The trend has been clear for a long time. Hispanic and Latino Catholics make up the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. Catholic Church — continuing the long tradition of a church that embraces newcomers as brothers and sisters in Christ.
That’s true in the Archdiocese of New York, where Hispanics and Latinos are estimated at 43 percent of the Catholic population, and it’s true in the major population centers of the country, such as Los Angeles, South Florida, the border areas of Texas and many other places.
A recent report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University commissioned by the U.S. bishops shows that more than half of millennial-generation Catholics born in 1982 or later are Hispanic or Latino.
So, it’s exciting to watch a major effort unfold, with the aim of bringing Hispanic and Latino Catholics closer to the church at every level and encouraging them toward leadership now and in the future.
An initiative of the U.S. bishops, V Encuentro, as it’s called, is the Fifth National Encuentro (Encounter), a synod-like process designed to prepare the church to better recognize and promote the gifts and talents that this growing community of Hispanic/Latino Catholics has to share with the church and society.
Preparations began last year, with training sessions for parish leaders, who will help organize parish encuentros throughout the New York Archdiocese through June. Participating parishes also will take part in a one-day archdiocesan-wide Encuentro later in the year, followed by a regional Encuentro in June 2018 in Albany. The national V Encuentro is set for Sept. 20-23, 2018, in Grapevine, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The theme is “Missionary Disciples: Witness of God’s Love,” and it’s expected that more than 7 million Catholics will be involved at some level, with more than 5,000 parishes participating in the process.
Those are impressive numbers, and if they hold up — and we have no reason to think they won’t — it would be a major home run for the church and for its Hispanic/Latino members.
In the New York Archdiocese, the process is being shepherded by the extremely capable Wanda Vasquez, the director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, who’s been a dedicated and hard-working member of the archdiocesan leadership team for many years.
She sees V Encuentro as an opportunity to “build a culture of encuentro,” where parishioners can “enter a relationship with Jesus Christ, collaborate with each other” and reach out to those who have fallen away from the church.
“As Pope Francis has taught us in the ‘Joy of the Gospel,’ we need to get out of our comfort zones, go into the peripheries and reach out to those who have gone astray, especially those who are in high-risk situations,” she said, after a recent training session for parish leaders held at Fordham University.
Vasquez, and other organizers, hope the Encuentro process will yield an increase in vocations of Latinos to the priesthood, religious life and permanent diaconate; create a group of Latino leaders for the church; bring an increase in the percentage of Latino students enrolling at Catholic schools; as well as an increase Latinos’ sense of belonging and stewardship in the U.S. church.
***The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicPhilly.com, Catholic News Service or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103