ALLOUEZ — One of the largest gatherings of Hispanic Catholics in the Diocese of Green Bay will take place Oct. 22 at the diocesan Chancery. The day-long gathering begins at 9 a.m. and concludes with a 5 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop David Ricken and Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas of Chicago.
The gathering is part of a national initiative called V Encuentro (Encounter 5), a four-year process of reflection and planning. Similar diocesan encounters are taking place across the country this fall, followed by the national V Encuentro in June 2018.
“On this road toward the V Encuentro, we have formed a diocesan team that is working … toward the fifth national gathering,” said Carlos Hernandez, director of the diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office.
In addition to Hernandez, other diocesan team members include Fr. William Hoffman, pastor of St. Philip Parish in Green Bay, Cesar Quiroz, Javier Gomez, Claudia Rodriguez and Alina Mozo. Parishes participating in the diocesan Encuentro process include St Willebrord, Green Bay; St Philip Parish, Green Bay; SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Green Bay; St Therese Parish, Appleton; St. Clare Parish, Wrightstown; St. Mary Parish, Omro; St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Newton; and St. Joseph Parish, Wautoma. In addition, two groups — the Hispanic Cursillo Movement and the Hispanic Young Adult Movement, “Jufra,” — will be represented at the diocesan gathering.
As its name indicates, V Encuentro is the fifth in a decades-long process of gatherings seeking to set goals and directions for Hispanic Catholics in the United States, as well as to prepare leadership for the future church. The first encounter took place in 1972, followed by II Encuentro in 1977, III Encuentro in 1985, Encuentro 2000 and Primer Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral Juvenil in 2006.
The 2006 Encuentro focused on listening to the voices of Hispanic youth in preparation for the future.
“A V National Encuentro of Hispanic Ministry will encourage us to continue our walk as God’s people, to raise our voice once more, and to discern our pastoral priorities and strategies that are most appropriate at the present time,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs.
Carlos Herrera, coordinator of Hispanic Ministry at St. Therese Parish in Appleton, said the Encuentro process is helping parishes set priorities for their communities. “We are discovering areas that we never thought were going to be faced before the Encuentro,” he told The Compass in an email. “At the diocesan level, the Green Bay Hispanic Ministry Office is discovering the important idea to set objectives with other dioceses, especially with Madison and Milwaukee. It would have never happened if there was not an Encuentro process.”
Lorena Gomez, a member of St. Willebrord Parish, said the Encuentro process is a good way for the Hispanic community to celebrate and preserve its traditions, “especially for people who do not have the opportunity to travel to their countries of origin.”
The USCCB’s Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs chose missionary discipleship as a central theme of V Encuentro, which is the same theme Bishop David Ricken is encouraging in “Disciples On the Way,” his six-year pastoral plan for the Diocese of Green Bay.
Preparation for next month’s V Encuentro diocesan event dates back several years, said Hernandez. “The first Hispanic retreat/gathering (for diocesan leaders) took place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in July 2015,” he said. The diocesan team attended two additional meetings in 2015 and two training sessions in 2016. Local parishes held Encuentro gatherings earlier this year to prepare for October’s meeting.
Herrera, whose parish held its Encuentro event in May, said that the parish discussion surfaced many important topics. Among them:
- Formation: “Spiritual growth, Bible study, personal and family values.”
- Diversity, inclusion and social issues: “Looking for ways to be more tolerant with diversity, breaking the hate and to consolidate laws that resolve immigration issues in our community.”
- Hospitality: “How to be more testimonial and create a welcoming home for our Hispanic community. How to attract more people who are leaving the church or never come.”
- Missionaries with the youth and families: “We see the need to continue supporting our Hispanic youth and families. We want to create more retreats for them, movements.”
- Communication: “We discover the need to look for ways to be more informed about events, retreats, conferences, resources and help.”
Herrera said he hopes the diocesan Encuentro will lead to resources and support that will allow ministry plans to be implemented at the diocesan and parish levels.
“The difference of this V Encuentro with the other four is the important amount of resources applied to achieve it,” he said, pointing to an enhanced V Encuentro website, lots of preparation material for parishes and support from the U.S. bishops.
“I believe that there is a real sense of awareness that the Latino community needs to be listened and be empowered in our Catholic Church today,” he added.
Gomez said she would like to see the Encuentro process help participants “to find new ways for the Catholic Church in the United States to be strengthened and to show us new ways of evangelizing our young people, especially because they need a church that attracts them to God and, above all, to motivate them to work for their faith, so one day they can transmit that faith to their children.”