Fifth National Encounter of Hispanic Catholic leaders meet in Texas

The delegation to V Enquentro from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph: (l – r) Raiza Guevara, Edith Montez Jankowski, Sister Greta Chavarria, Father Luis Felipe Saurez, Arturo Gonzalez, Miguel Salazar and Angel Rizo. (photo courtesy of Miguel Salazar)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — The Spanish word, “Enquentro,” translates to encounter or meeting. V Enquentro, or Fifth National Encounter of Hispanic Catholic leaders and parish representatives Sept. 20 -23, in Grapevine, Texas, was an encounter with faith, fellowship and the future.

A reporter for the Texas Catholic Herald newspaper, in an article picked up by Catholic News Service, wrote that some 750 young adults from about 200 dioceses across the country, 150 bishops, the current papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice-president of the USCCB, were in attendance.

Miguel Salazar, Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said 65 percent of Hispanics in this diocese identify as Catholic, which is down from the 1990s and decreasing each year. Salazar and other members of the KCSJ Delegation spent many hours meeting Hispanic Catholics where they are — in parishes, schools, in offices and on the streets, at gatherings, in neighborhoods and elsewhere — asking about their most urgent spiritual and physical needs; fear and uncertainty experienced if they’re immigrants; and other questions about faith and hopes for the future.

“The Hispanic Catholic has a childlike faith,” he said. “We have to celebrate that faith, celebrate our commonality and renew our visions for the future in leadership formation, youth formation and family formation. It’s a lot more than pastoral planning. It’s finding out what’s most important to the community, how they respond to evangelization; and most of all, beginning parish processes of accompaniment.”

He said that for himself and the six others who served as delegates to V Enquentro, the meeting was “A great experience and a moment of Divine Providence, sending renewal to the Church through the Latino community.” It is timely, he added, to renew the Latino mission, in the midst of trials and challenges.

Salazar said the Latino community, in this diocese as in all dioceses, has a role to play in the redemption of this nation. Right now, that might seem hard to imagine, with all that is going on with immigration and inter-cultural challenges, but we have to remember, he said, this is not one-size-fits-all. “We must modify strategies, styles and language to fit each parish, recognize the unique character of each parish in the diocese, and get organized to better spread the Gospel.

Why is this important? “Because we need it!” Salazar said. “We read or hear about, maybe see or live through, all that is happening in Hispanic communities and it’s terrifying while it’s happening. But God likes drama,” he added with a smile. “He then steps in to help, in different ways.”

Customizing pastoral planning can help parishes articulate Hispanic Ministry at diocesan and parish levels. “It has to be intentional!” Salazar said.

Currently, there are three tiers of parishes in this diocese with Hispanic populations. Parishes with strong Hispanic ministries have Masses offered in Spanish on a regular basis, offer classes in English as a second language, enculturation, social and other services available and more.

Parishes with less active Hispanic ministries may offer Masses in Spanish occasionally, sponsor events or fundraisers for the community. And others may have hymns sung in Spanish, perhaps a liturgical reading, and occasional events. Of course, parishes with larger Hispanic populations have reason to offer more than those with few Hispanics. But the goals of the national V Enquentro, the diocesan V Enquentro this past January, for volunteers, clergy and staff, and the Hispanic Ministry Summit in 2017, Salazar said, are to reach out, open doors, transmit the Spirit, share learning and begin the accompaniment process.

He explained that it’s human nature to want to protect your own, and when geopolitical instability leads to a sense of insecurity, tribal instincts kick in. “We’re living in a time of vast physical mobility, with upwards of 2 million people at a time searching for a better life.” Salazar suggests we should respond to the human condition. “Transforming ourselves by the power of Christ, we can be more like him, full of God’s life — faith, hope and love — and by living the Works of Mercy, we transcend the physical world. Like Christ, we can welcome the stranger. Enquentro: encounter, meet, integrate.” He added that there are two ways of looking at immigrants: tribally or welcoming, and “the Catholic Church has a foot in both camps.”

Salazar also said that with respect to evangelization, the Latino Mission in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, Equipo Diocesan, converges with the diocesan Visioning Process currently underway.

One message of V Enquentro is for all Catholics: When Christ knocks on your door, will you answer or let him walk by?

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Tuesday
October 16, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph