Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller described the Encuentro as a “mountaintop” experience. I couldn’t agree more. It was a real blessing to be a part of this historic moment in the Catholic Church in the United States. Unlike the Gospel story, however, the “missionary disciples” that witnessed this particular moment could not wait to go back to their communities to share their experiences with others at home.
Eight delegates from Rochester were among the nearly 3,200 people from more than 160 dioceses and more than 200 Catholic organizations from around the country who gathered at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23, 2018, for the Encuentro, whose theme was “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.”
The journey toward the Fifth Encuentro began in 2014 with the training of leadership teams, followed by a grassroots consultation process at the parish, diocesan and regional levels, culminating in the national gathering. At each step along the way, participants were able to express their needs and concerns, but also share successful practices that address those challenges. According to Dr. Hosffman Ospino from Boston College, “the Encuentro has given us the opportunity to take the pulse of the church.”
Deacon Nemesio Martinez and his wife, Bruni, from Holy Apostles Church in Rochester, express the hopeful enthusiasm that was present.
“It has been a tremendous experience for us,” they said. “We’d never seen so many Latinos together with only one agenda in mind, the future of the Hispanic Catholic Church in the United States.”
For Maria Luisa Martínez from Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brockport, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see so many people joyfully living their faith.
“I witnessed the importance of the formation of Hispanic leaders for the entire church,” Martínez said. “Leaders that are committed, prepared, and capable of educating and evangelizing the community. Latinos want to feel that our talents are appreciated, because we are a gift, a blessing to the Catholic Church.”
The next step of the Encuentro process is for the church to take action and put into practice everything that was learned from the Encuentro. The three main areas of pastoral priority in our diocese will be increasing cultural awareness in our faith communities, developing Hispanic youth and young-adult leaders, and increasing vocations awareness within the Hispanic community.
Saenz is coordinator of cultural ministries for the Diocese of Rochester’s Department of Pastoral Services.