Encuentro called a ‘gift’ to help church
address challenges ‘of our time’

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, is seen in this screen shot during the Oct. 9-10, 2020, V Encuentro Diocesan Virtual In-Service gathering. (CNS screen shot/Norma Montenegro)

WASHINGTON – Hispanic ministry leaders from dioceses across the United States addressed the future of Hispanic ministry and the crises generated by the pandemic and racial tensions among other issues during a V Encuentro virtual gathering Oct. 9-10.

In his welcoming remarks, Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, stressed that this step opens the implementation phase of the V Encuentro for the next two years. He also invited participants to continue their work despite the challenges generated by the pandemic.

“The landscape has changed, and there is an urgent need to be even more creative and resourceful as we adapt our pastoral responses generated by the V Encuentro process to this new reality,” said Bishop Cepeda.

In a video message, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addressed the current social issues that have impacted communities, such as the pandemic, racial tensions and social inequality.

“The Hispanic/Latino community, particularly recent immigrants, have suffered and at times been dehumanized by the separation of families and prolonged incarceration of those seeking a better life,” Archbishop Pierre said.

“The Holy Father calls us to resist this dehumanizing throwaway culture, especially by countering individualism and remembering that we are connected by our common humanity, our faith and our common home.”

Archbishop Pierre added that although searching for a cure for the coronavirus is a priority, searching for a cure for social inequality should be equally important.

The nuncio encouraged ministry leaders to reject individualism and seek pastoral conversion by working for justice, diversity, and solidarity, in a spirit of contemplation.

Leaders from 103 dioceses, including 69 bishops, participated in the online gathering aimed at assisting dioceses — that could not hold their regional meetings earlier in the year — to fine-tune their pastoral plans developed during the multiyear Encuentro process.

A presentation by Sister Teresa Maya, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word, addressed the challenges brought by the pandemic and racial tensions among other current events, and the need to adapt their pastoral plans to meet those challenges.

“We are living through times of truly biblical proportions, considering what we have seen in the last six months,” said Sister Maya. “The V Encuentro is underway, and we need to come together to see, to discern, to act once more so we can pivot in the face of these multiple pandemics with our gift of Encuentro.”

“The Encuentro method is the first ingredient to respond to the multiple challenges of our time. The Encuentro needs to become our way of life for the entire church in the United States,” she added.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB president, was the presiding bishop and homilist at the closing Mass, which was livestreamed from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Archbishop Gomez encouraged leaders to continue sharing the joy of serving and evangelizing that the Encuentro process generated.

“All our lives have been turned upside down with the pandemic, but today we want to reclaim the evangelical energy we felt during the V Encuentro; that joy of the Gospel that Pope Francis speaks of,” Archbishop Gomez said.

The implementation of priorities in dioceses and parishes will begin in January 2021 and is expected to culminate with a new pastoral plan for Hispanic/Latino ministry by the end of 2022.

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