Eight people from the St. Cloud Diocese will travel 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, is a gathering of 3,000 Hispanic/Latino Ministry leaders from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations from across the country.
The goal of the V Encuentro is 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 include: 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.
“My hope for attending the National V Encuentro is being able to learn what others have done in their communities when faced with challenges, struggles and ever-changing communities,” said delegate Alejandra Mancilla. “Also, [to learn] how to build bridges between our people that sometimes are divided by language and cultural diversity, how to help others be those bridges that we need in our parishes.”
At the request of the national organizers, dioceses were instructed to choose delegates that include priests, emerging leaders, youth, long-term leaders and diocesan staff. Locally, communities with growing Hispanic/Latino populations were asked to nominate people from their parishes to attend the conference.
Leading up to the V National Encuentro, the diocese hosted a local Encuentro event last September in St. Cloud and a regional Encuentro event in Alexandria in April. About 200 people from the U.S. church’s Region VIII, which covers Minnesota and North and South Dakota, attended the April event to discern challenges, opportunities and the top strategies for Hispanic/Latino Ministry in their region.
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.
At the V National Encuentro, delegates will meet once again with delegates from their own region to “discern what prophetic action the Holy Spirit is calling the church to carry out in the region, without limiting the conversation to any particular ministerial area,” according to the V National Encuentro working document.
They also will “engage in dialogue to clarify priorities, directions, commitments and best practices for the future of Hispanic ministry.”
Additionally, Bales explained that delegates will:
- Meet with others in ministry;
- Grow in their spiritual lives;
- Listen and support the pastoral priorities of Region VIII;
- Pay attention to training new and emerging leaders; and
- Look for ways to continue the V Encuentro process and merge with the diocesan pastoral plan.
Once the delegates return, they will share the information they gather at parish, diocesan and deanery presentations. Bales said efforts will include “collaboration with the entities that lead our diocese to united minds and efforts for ongoing future collaborations in our mission,” and “taking action at a diocese level in the identified priorities.”
Mancilla said she is hoping to bring home new ideas to put to use in the diocese as well as “a new spirit of community.”
“[I hope] to help others understand that we are part of the Catholic Universal Church,” she said. “Jesus needs all of us to work together united as one people, then changes happen.”
Father Walz, who attended both the local and regional events said he is looking forward to “encountering members of the broader church across the United States and sharing with them testimonies of our mutual efforts of evangelization.
“Such testimonies have ever been a source of inspiration, lighting a fire in the hearts of Christian disciples throughout the centuries and challenging us to a deeper commitment to our mission,” he said. “It is my hope that I — and the other delegates from our diocese — will carry the flicker of that flame back from Texas and keep it always in our hearts wherever we go.”