serve the growing Hispanic Catholic population in the U.S., train and form more Hispanic ministry leaders, and better utilize the gifts of the Latino community.
What has it been like to be host bishop of the V Encuentro?
Bishop Olson: I’m so proud of our people in the Diocese of Fort Worth, of our priests, of our staff, of our seminarians, of all the faithful who are here, who are taking active parts in the faith formation dimensions, but even more so who are serving as volunteers of hospitality, and how we’ve come together. I’m so grateful for that.
Throughout this long process of Encuentro, you’ve mentioned the idea of encountering Christ through Church, through discipleship. Can you speak to how the V Encuentro plays into that?
Bishop Olson: The word “encuentro” in Spanish means encounter. Encounter is, frankly, a value-neutral term. It’s a dangerous term in itself, but a place of danger like that is also where we have the chance to meet Christ. The first and only encounter that ultimately matters is Christ, and Christ’s decision that He should be encountered in other people as well, and that is His choice. “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am. When did we see you hungry? When did we see you thirsty?” That was Him in the poor and whoever was in need. He’s in my brother and sister.
In all of that, the focus is an encounter with Christ, and what is He asking us to do, and what is His agenda for us. It’s going to look different for each of us, in each local church. So, as bishop, I’m really grateful that in a sense God in His providence has let us be the site where this can take place.
What kind of impact do you think the fruits of this Encuentro will have on our local Church, our diocese?
Bishop Olson: I’m hoping that it’ll start with the Hispanic community, but not end there. I’m hoping it will bring what it should bring for everyone, but to the Hispanic community, conversion. Conversion of heart, which invites them and sends them as missionary disciples into the larger community. And in the larger community that everyone be changed by focusing on Christ, and doing as He asked. That we change our ways of doing things. I think also in our Hispanic community as well, that we give up sectarianism within our community — sectarianism that can be fostered unintentionally when it’s a misuse of retreats and movements, where that becomes more about me than about our life of faith.
I’m hoping that it will lead to renewal within the Hispanic community, and our broader sense of the Church, of how we catechize. Evangelization is not just simply a sentiment of happiness and joy, but the substance of the Gospel, and the very rich deposit of faith that involves real education and faith formation, and not just exuberance or enthusiasm. That is my hope. A maturity that affects all of us as the Church and the Diocese of Fort Worth. That we take seriously the integrity of the deposit of faith. That we live that out for the sake, especially, of those who don’t know Christ, or even those who don’t know Him because they reject it and they’re not interested in the selflessness that comes with the Gospel.
So that’s the mission I think is before us. It involves the salvation of souls. I think God is prompting us in this Encuentro to really renew our desires according to His designs for us.