By María Reyes

Special to the CS&T

From 2005 to 2006 about 40,000 Hispanic youths were part of the first National Encounter for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry. The process, which lasted about two years, was carried out locally throughout 98 dioceses in the United States and included a series of parish, diocesan and regional encounters.

What did the youths and their leaders do during this period of time? According to the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Hispana – La Red – they shared their needs, aspirations and renewed their commitment to the Church.

Then, in July 2006, 120 dioceses sent approximately 1,680 delegates to Notre Dame University to share the findings at a national level. It was the one of the greatest opportunities offered to Hispanic youths to analyze their lived reality and articulate their contributions to the Pastoral Juvenil Hispana and to the mission of the Church.

It was also the first time a national effort on behalf of Pastoral Juvenil Hispana was co-sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other national and regional Catholic organizations. After gathering and analyzing the results, La Red published the conclusions of the meetings which led to the development of a five-year strategic plan which will have a major influence on the Pastoral Juvenil Hispana in dioceses throughout the United States – including our own Archdiocese.

Some of La Red’s conclusions:

* Hispanic adolescents wish to have better academic and religious education and “dream for Catholic education to be accessible to all.”

* Hispanic adolescents are looking for a society in which all youths have equal opportunities in education and work.

* They are looking for a society where immigrants “are not disparaged, and people can learn both English and their mother tongue.”

* The adolescents are also looking for bilingual and bicultural priests as mentors and positive role models who can provide guidance on vocational choices and that have resources for their ministry.

* Hispanic adolescents also hope for a national organization that provides a common vision and opportunities for Hispanic youth and that provides them with the up-to-date resources and information.

* They are looking for new ways of encountering Christ through prayer and formation so they too can have the confidence to lead.

* The adolescents are also asking for companionship as their self-esteem grows and they become secure in articulating their needs and as they build the confidence to profess their beliefs.

* They are turning to the Church for a serious commitment to the ministry and that the “Church understands, welcomes and celebrates their accomplishments and recognizes their Hispanic traditions and religious experiences.”

* In return, Hispanic adolescents have promised to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and prepare themselves as leaders and evangelizers though words and actions.

* They vow to participate in the planning and decision-making processes for youth programs and initiatives and to raise awareness on social justice issues so that they can also help change communities.

The Encuentro was the beginning of a long journey to form a solid Pastoral for Jovenes in the United States. For information contact María Reyes at the archdiocesan Office for Youth and Young Adults, 215-965-4636.