SALT LAKE CITY – Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many dioceses in the United States have been unable to hold their in-service trainings as part of the V Encuentro.
To help with that, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs/V Encuentro offered a national virtual event Oct. 8-10 for all dioceses to connect, and also have diocesan delegation sessions for regional and local discussions.
Implementation of the V Encuentro started in 2017 as part of the U.S. Catholic Church’s New Evangelization effort. It emphasizes the importance of involving young, second- and third-generation Hispanics/Latinos in the life of the Church. This national event is intended to visualize the future of the Church’s Hispanic/Latino ministry and to help dioceses and organizations with their local pastoral responses.
The invitation to the virtual conference read in part, “The pastoral landscape of the Church and society has experienced seismic shifts this year, amid the continuing unfolding of the crises of the pandemic, the call for racial justice, the economy, and the continuing impact of global climate change. Our people are searching for ways to respond to these great challenges with limited resources in a spirit of synodality.”
Almost 100 delegates from Utah participated in the Oct. 8 virtual event, which started with comments by Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia, who facilitated a presentation.
“We want to keep going to the peripheries despite the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Maria Cruz Gray, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, who organized local participation in the virtual event.
The program for the event included a review of the proceedings and conclusions of the V Encuentro, reflecting on the reality of the Hispanic/Latino community in the Church, and discussing a pastoral planning process to help implement the findings in local dioceses. Also, action steps to respond to the pastoral priorities were proposed.
Local delegates were divided into 10 groups, which represented the 10 priorities of the diocesan Encuentro. Each group made a presentation on a different topic. For example, “Evangelization and Mission” was presented by Christian Gutierrez, a Sts. Peter and Paul parishioner, and Jackie Capella, a Cathedral of the Madeleine parishioner.
“Faith Formation and Catechesis” was given by Yolanda Carrillo, parishioner of St Joseph; and “Intercultural Capacities” was offered by Rosa Rodriguez, St. Francis Xavier parishioner.
All the presentations were recorded; Gray said she will have them available for anyone who wishes to see them.
“Each one of the presenters will also try to present the videos at the parish, if their pastors are willing to,” said Gray.
Continuing the Encuentro is important despite the current challenges because “we need to reinforce that we are all missionary disciples,” Gray said.
“God is always walking next to us,” she added. “He has never abandoned us. … Jesus came to our encounter,” so the participants will continue going out to the peripheries despite the restrictions and safety measurements of the pandemic.
“Through technology it is possible, and now more than ever we can never forget that God is alive, and now more than ever we need each other,” she said.
The virtual encounter also helped participants to draw some conclusions on what the Church is going to do in the next five years.
“It was a working type of Encuentro, to report how are we doing, what we can do, how can we keep on going through these challenging times,” Gray said.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis participated in some of the diocesan sessions.
The event concluded with a Mass virtually celebrated by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.