September 25, 2018 // National

Continue to be an evangelizing Church, nuncio tells V Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) — Quoting from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic leaders and bishops to continue working toward being an evangelizing Church by seeking an encounter with Christ and taking initiative while accompanying those on the peripheries.

“The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice,” Archbishop Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said Sept. 20, the opening day of the Fifth National Encuentro.

Nearly 3,000 ministry leaders at the gathering in Grapevine were selected to represent 159 dioceses across the country.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, talks Sept. 20 with delegates prior to the start of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The four-day event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

During the Sept. 20-23 event, participants were taking part in listening and dialogue sessions to discuss a wide range of issues they consider to be priorities in Hispanic Catholic ministry for the Church in the United States.

The Fifth National Encuentro, also called V Encuentro, is a process of missionary work, consultation, leadership development and community building that seeks to develop better ways in which the Catholic Church can respond to Hispanic Catholics in parishes around the country. It also seeks to strengthen them as leaders and missionary disciples.

As in previous Encuentros, the goal is to develop a national pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry for the present and for years to come.

A delegate carries holds the Encuentro cross Sept. 20 prior to the start of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Archbishop Pierre, in his keynote address, praised the work done by Encuentro leaders to reach those on the peripheries as they answer the call to be missionary disciples.

In remarks delivered in both English and Spanish, the papal nuncio warned against judging and condemning the Church and considering it distant. “We are the Church, if there’s need for a conversion it starts with us,” he said.

He also challenged the leaders to seek new ways to reach out to those who are indifferent and to those who have abandoned the Church or are on existential and spiritual peripheries. 

“What leads to a change of heart in Christians is precisely a missionary spirit,” he said.

Aaron Benevides, a student at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., demonstrates a photo display Sept. 20 prior to the start of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

The archbishop described the characteristics of an evangelizing Church: getting involved, taking initiative, staying committed, accompanying others, bearing fruits and feeling joy. 

He reminded participants that as Pope Francis said: “The Church in the United States, as in other parts of the world, is called to ‘go forth’ out of its comfort zone and become leaven of communion.”

The nuncio also urged everyone to get involved and not just remain as spectators, and invited bishops and clergy to keep their vocations alive.  

“Accompaniment entails guiding, encouraging and supporting, and uniting. The Church that actively does this is a synodal Church — a Church that walks together. One speaks of synodality in the Church and synodality of the Church,” he added.

He explained synodality “in” the Church as a Church that journeys together renewing the life and practice of faith through constant discernment and action involving many forms of participation and action. Synodality “of” the Church, he said, refers to the journey of the Church with humanity through history. 

“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of synodality ‘in’ the Church — listening, speaking, participating by asking critical questions and discerning the path forward. If communion is a sharing of the faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the Church, synodality is the sign and fulfillment of communion.”

Pictured with the V Encuentro cross of Region 7, which includes the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, are, from left, delegates Lourdes Silva, associate director for Hispanic Ministry; Alicia Carrillo; Jose Ruiz; and Manuel Centeno.

Bearing fruits requires discernment and patience, he stressed. “Patience in the art of discernment and accompaniment allows the whole Church to move forward.”

Archbishop Pierre told participants not to forget about joy along the journey. “Joy is the greatest experience of the Church that goes forth. The Eucharist is the source and summit of all life in the Church. The Eucharist is the sacrament which nourishes Christian joy.”

He concluded by inviting others to live the joy of the Gospel.

“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these days, we may be the Church that Christ wants us to be — with him at the center of our lives, our conversations and our ministry, confident that with the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and to intercede for us, we may always move forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”

Joy, hope contagious for participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) — Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, in Grapevine.

One of the attendees, a 22-year-old Mexican-American seminarian, said he feels enriched by the exchange of ideas on pastoral needs in areas such as vocations and young adults. He also feels his contributions will be of value to strengthen Catholic Hispanic ministry in the United States.

“In school we do a lot of theorizing and then you come here, and you come back to the reality to see what the needs of the Church are,” the seminarian, who asked that his name not be used, told Catholic News Service.

“One thing that surprised me is the amount of youth, young leaders, young people working for different dioceses, it’s something that I didn’t expect to be a reality,” he added.

The Encuentro participants, who totaled about 3,200 Hispanic ministry leaders, bishops and members of organizations and ecclesial movements, continued a full day of consultation and discernment Sept. 22 on 28 ministerial areas and 10 priorities which include evangelization and catechesis, family, immigration, justice and peace, and Hispanic youth and young adults.

During an afternoon plenary session, regional representatives highlighted the contributions of “Dreamers,” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. They were part of the Encuentro process but were unable to be present at this gathering in Texas for fear of being detained and deported due to the state’s harsh immigration laws. It was a moving moment in which the audience cheered in solidarity with them.

“I’m very hopeful with the results of this Encuentro that we’re going to go back home and really bring consciousness to the whole world, that we’re going to make a difference in the lives of those who need us,” Sister Norma Pimentel, an Encuentro delegate, told CNS. A member of the Missionaries of Jesus, Sister Pimentel is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Other recurring issues include supporting Hispanic women in leadership roles; the need to continue the role of a missionary Church that reaches out to others; more access to leadership positions at all levels; and to reach out to, mentor and guide young adults as ministry leaders.

Unlike previous Encuentros where a national pastoral plan was developed following the national gathering, the results of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, will be compiled into a final document that will be shared with all dioceses, so parishes and dioceses can utilize it to reinforce and strengthen their Hispanic ministry groups.

The reason is that the Hispanic Catholic community in the Church has grown to be large and diverse in its needs and realities, and what makes sense for San Antonio would not make sense in other dioceses like Green Bay, Wisconsin, or Tulsa, Oklahoma, explained Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio in an interview with CNS. He chairs the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Each diocese has been in a different process even in the V Encuentro,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

He also pointed out that the involvement of bishops from most dioceses and archdioceses shows their support for the Hispanic community and commitment to move forward.

“The main thing is that the bishops — and you see it with the presence of bishops (at this gathering) — we are assuming this walking together with the people of God in the Catholic Church in which many, many, many are Catholic for the sake of the whole Church,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

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