By Jake Samour
Eighteen years have passed since the fourth National Encuentro (Gathering) of Hispanic Catholics in the United States that took place in Los Angeles. Another national Encuentro is being planned because the demographics and needs of Hispanic Catholics have changed drastically since then.
The Encuentro is a four-year process which seeks to listen to the voice of the Hispanic and Latino people in the peripheries, and in the process call forth to form new leaders. The hope is to go out and evangelize while we go through the consultation process. It has been convened in and was made one of the priorities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On the last weekend of April, nearly 200 delegates of the 15 dioceses from Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri gathered at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to participate in the Region IX Encuentro.
In many amazing ways, the upcoming V Encuentro has already been a success. A total of 143 dioceses have celebrated their diocesan Encuentros and the regional Encuentros are still being held with much joy and enthusiasm across the country. The numbers speak for themselves:
• The mission and consultation process has reached more than 330,000 people.
• More than 45,000 leaders, both new and experienced, have participated in diocesan and regional Encuentros. Three more regional Encuentros will take place in May and three more in June.
• More than 26,000 leaders have been trained as missionary disciples
• In addition, all dioceses in the country have completed their report on the present state of Hispanic ministry. This has never been done so completely and professionally.
More than 3,000 delegates and over 100 bishops will attend the V National Encuentro Sept. 20-23, in Grapevine, Texas. Representatives of the Holy See and Latin America will also attend. This effort is inspiring a new generation of leaders and fostering a space to develop creative ways of evangelizing and reaching out to those on the peripheries of our communities.
Samour is director of the diocesan Office Marriage and Family Life.