SEATTLE – Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo was among nearly 30 representatives of the Archdiocese of Seattle who gathered in Texas with thousands of others for the recent V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry.
“It was a sign of hope and a sign of vitality,” Carlos Carrillo, the archdiocese’s interim faith formation director, said of the September 20–23 event. “The Catholic Church is alive and vibrant.”
The Encuentro (which means “encounter”) drew more than 160 bishops and 3,000 delegates — including 600 young adults — from across the U.S. They represented Hispanic/Latino ministry from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations.
“It created a forum for young adults to speak and be heard,” said Edwin Ferrera, the archdiocese’s Hispanic ministry director. In the Archdiocese of Seattle, one-third of Catholics are Hispanic and more than half of Catholics under 18 are Hispanic, Ferrera said.
Carillo said the delegates worked to identify best practices in areas that included evangelization and mission, catechesis, family ministry, immigration, justice and peace, leadership development, liturgy and spirituality, and vocations.
The national gathering is part of a four-year process to examine Hispanic ministry that began in parishes across the country two years ago. Small groups, formed in local parishes in 2016, were asked to connect with people who weren’t engaged with their parishes.
“We’re asking these people to visit people who are disenfranchised and marginalized,” Ferrera said of local parishioners. “We were inviting them into missionary activity.”
Participants interacted and listened, then documented what they learned about how Hispanics were welcomed at a parish, how well the parish worked with them in difficult times, and how a parish can “walk” with people, Ferrera said.
“There’s a lot of rich data in there about their lives and experiences in church,” he added. Drawing from that information, each group identified two or three priorities to implement at their parish.
Nearly 30 delegates from the Archdiocese of Seattle traveled to Texas in late September for the V National Encuentro gathering focused on Hispanic ministry. Photo: Courtesy Carlos Carrillo
The information-gathering continued with an archdiocesan-wide Encuentro in late 2017 and a regional Encuentro in June 2018.
One topic that rose to the top was the need for young Hispanics to serve in leadership positions in the church, Carrillo said. These young adults often disappear from church when they begin their careers, he explained.
“We want to make sure they are not only part of the church, but lead the church,” Carrillo said.
Also important is examining the role of Hispanic women in church leadership and working to keep families together, especially immigrants and refugees, he said.
A document highlighting the best practices discussed during the national meeting is being developed and will be distributed throughout the country. But parishes are already busy implementing the priorities identified by their small groups.
The V National Encuentro and the work leading up to it were a “mountaintop experience,” Ferrera said. “We’ve heard something and we’ve seen something.” Now, he said, “how do we respond to what we’ve seen and heard?”
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