SALT LAKE CITY — At the national V Encuentro, held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas, the 22 Utah delegates received something in common: a revitalization and constant flow of energy to continue the work as missionary disciples of Christ in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of Hispanic Ministry and Religious Education at Boston College, who was one of the speakers at the Encuentro, said that there are 52 million Hispanics in the United States (not including undocumented immigrants), of whom 68 percent are Catholic.
The Catholic population in the U.S. grew from 48. 5 million in 1965 to 75 million today, so Hispanics make up 71 percent of the growth of the nation’s Catholic population since 1960, Ospino said.
The V Encuentro, which culminated in the national event in Texas, was a four-year process to identify priorities for Hispanic ministry in the U.S.
Among the Utah delegates who participated in the national V Encuentro was Fabiola Trujillo, an active parishioner at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in West Valley City and a certified lay ecclesial minister. Despite her active ministry, Trujillo said that the V Encuentro has taught her that there is much more to do.
“I have realized that many people are outside the Church instead of being inside of it. … This is because they have no one who listens to them; they haven’t found a kind word that motivates them to keep on going,” said Trujillo, who is originally from Colombia. “The V Encuentro has helped me to be calmer, to learn to listen better, and to always give a hand to those in need.”
Participating in the V Encuentro was a blessing, she added. “I felt my commitment to our Lord as a more solid one. … I felt that desire to help more and to get to know better the people at my parish and in our diocese.”
One of her priorities is now to focus on the youth.
“We need to get closer to them; we need to look for them, to invite them to the Church. We need to walk with them. … They are our future,” she said.
Showing the youth how important they are for the Church in Utah is her goal, she said. She also wants to work hard to implement in the Diocese of Salt Lake City recommendations that came as results of the V Encuentro.
Similarly Joel Romero, who attends St. Joseph Parish in Ogden and is a past leader of the Diocesan Charismatic Renovation and also a certified lay ecclesial minister, among other ministries, said that the youth are the future of the Church.
“There are great needs in our families, in our youth. …We are losing them and we need to be tenacious in reaching out to them,” said Romero, who is originally from Mexico.
Being able to participate in the National V Encuentro was a gift from God, he said.
“It was a gift for us and for all the Hispanics that through this V Encuentro we fell in love once again with God. … It was also a great effort from our diocese and from all of us, and I am sure that it will give lots of results,” Romero said.
The V Encuentro’s main goal is “to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church,” the event’s documents state.
“My energy is at its fullest level to keep up the work with our communities. … My heart is on fire with God’s love; my personal plan is already active,” said Romero, referring to the fact that he shares his experiences with every person that he meets, encouraging them to become active in a parish ministry.
“Now more than ever, we all have to become missionary disciples building God’s kingdom on earth,” he said.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City is included in V Encuentro Region XIII. According to the information shared at the national V Encuentro, the main gifts and opportunities for Region XIII are the high population of young Hispanics, evangelization within family and from the community, and responsible use of gifts. The main obstacles and challenges that Region XIII faces are lack of resources, evangelization of millennials, and the problem of indifference. The top regional implementation strategies are sending missionary disciples to every parish and community, promoting practices to reach people on the peripheries, and more retreats and movements that lead to an encounter with Christ.