Hispanic Catholics in the diocese are beginning preparations this Lent to participate in the fifth National Encuentro on Hispanic Ministry, Father Ernesto Rodriguez, diocesan directory of Hispanic Ministry, has announced.
“All Hispanic leaders or ministers, parishes or lay organizations of the Youngstown Diocese are called to become involved in this pastoral interaction,” Father Rodriguez said. The Encuentro (encounter) process will take place at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels, in preparation for a national gathering of Hispanic Catholics in Fort Worth, Texas, in September 2018
“The invitation is extended throughout the U.S. dioceses to all people who feel touched and called by God to go out and announce the Good News with the Spirit of the New Evangelization,” Father Rodriguez explained. It will focus especially on those “not participating in the celebration of the Eucharist.”
The fifth Encuentro, called for by the U.S. bishops, has already begun in the Youngstown Diocese, with gatherings at five parishes in four of the counties that have a sizable Hispanic presence, Father Rodriguez said. Hispanic Catholics gather “to understand the sign of the times through the experiences of Catholics who are Hispanic immigrants,” he said.
Since 1972, the U.S. bishops have convened five National Encuentros. One fruit of the Encuentro was the 1988 National Pastoral Plan of the Hispanic Ministry by Hispanic Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The goal,” Father Rodriguez continued, “is to respond concretely to the demands of the U.S. dioceses according to their social environments and specific needs.” Hispanic Catholics will continue to meet, pray, and discuss these issues in light of their faith.
The hope of the gatherings, said Father Shawn Conoboy, pastor of Campbell Christ the Good Shepherd, “is to foster Hispanic ministry and to incorporate it more fully into the life of the Church.”
The diocesan meetings “are not formal classes,” Father Rodriguez noted. They have two objectives. The first one is that all participants share the personal experiences of God in their life, and the second one is to form groups in order to live the life of the faith.”
Parish directors, coordinators, facilitators and other leaders at the five parishes mentioned above were trained to guide parishioners during the process, Father Conoboy said.
Following these gatherings, he continued, each of the participating parishes will have their own Encuentro within several months. Later in the year, there will be a diocesan-wide Encuentro gathering.
Early next year, there will be regional gatherings in preparation for the National Encuentro in Texas, Father Conoboy explained. A document or plan is expected to develop out of the National Encuentro.
“This ‘culture of encounter’ seeks to offer a new way of life and way of acting in relation to ‘the others’ in the community,” Father Rodriguez said. “[It calls for us to] start by seeing and assuming that other people are our real brothers and sisters, not just as an idea or concept. If my brother or my sister has a need, I can look at him/her and go with him/ her in order to resolve their difficulties or their problems,” Father Rodriguez said.
The hope is that such concepts as “subsidiarity” and “solidarity” “can be experienced in a practical way,” Father Rodriguez said. “This is the culture of the encounter emphasized by Pope Francis.”