Diocese’s V National Encuentro delegates reflect on Hispanic/Latino gathering
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
The Sept. 20-23, 2018 V National Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas, was “emotional” but also “fun,” said Claudia Valladares, one of the Diocese of Owensboro’s delegates to the gathering.
The purpose? To discuss and explore how best to serve and accompany the growing Hispanic and Latino populations around the U.S. The theme of the Encuentro was “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” (“Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the Love of God”).
Valladares, who is a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green, told The Western Kentucky Catholic that the V National Encuentro (“Fifth Encounter”) drew several thousand Hispanic and Latino Catholics from dioceses across the United States – approximately 2,700.
Out of that number, Valladares said there were about 700 young adults between the ages of 18-30, and 125 bishops were reported to have attended, including Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro.
The V National Encuentro included workshops, small groups, and the opportunity to share about good and bad experiences within Hispanic and Latino ministry in the U.S. Participants also attended Mass and Liturgy of the Hours every day.
Besides Valladares and Bishop Medley, other delegates from the diocese were Miguelina Young of St. Thomas More Parish in Paducah, Fr. Carmelo Jimenez Salinas and Baltazar Rafael of St. Michael Parish in Sebree, Mayra Tirado of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Hopkinsville, and Deacon Chris Gutiérrez, the diocese’s director of Hispanic/Latino Ministry.
This September event was a culmination of four years of planning, following smaller “encuentros” at parish, diocesan, and regional levels to take the pulse of Hispanic/Latino needs around the country.
Tirado told the WKC that over the four years of preparation, she realized that these “needs and situations” are something that “we, as Catholics and missionary disciples, should try to solve and minimize.”
After attending the V National Encuentro, she said she felt not only encouraged, but also hopeful, “that the results of the Encuentro can be put into practice, that it is not just another process to see how we are doing” but the means to help Hispanic/Latino ministry grow in the U.S.
Fr. Salinas said it was insightful to see what dioceses were ahead of the Diocese of Owensboro and who were behind, in terms of advances in Hispanic/Latino ministry.
“But everyone is looking to do their best for the Hispanic people,” he said.
Valladares commented on the large number of young adults at the V National Encuentro, contrasting that with the nationwide struggle of connecting young people with their Catholic faith.
“Our kids are the future of the Church – they are our Church,” she said, hoping that developments following the national gathering will help them discern how to better reach young people.
She was also personally impressed at all of the bishops who attended, and who expressed their sorrow for the scandals affecting the Church from the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.
Rafael said he appreciated the bishops’ words of encouragement to the Hispanic and Latino communities.
“They said the immigrants are very important to the Church and the Church will stand with the immigrants,” he said.
Originally printed in the November 2018 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2018 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic