Eight people from the St. Cloud Diocese traveled to Grapevine, Texas, to participate in the V National Encuentro Sept. 20-23.
The event, a priority of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was a gathering of 3,000 Hispanic/Latino ministry leaders from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations across the country.
The goal of the V Encuentro was to discern ways in which the church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the new evangelization as missionary disciples.
Delegates from the St. Cloud Diocese were:
- Bishop Donald Kettler;
- Father Oswaldo Roche, parochial vicar for the parishes of St. Mary in Melrose, St. Andrew in Greenwald, St. John the Baptist in Meire
- Grove and St. Michael in Spring Hill;
- Father Gabriel Walz, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Motley and Sacred Heart Parish in Staples;
- Alejandra Mancilla, St. Leonard Parish, Pelican Rapids;
- Margarita Jimenez, St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Long Prairie;
- Lorenzo Sanchez, Assumption Parish, Morris;
- Ana Paula Salgado, St. Mary Parish, Melrose; and
- Mayuli Bales, diocesan director of multicultural ministries.
Bishop Kettler said he was impressed by the spirit of the gathering.
“It was a new experience for me, and to have people that were so excited about who they are and what the possibilities are for them in serving the church was just outstanding,” he said.
The highlight for Bishop Kettler was a meeting between the bishops who attended and young adults from around the country.
“We gathered at tables and we talked to each other,” he said. “I think that was the most exciting thing for me — to hear how enthusiastic these young adults were, but also how they were frustrated because they didn’t always have opportunities to serve or be active members of the church.”
The young people said they are eager to serve at the diocesan and parish levels, Bishop Kettler said. And they want the church’s support and training to do so.
Upon their return, delegates recorded podcasts to share the information they learned at the conference. Below are excerpts, translated from English to Spanish, from the podcasts. A follow-up story is planned in the World Mission Sunday section in the Oct. 19 issue of The Visitor.
FATHER OSWALDO ROCHE
Q: What was the atmosphere of the conference like?
A: For me, the atmosphere was very familial. There were Hispanic families gathered together, sharing values that the Hispanic community offers the church in the United States. We felt like a family because the bishops said that we are a family that walks, pilgrimages together in the United States.
For me, it was something personal. The liturgical moments were very impressive. The Holy Spirit was poured out in those moments from the lauds, the rosary, the Way of the Cross and in those moments where God is made present in the Eucharist. … There was the pastoral action, the pastoral care, and the words of the pastor, like a dad talks to his family, to his children, to mothers, and every one of them expressed their love with their hearts open with the possibility to understand each other.
FATHER GABRIEL WALZ
Q: What was the most meaningful moment for you?
A: The experience of V Encuentro in Texas was very emotional for me because of everyone who attended. There were about three or four thousand people with bishops, religious, priests and with many from the laity. There was a lot of energy and passion. One thing I was especially excited to be a part of was, because I am 32 years old and I am young in the eyes of the church, I had the opportunity to have dinner with the bishops and the youth. During that time, the bishops really wanted to hear the needs of the Latino people, especially the needs of the Latino youth and to be able to hear their needs from them personally. They really wanted to hear this vision. … This has been a passion of mine as well so I was really excited to be able to be present there.
Q: One of the themes of the V Encuentro was “accompaniment.” What does that mean to you?
A: The theme of accompaniment really touched my heart. It was of the utmost importance for me because accompaniment is in going out to meet those who are on the outside, being in solidarity with them, being accompanied by our church, our families, our young priests, the bishops. Being with them as Jesus accompanied his disciples, so that later they will accompany everyone else they found on their path. We are missionary disciples who need to be accompanied, but we also need to accompany others.
Q: Could you give us some examples of how the accompaniment theme has been manifested in your community of faith?
A: Unity, because in spite of all the tribulations and problems that the community has, they continue to live their faith no matter what problems they have. They are faithful, they are present, helping, serving and demonstrating their faith. It is also an accompaniment for me, but also for those people they are helping.
Q: How can we accompany each other as we carry this message of accompaniment in our parish and in the diocese?
A: I think we have many ways to do it. Especially the family — it is important to start and know that our children need the company of us and we need to feel accompanied by them. Also, in the parishes, to know that we feel accompanied by our priests, our bishops, deacons and all those who serve in the church together. Also us, lay people, we also need to accompany our priests so that they can understand us and they also know how to help us.
Q: What were identified as priorities at the V Encuentro?
A: Our priorities — not one in particular — are family, youth and training.
Q: Do you think those same priorities are also for Region VIII?
A: Yes. We had time to meet the dioceses that make up Region VIII (Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota). We talked about the priorities, and we find that it does not matter where in the United States we are, the problems happen in large cities as well as in small cities. So our priorities are the same as at the national level.
Q: What is one way you will share what you learned at the V Encuentro?
A: We had an exhibition hall with a lot of information. From there, we found many programs and resources available and institutions for the use of Hispanics. Sometimes we do not know that those resources are available. We found that they are already established and are there for us to use. In the next few weeks, we will make a directory that will have the information so that our faith coordinators and our priests can use them.
Q: What are the next steps?
A: From here we are going to be having a consultation in each of the nine parishes with Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of St. Cloud. We want to hear the voice of each of the participants in the parishes with ideas of how we can respond to a youth ministry. We do not have the answers, but we are a prophetic voice that needs to put that need on the table so we can work not only with the young people, but also family and formation. This is a joint pastoral work. We all have to have a place at the table, in the conversation of the decision.