800 attend regional V Encuentro in San Antonio

May 8, 2018

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo receives gifts from two consecrated religious women during the V Encuentro in San Antonio on April 14. At least 800 attended the regional conference which precedes the national gathering in September near Dallas. Photo by Thao Nguyen/North Texas Catholic.

SAN ANTONIO — About 800 delegates from 18 dioceses across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas along with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and 21 bishops convened in San Antonio April 13 to April 15 for the V Encuentro for Region X.

The V Encuentro, like its preceding encuentros, is a form of consensus-building and strengthening leadership for Hispanics in the Church.

Lazaro Contreras, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said, “There was a lot of energy and spirit even though we were from different dioceses because we have been walking together on this journey for the past two years.”

The latest Encuentro, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), came in response to a request from Pope Francis to address the growing number of Hispanics in the Church and the needs of the flock and how they, in turn, can help the communities.

“We reviewed best practices, challenges and opportunities. Each group voted on recommendations and we will share them at the national meeting,” Contreras said.

Some of those topics included family and spiritual life, involvement in the Church, violence, aspirations, leadership development and ministry formation.

All the work will culminate and be revealed at the U.S. Catholic Church’s Fifth National Encuentro, or “V Encuentro,” to be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, near Dallas. Almost 3,000 delegates and 100 bishops are expected at the National Encuentro. Previous national encuentros were held in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000.

Among the hoped-for results are an increase in the number of vocations to the priesthood, religious life and permanent diaconate along with an increase in new leaders for continual theological formation and ministry of the Church.

In a working multiple-page document for V Encuentro, key demographics show that 2.4 million Hispanics reside in the 10 counties of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston with about 52 percent of them being Catholic. About three-fourths of Hispanics are born in the United States with the average household containing 4.3 members and a median Hispanic household income of $51,000, according to U.S. Census data.

A videotaped message by the Holy Father congratulated V Encuentro on helping to form the “changing face of the American Church.”

“We are called to be bearers of Good News…it is my hope that the Church in your country will be a reflection of the growing presence and the gifts of the Hispanic community. I pray that the Encuentro will bear fruits for American society and for the Church’s apostolate in the United States,” said Pope Francis.

One of the Houston delegates attending the San Antonio regional meeting, Deacon Gustavo Camacho of St. Vincent de Paul Church, said, “I went to my table, still a bit nervous, because as Bishop Michael Sis of San Angelo diocese said there during his homily at Mass, ‘we are part of history in the Church, one in which the decisions we make will affect the future of our Church and its growth.’

“Then Bishop Sis joined our table, which was a great surprise,” the deacon said. “He thanked us and said that what we have done will bear fruit in the future.”

Nationally, 143 dioceses participated in recent regional Encuentros. More than 45,000 delegates have participated in diocesan and regional Encuentros focusing on leadership, evangelization and mission.

Mirna Ochoa, associate director, Archdiocese’s Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry, said, “This process has really been a great opportunity to see how much our archdiocese has to offer our community, our people. We need to continue the effort of promoting the word of God and his love through all that we do and offer to all. It was wonderful to see how young adults were involved, and called to participate at the regional level to show how encountering others where they are has been life-changing.

One of the issues discussed was the use of technology and social networks to communicate with young people and to promote training activities and retreats.

“Young adults want to be heard as sometimes they are in the periphery, and I believe they felt they were heard at the Regional Encuentro,” Ochoa said.

Norma Torok, associate director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization, worked as a member of the Regional V Encuentro team.

“I cannot express how very blessed and humbled it felt to be a part of this event. The outcome far exceeded any expectation we could have imagined during our planning and organizing,” she said.
“Listening to people so engaged and invested in sharing their experiences of the Church today and how we can better serve was awe inspiring. The delegations seemed to feel affirmed in ministry. Indeed, the energy and prayers continue as the Church moves toward the National V Encuentro.”

For more information, visit www.vencuentro.org