The Fifth Encuentro is winding down, but God’s use of it to make Himself known in exciting new ways throughout the Church in the United States is just beginning.
The Fifth Encuentro, a four-year process initiated by the U.S. Catholic bishops, gave Hispanic/Latino Catholics in every diocese a chance to pray, learn about and respond more fully to their baptismal call to holiness in every aspect of their lives.
Also, through consultation and discernment at the parish, diocesan, regional and national levels, it provided important information about what Catholics coming out of Hispanic cultures need most from the Church today.
“Encuentro” is Spanish for “encounter” or “retreat.”
The Fifth Encuentro process has generated tremendous energy, hope and expectation among Catholics of Hispanic origin or ancestry in this country, stated Enrique Castro, diocesan director of Hispanic and Cross-Cultural Ministries, which receives support from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal (CSA).
Hispanics represent about 40 percent of U.S. Catholics and nearly 60 percent of millennial Catholics, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
Five representatives of this diocese were among than 3,200 delegates to the National Encuentro this September in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas.
Ethan Peréz of Our Lady of the Lake parish in Lake Ozark said getting involved in the process has helped him grow in faith, reach out to people on the peripheries and become closer to his community.
He’s also seen people here grow closer to Christ — “Catholics who had been away from the church and are now coming back.”
Ever Ruano, a member of St. Peter parish in Marshall, was impressed by how the National Encuentro drew together people from all over the country to work on regional and national plans and become aware of the needs of the Church in different communities.
He’s confident the findings and conclusions of the Fifth Encuentro will help draw people closer to Christ through His Church, “which is the medium and serves as a meeting place to form a strong community to guide our way to heaven.”
He believes the process, especially the formation of small, faith-sharing groups in parishes, has helped people who didn’t previously feel connected to the Church become more involved, learn more about their faith and freely share it with others.
He said the rest of the Church can learn from the success Hispanic families have had in passing on to their children their values, their customs and most importantly, their faith.
Fidel Peréz of St. Peter parish in Marshall said being part of the Fifth Encuentro has taught him to reach out to others, “and that brings me closer to Christ.” He’s eager to see the Church do a better job of embracing people and the gifts they bring to the assembly.
The symbol for the Fifth Encuentro was Jesus walking with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus on the day He rose from the dead. Upon recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread, they run back to Jerusalem to share the good news with the rest of Jesus’ followers.
“That is what the Fifth Encuentro is calling us all to do,” said Mr. Peréz.
Guadalupe Martinez of St. Peter parish in Marshall said she experienced at the National Encuentro “lot of enthusiasm, peace and joy and above all safety for everyone attending.”
She was impressed with the commitment of her fellow participants and the cheerful witness they gave about being instruments of God and helping the world get to know Him.
“I think this Encuentro has been sent to the Catholic Church of the United States as a Pentecost during these stormy times we are enduring,” she said.