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Encuentro regional delegates meet with bishops to set national agenda

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In the lead-up to the National Fifth Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry to be held Sept. 20-23, 96 delegates hailing from Arlington, Baltimore, Washington and four other nearby dioceses met with bishops and clergy at The Catholic University of America in Washington May 19. Their aim was to develop a game plan for the church in the United States to find new and effective ways to support, empower and evangelize an increasing demographic in parishes: Catholics who are Hispanic.

The first encuentro, Spanish for “encounter,” was held in 1972. The theme for this year’s encuentro, which will be in Grapevine, Texas, was inspired by the example of Pope Francis: “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses to God’s Love.”

After the opening prayer and welcome by Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, the lead bishop for the Region IV delegates of whom Arlington has the largest contingent, Father José Hoyos, director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate, delivered the keynote address, reminding those in attendance that they are delegates of Jesus Christ commissioned to “share the Good News,” especially to the marginalized.

“The church and Christ demand more of us than what we have accomplished up until this point. Together as a family and leaving behind our differences, we can pray more, evangelize more, foster more solidarity, do more firsts, forgive more and love more,” Father Hoyos said. “And now, it’s time to work.”

From mid-morning until mid-afternoon, the majority of the time was spent in small group discussions interspersed with two panel discussions, one composed of bishops and clergy, including Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori; Auxiliary Bishop Mark Brennan of Baltimore; Bishop Dorsonville; Msgr. John J. M. Foster of the Archdiocese for the Military Services; and Father Thomas L. Ferguson, vicar general of the Diocese of Arlington and pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria. 

Father Ferguson and the other panelists spent the day listening to delegates. He was inspired by their enthusiasm.

“My reaction to this event today is that it has been a spirit-filled, joyful gathering of people from the different dioceses of our region,” Father Ferguson said. “Certainly, each of the dioceses in their own way, in their parishes and on the diocesan level, have really taken this whole process of the encuentro very seriously: this consultation, this prayer and reflection on how we can best serve Hispanic Catholics. There is a lot of enthusiasm.”

The other panel comprised diocesan directors, including the regional chair for the National Fifth Encuentro Sister Inma Cuesta of the Diocese of Richmond; the regional co-chair Lia Salinas of the Archdiocese of Baltimore; Javier Bustamante of the Archdiocese of Washington; and Deacon David E. Galvin of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va.

José Amaya for the Archdiocese of Military Services served as the master of ceremonies throughout the day.

Each small group discussed challenges and opportunities for one of eight ministerial areas: youth and young adult ministry; family ministry, immigration and social justice; co-responsibility and advancement; Hispanics in public and professional life; faith formation and catechesis; intercultural competencies; evangelization and mission; and vocations and leadership.

Individual groups presented their findings to the other delegates. For example, the group assigned to examine youth and young adult ministry voiced concern that there was “no Catholic Latino media,” parish-organized events were often age-inappropriate, and mentorship for Hispanic youths was generally lacking. Solutions included retreats geared toward “Dreamers,” promoting Catholic Latino media and providing workshops for understanding the immigration system.

The group that was assigned to family ministry, immigration and social justice listed the importance of recognizing that all members of the church, Latino and non-Latino, have a role to play in coming up with “an immigration solution.”

One Arlington delegate, Mila Lozano of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, was thrilled to be part of this process. 

“I feel so proud to be here to meet the V Encuentro community, including people from other dioceses that do not yet have the privilege of what our Arlington diocese has,” Lozano said. 

Lozano moved to the United States from Venezuela in 2004 and became passionate about her Catholic faith in 2014 through an encounter with the charismatic renewal movement. This past year, she led a small group discussion based on the encuentro handbook.

“The first thing that I learned to do was to listen,” Lozano said. “Like Jesus when he meets the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we are called to listen to people’s needs and accompany them. And if they are away from the church, we can walk with them and let them know what the church has to offer.”   

During a short break, Mary Beth Iduh of Catholic Relief Services spoke to the delegates on the importance of contacting their congressmen regarding immigration and other issues facing the Hispanic community. Bishop Dorsonville immediately followed up, reminding the crowd that one congressman told him: “I hear from you, but I do not often hear from your people.”

Soon afterward, Bishop Dorsonville blessed a basket full of letters from the delegates bound for Congress.

The day concluded with the Vigil Mass for the Feast of Pentecost in the crypt of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl concelebrated, along with Bishop Dorsonville, who delivered the homily. Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Father Hoyos, Father Ferguson and other bishops and clergy concelebrated as well.

Cardinal Wuerl, who recently returned from Rome, bestowed a blessing from Pope Francis.

Following Mass, Bishop Burbidge met with the Arlington delegates.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018