SALT LAKE CITY — Diocesan delegates to the V Encuentro (Spanish for “encounter”) gathered on Oct. 27 at the Pastoral Center to hear the results of the process presented by Dr. Patricia Jimenez, communications coordinator of the V Encuentro.
The V Encuentro is the fifth of a series of four-year processes to engage Hispanics/Latinos, especially younger generations, in the U.S. Church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops held the first Encuentro in 1972. The Diocese of Salt Lake City has been involved in the Encuentro process since the beginning; last year, 22 Utah Catholics attended the national gathering in Grapevine, Texas.
For the Oct. 27 gathering, Maria Cruz Gray, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, invited Jimenez to speak to the more than 50 delegates from throughout the diocese who attended the gathering.
Jimenez focused her presentation on what is occurring with the V Encuentro at the national level, using a video to narrate the process.
”For the past 20 months thousands of missionary disciples across the United States have engaged in missionary and consultation activity called forth by the V Encuentro process,” stated the video in the introduction.
The video included testimonies such as, “We talked a lot about accompaniment. … We reach out to the youth at the soccer fields. … I saw many people who have the courage to go out to reach out in the peripheries and invite people to talk about Jesus more openly. … The process of the consultation also brought a new understanding of the Church’s call to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Jimenez said that parishes, dioceses and regions have celebrated their Encuentros with a profound sense of joy and hope. She then asked the local delegates to share their experiences of the Encuentro.
“For me it was a great experience,” said Rosario Cano, a San Rafael Mission parishioner who was one of the delegates. “At the national gathering we met so many people from so many different places who had the same challenges that we do here in Utah. … It was telling us that we are not alone; there are many people walking the same path. It was a great experience. To see how our bishops are open to listen to us and to share with us was incredible.”
Gray said that her experience at the National V Encuentro was incredible despite the challenges that the Utah delegation faced.
“The lines were humongous. We got lost with so many people in such a huge place, but we were happy, we were filled with joy to be there with the flag of our diocese, representing it. I was very proud. … I forgot all the worries. There were lots of people of many languages, but we all were friends,” said Gray, adding that she felt “we are all welcome in the Church.”
All the information gathered through the V Encuentro at the local and regional levels has been analyzed at the national level and put into a document that includes the recommendations and conclusions from all levels, Jimenez said.
The purpose of the document is to generate a pastoral response to the recommendations to the V Encuentro, and to use the recommendations as a tool for pastoral planning, she said.
Jimenez gave a brief explanation of the document’s chapters, and said it will be reviewed in detail at an upcoming regional meeting, where various initiatives will be proposed that may lead to changes at local and diocesan levels. For example, she said, the V Encuentro process discovered that some people didn’t go to church because they don’t feel welcomed, “so what some parishes have implemented is a welcoming committee.”
The V Encuentro is a pastoral process that will continue.
“We have to live this process with the people who haven’t been reached,” said Jimenez, sharing that new initiatives are being explored at the national level for new ministries and ways to better serve families.
One initiative that was a priority during the V Encuentro is ministry for the faith formation of young people, Jimenez said. Those youth who attended the Encuentro have been invited to a program that will give them university credits.
Also, “In 2020 all the bishops have been invited to celebrate a diocesan Encuentro,” Jimenez said.