November 3, 2017

Listening, sharing are highlights of V Encuentro event

(En español)

Catholics of different ethnicities from around central and southern Indiana discuss questions in small groups during the V Encuentro event at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on Sept. 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Catholics of different ethnicities from around central and southern Indiana discuss questions in small groups during the V Encuentro event at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on Sept. 30. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

They gathered from throughout central and southern Indiana—more than 180 Latino, African and Anglo Catholics of various ages and a variety of languages. At times, the many tongues recalled the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.

But the overall effect was more like Pentecost, when each regardless of language heard the same message—one of need, one of hope, one of evangelization.

Such was the scene at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on Sept. 30 as Catholics from around the archdiocese met for the V Encuentro—Spanish for “encounter”—process.

The daylong archdiocesan event was the capstone to a more than yearlong effort in response to a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to define best ministerial practices in regard to the Catholic Hispanic population in the United States.

“The day has gone fast!” said Leticia Pasillas of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour. “At first I thought it was going to be a long working day, but it’s gone by so quickly, just hearing in my group and the other people’s experience—it’s been great!”

A USCCB fact sheet describes the Encuentro effort—the fifth one since 1972—as “a four-year process … that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development and identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization.”

The theme of V Encuentro is “Missionary Disciples, Witnesses of God’s Love.”

The process started at the parish level. Twelve parishes in the archdiocese formed groups that met for five sessions over the course of the last year, discussing pre-determined topics of the V Encuentro material.

The parish process culminated in the bilingual event on Sept. 30. During the day, participants discussed in small groups a document of comments compiled from participating parishes after the earlier five-session process.

Two “plenary sessions” were held during the event, when a representative from each table shared one idea, comment or suggestion from their group.

“They talked about the necessity for formation, needs and wants [and] being more disciples, not just in the family but outside,” said Juan Pablo Romero of St. Patrick Parish in Indianapolis.

Other suggestions during the day were to include parents in the sessions for sacramental preparation of Latino children, to help evangelize and educate the adults.

“As part of the V Encuentro … I came to know the importance of evangelizing other Catholics who sit in the pews with us every Sunday,” said Francisco Ruiz of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis during a reflection he gave during the day.

“According to Dynamic Catholic, … there are 32 million Hispanic Catholics in the United States. Ten million have roots in their faith, but more than 20 million do not. We must continue to seek ways to introduce them to Catholicism, and then look for more ways to feed their faith.”

Franciscan Father Larry Janezic, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Indianapolis, also spoke of evangelization.

“ ‘An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first, and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast,’ ” he said, quoting from paragraph 24 of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson served as the principal celebrant at a Mass for the participants.

“Together, as one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, we are the Body of Christ,” he noted in a homily spoken in Spanish. “As we bear his sufferings, so we shall bear his glory…the everlasting Encuentro.”

Oscar Castellanos, director of archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, who spearheaded the Encuentro process in central and southern Indiana, was pleased with the day.

“We encountered the Lord through each other, particularity through the small groups sharing,” he said. “We listened to each other’s challenges and disenchantments, particularly through the plenary sessions. … At the end, we went home with the true desire to share the same message of hope with other people.”

The next step for the V Encuentro process is for the comments from the working day to be summarized and drafted into an archdiocesan document.

Twenty-five representatives from the archdiocese will meet with the representatives of 14 other dioceses of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin in 2018 for a regional event similar to the one in Indianapolis.

Each of the fourteen USCCB regional meetings will produce a summary document to be compiled and discussed in a 2018 national meeting. From that meeting, a final document will be presented to the USCCB.

“The process refines the information up and up and up, so information at the parish level is presented to the bishops,” explains Castellanos.

“The main goal at the end by 2020 is there will be a national plan from the national level. It will come to us, and we can distribute it to the parishes.”

Pasillas is looking forward to seeing the final document.

“As the Hispanic community continues to grow, it is important to have a guide to help us understand the needs and how we can better respond to serve and strengthen our Church community,” she said.

The document the bishops produce could be a national pastoral plan for Hispanic evangelization, as was the case with III Encuentro in 1985, said Castellanos. Or it could be a document suggesting best practices.

Romero would like to see the Encuentro process happen more often.

“We shouldn’t wait so long, in my opinion,” he said. “I’m learning that people like to be heard. We talk, we teach, but we don’t spend enough time listening to needs.”

Another goal of the process was to identify leaders within the Hispanic Catholic community.

“For our parish, it has made a difference already,” said Barbara Pierse of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh. “We’ve had people from Mexico who speak Spanish living in our community for 17 years. And just in the last year, they’re saying, ‘Yes, we can do this. We have a voice.’ ”

Romero’s hopes for the final outcome of V Encuentro are broader.

“I’m hoping for people to really be engaged with the Church,” he said. “If we truly are the body of Christ, we have to use the limbs—if I am the foot, I need to walk. If I am the arm, I need to reach out to the poor. We can’t afford to not do anything.” †

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