Parishioners and diocesan leaders make voices heard at ILS-hosted 5th Encuentro Conference

Author: Institute for Latino Studies

V Encuentro Regional

More than 175 parishioners and diocesan leaders recently convened at the University of Notre Dame to discuss how to identify, consult, and inspire new leadership within the Catholic Church — especially youth and young adults.

The Institute for Latino Studies hosted the Midwest Catholic Association of Hispanic Ministry’s Regional Encuentro Gathering from June 8 to June 10, bringing together 13 dioceses from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

The main goal of the National Hispanic Encuentro is to discern ways the Church in the United States can better respond to Latinos parishioners and strengthen the ways in which they serve.

“This focus on finding new leadership is a smart way to call everybody to act on their baptismal call to be prophets, priests, and kings,” said Enid Roman De Jesús, chair of the Episcopal Region VII Encuentro process and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s director for Hispanic ministry. “They can be missionaries bringing the good news to the world, bringing Christ not only to those who do not know Him, but to those who have strayed from their sacramental faith.”

V Encuentro attendees examined issues of Latino participation and representation in the Church, explored ways to help Latino communities raise their voices in the Church, and developed solutions to address various needs from that community.

The V Encuentro is a four-year process of ecclesial reflection and action that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development, and identification of best ministerial practices.

“We were very pleased to accept the invitation to co-host the V Encuentro-Region VII meeting,” said Luis R. Fraga, the Rev. Donald P. McNeill Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership and director of the Institute for Latino Studies. “This event is consistent with the mission of Notre Dame to be at the forefront of the development of the future lay and religions leaders of the Catholic Church. Given that Latinos represent as much as 40 percent of all Catholics in the U.S., there is no question that this leadership must include members of all segments of our Latino communities, such as those who worship in Spanish.”

During the three-day conference, members attended mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Lewis Hall, and Dillon Hall. At the McKenna Hall conference center, members had the opportunity to gather in groups to work, discuss, and plan ideas to help improve the leadership role of Latinos in the Church.

“Since 1972, the Hispanic Encuentros have been at the center of a wide-ranging movement of spiritual and ecclesial renewal within the Catholic Church in the United States,” said Timothy Matovina, chair of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology and author of Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church. “The Regional Encuentro convened at Notre Dame is part of that momentous Hispanic effort to live out their mission in the Church and the wider society.

Notre Dame served as the anchor institution for the Regional Encuentro process per the request of the Catholic bishops associated with the gathering.  The Institute for Latino Studies coordinated the gathering in partnership with diocesan directors of Hispanic ministry from the region.

Members of the Encuentro left the conference on Sunday, having made concrete recommendations to the four bishops present at the conference.

“This Regional Encuentro brings hope to the Church in our Region as we strive to reenergize the call of Pope Francis, to go out to the periferias - to all places where people are disconnected, isolated, marginalized, or feel that way - and bring them back with Your love and example,” says Enid Roman De Jesús.

The next step in this five-year process will involve convening more than 3,000 participants and 100 bishops from across the nation for a historic conference in Grapevine, Texas, in September.