The energetic spirit of the 200-plus people who gathered in Alexandria April 13 and 14 for the regional V Encuentro captured the heart of St. Cloud’s Bishop Donald Kettler: The event was one of the year’s highlights for him, he said during a presentation at the gathering.
He told The Visitor later that he was impressed with the “willingness among the people to develop their faith and share their faith. That evangelization spirit is here. I like their enthusiasm and their interest. … There really is an energy here.”
The V Encuentro (“Fifth Encounter”) process is an initiative of the U.S. bishops, calling Catholic leaders to “listen with profound attention to the needs, challenges and aspirations that the growing Hispanic/Latino population faces in daily life.” And it seeks to prepare Catholics “to better recognize, embrace, and promote the many gifts and talents that the Hispanic community shares in the life and mission of the Church.”
The regional V Encuentro was the next step in the process, following the St. Cloud diocesan V Encuentro last September. It is a precursor to the national V Encuentro planned for September 2018 in Grapevine, Texas.
The Alexandria gathering included people from the U.S. church’s Region VIII, which covers Minnesota and North and South Dakota.
Eight out of the nine Hispanic/Latino Catholic communities from the Diocese of St. Cloud were represented, including five priests: Father Oswaldo Roché, Father Tony Kroll, Benedictine Father Efrain Rosado, Father Gabriel Walz and Father Jeff Ethen.
At the diocesan Encuentro last fall, participants identified five areas of pastoral concern. Regionally, the topics expanded to seven areas of ministry focus: leadership development and pastoral training; families; youth and young adults; evangelization and mission; faith formation and catechesis; liturgy and spirituality; and immigration.
Attendees at the regional gathering heard from bishops and other leaders. In addition to Bishop Kettler, two other bishops attended the event: Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota.
“Our mission as missionary disciples is to evangelize,” Bishop Kettler said during his address. “In the process of evangelization, walking with the people is necessary, and it proclaims that Jesus Christ is alive and he fulfills all of his promises.
“All of us have the responsibility to accompany, to ‘walk with’ our neighbors, so that they will encounter Jesus Christ and become missionary disciples of the Lord,” he said
Bishop Kettler said there are many ways in which people can accompany others, including “our ministry to young people, our families, out on the peripheries with the poor, the immigrant, the refugee.
“The peripheries,” he added, “include Catholic people who have drifted away. We want to bring them back.”
There also was time for small and large group sharing. Together, the groups identified multiple strategies that could be used to address these concerns in what they called a “regional working document.” Information gathered at the conference will be passed on for use at the national V Encuentro.
Maria Sinchi, from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was part of a 13-member team of young adults who attended the V Encuentro from St. Stephen Church in Minneapolis.
Sinchi said what excited her most about the regional Encuentro was the motivation to go and evangelize.
“It has been very informative and very encouraging to see what we can bring back to our parishes,” she said. “I think our next step will be to regroup and try to figure out how to continue evangelizing in a better way. Sometimes we might feel disorganized, but we are planting seeds and it’s growing immensely.”
The youth have a lot of responsibility in the church today, Sinchi said.
“I think part of why we are here is also to encourage the older generations that there are young adults who are really interested in their faith and are really searching for something,” she said. “A lot of this culture is telling them not to search in the church, [but] the world is full of lies. For 25 years of my life, there was something missing that I was trying to grasp and it was God all this time. So I’m just a witness of what God has been doing in the parish at St. Stephen.”
She added that the young adults want the older generation to know that they should keep encouraging and motivating them.
“There are beautiful young adults who just want to grow in their faith,” she said. “So many people are looking for Jesus and just don’t know it yet. That’s a huge responsibility for us — to share the Gospel with everybody in the most intentional way and build friendships out of that. God is good and is doing a lot of work, and we also have lots of work to do.”
Arturo Salgado, a member of St. Mary Church in Melrose, was most excited about the relationships the regional Encuentro offered him.
“I met with people from other parishes and dioceses. We are all working for the same point so this is very exciting,” he said.
He is most enthusiastic about becoming “better Catholics” and building up the youth.
“I want to share with my whole community about what we are talking about here,” he said. “I would like to work really hard with the young people and also with adults. I am really happy because this process shows that all of us are working really hard together.”
Fun, flair and faith
The event also featured a procession with the regional V Encuentro cross representing all 10 dioceses of the region, a talent show with cultural flair, a Holy Hour and Mass. A commissioning ceremony for all the delegates traveling to the national V Encuentro concluded the celebration.
Six delegates from the Diocese of St. Cloud were commissioned:
• Alejandra Mancilla of St. Leonard Parish in Pelican Rapids;
• Father Oswaldo Roché, Venezuelan mission priest serving the Diocese of St. Cloud;
• Father Gabriel Walz, parochial vicar for the churches of St. Mary, Melrose; St. John, Meire Grove; St. Andrew, Greenwald and St. Michael in Spring Hill;
• Ana Salgado of St. Mary Parish in Melrose;
• Lorenzo Sánchez of Assumption Parish in Morris; and
• Margarita Jiménez of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Long Prairie.
Bishop Kettler said he would like to see the “spirit of evangelization trickle into what we do as a diocese,” citing outreach as one of the areas in which he would like to see improvement.
“Pope Francis reminds us: When we accompany others in their pain, in their struggles, the Holy Spirit walks with them,” he said. “The Holy Spirit prompts them then to share the Good News. We should not be afraid to walk with the people, to share the Good News of the message of Jesus Christ.”