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Diocesan delegates from Encuentro return with renewed commitment

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Among the more than 3,000 delegates at the National Fifth Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23, were 22 people from the Diocese of Arlington. 

Father José E. Hoyos, director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate, was impressed with the diversity of the delegates and the presence of bishops, cardinals and others. 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge will meet with the delegates to find out their reactions in mid-October. 

“One of the things that I concluded was that the Hispanic Catholics don’t want assimilation, we want participation,” said Father Hoyos. “Two Catholic churches do not exist in the United States. It is the Anglos and Hispanics working together. The Catholics are called to be protagonists in the new evangelization.” 

Marco Benites, a delegate from St. John Neumann Church in Reston, said the experience was amazing. “The priests and bishops are open to hear us and give us an opportunity to work together and not divide the church,” he said. “We are going to work together to help people know more about faith, the church and the Gospel.” 

Related: Today is the 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

Ángel F. Valecillos, a delegate from St. Joseph Church in Herndon, came back inspired and energized to put his gifts at the service of the church as part of a wider community. “We must get out of our comfort zone and reach out to the peripheries,” he said. “There are so many projects to work on, and I need to discern how God is calling me to serve.”

Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general of the Diocese of Arlington and pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, said the gathering was a great opportunity “to gather with Catholics from around the country to renew our commitment to welcoming and integrating Hispanic Catholics into our parish and diocesan communities.”

Related: Papal nuncio addresses Encuentro delegates

Father Ferguson said the meeting was filled with enthusiasm and joy from start to finish. “There were beautiful celebrations of the Eucharist each day, inspiring homilies and keynote addresses, and fruitful discussions with counterparts in ministries from other parts of the country. A special emphasis was placed on fostering opportunities for leadership formation, especially among young adults.”

Franklin O. Soruco Suarez, a parishioner of St. James Church in Falls Church, was invited to join a meeting with bishops to speak about young adults.

Related: Encuentro opens with procession, papal message

“It was a great experience to be at the same table,” he said. “You can tell they want to help the community and listen to the young people because of their attitude toward the Hispanic community, their disposition to listen and their discourse during the Encuentro.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018