Patricia Jimenez, communications coordinator for the National V Encuentro, has traveled to five diocesan Encuentro events around the country and attended the Sept. 24 event in St. Cloud. The Visitor asked her to share her thoughts about the day.
Q. What surprised you most about the day?
Jimenez: I was really taken with the welcome as you arrived at the Convention Center. It was really touching to see diocesan staff, the majority who are not Hispanic, greet participants of the Diocesan Encuentro. They were at each door and in the hallways genuinely smiling and welcoming in Spanish. Often people are just directed to the registration or the check-in table and this meant a lot to the Hispanic/Latino community, to be joyfully greeted in their native tongue. I teared up as I arrived.
Q. Was there anything that challenged you?
Jimenez: Nothing in the sense of the event itself. I think that coming from California it was difficult to hear about Mass in Spanish only being offered once a month in parts of Minnesota. Also, hearing that some parents cannot communicate with their children because their children cannot speak Spanish is quite heartbreaking.
Q. How was the St. Cloud event similar to and/or different from other Encuentro events you have participated in?
Jimenez: The structure of the event and the concerns/pastoral priorities are similar across the nation. Although dioceses in Minnesota do have unique needs given their own particular context. I loved the ribbons that parish delegates brought to the front during the procession that created the V Encuentro logo.
The family aspect of the event is something that I have seen at various Encuentros. Providing a children’s track was key. I spoke to one family that said that if the Diocese of St. Cloud did not provide it, they would not have participated. At one point the keynoter, Christina Lamas, was holding an infant during groups discussion, offering the mother an opportunity to fully engage in the conversation. I visited the children and they were having a blast working on crafts, watching an animated movie about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and dancing. Family is central to our Hispanic/Latino Catholics so including all members in the V Encuentro is crucial.