Four reasons why the fifth Encuentro matters to non-Hispanics
FORT WORTH — For the fifth time since 1972, Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. are participating in a multi-year process of determining ways to better serve and engage them in service to the entire Catholic Church.
The midway point, the national V Encuentro, recently concluded in Grapevine. Now, delegates from across the country return to their parishes with renewed energy to implement the ideas and training they have received. Bishops and Church leaders, having heard the concerns and dreams of Hispanic Catholics, will develop a pastoral plan for the Hispanic Church.
Past Encuentro processes have resulted in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops creating offices and plans for Hispanic ministry. But will this fifth Encuentro affect the U.S. Church as a whole? Does it matter to non-Hispanics?
Yes. Here are four reasons why:
- Big and growing. More than 40 percent of Catholics in the U.S. are Hispanic, and that number is increasing. According to a 2010 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, 54 percent of millennial Catholics (those born between 1982 and 2004) are Hispanic. Growth in the Church since 1960 — stands at 71 percent Hispanic.
Texas Catholics currently weigh in at a robust 53 percent Hispanic. In the Diocese of Fort Worth, more than half of the parishes offer at least one Spanish-language Mass.
- Ready to serve. Now, halfway through the V Encuentro process, more than 250,000 parishioners have answered the call to be missionary disciples. Also, 25,000 Hispanic leaders have been trained in ministry. Lessons they learned in listening, accompanying, and involving will bear a harvest of fruit that nourishes the entire Church.
At their parishes, they are starting youth groups, young adult ministries, and formation classes. The missionary disciples are inviting friends and family to return to church.
They are becoming more involved in the social justice issues that the Church has always upheld. Many Hispanic Catholics are advocates for social concerns including respect for life, just immigration policies, the dignity of the worker, and peace and justice. On the parish and national levels, an infusion of energized, enthusiastic Hispanics will fortify many ministries.
- Inspiring others. Other sectors of the Catholic Church in the U.S., such as immigrants from Asia or Africa, could be encouraged and inspired to take a more active role in their parish upon seeing their Hispanic brothers and sisters become more engaged.
The Body of Christ is stronger when everyone is an active member. When pastors and Church leaders hear every voice, they become equipped to be better ministers to people of every background.
The culture of encounter at the heart of Encuentro can build a bridge between different populations within a parish.
- Keep it together. The individualism that pervades society has influenced Catholicism too. The Vatican noted this in a Feb. 22 letter to bishops, saying “a merely interior vision of salvation is becoming common, a vision which, marked by a strong personal conviction or feeling of being united to God, does not take into account the need to accept, heal, and renew our relationships with others.”
However, the Hispanic culture embraces values — a strong sense of family, belonging, and community — that can enhance the entire Church. Walk with Christ, plus urge your family and friends to walk with you.
The commitment to family is great. Large family gatherings are the norm. Hispanics also feel a stronger sense of belonging to their neighborhood, their barrio. Instead of pulling in the driveway and rushing inside, take time to visit with the neighbor on his porch.
Finally, V Encuentro is a visible sign to Catholics that the Church, following the example of Jesus, cares about each individual and about the diverse communities and cultures to which they belong.
In an address kicking off the national V Encuentro, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said “the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, the passion, the love, and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace, a gift to us as we rebuild the Church.” A gift from Hispanic Catholics to all of us.