For The Register
Hays — With a mission to generate 20,000 new pastoral leaders from the Hispanic/Latino communities and engage thousands more in the Church’s day-to-day work of spreading the Gospel, Encuentro, or “meeting” in Spanish, is a movement that is sweeping through Catholic dioceses across the country. The program is under the direction of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. According to the movement’s website, vencuentro.org, the goal of Encuentro is “to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church.”
Each diocese is now in the final stages of work to shape a diocesan working document outlining needs and goals for its Hispanic/Latino populations.
The Salina Diocese’s Encuentro was held Sunday, Nov. 5, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays. With representatives from Goodland, Hays, Salina and Manhattan, the day’s events included time for small and large-group discussion about issues affecting Hispanics/Latinos of all ages in the 31 counties within the diocese’s boundaries.
“The Catholic Church calls us to become missionary disciples,” said Claudia Segoviano, a member of the parochial team for Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and the secretary for the diocesan Encuentro. “This is an opportunity for us to come together to determine the needs of the Hispanic communities within our local parishes.”
Identifying those needs has been a long-term process for Segoviano and others in the diocese who are involved with the discipleship teams.
“The USCCB wants us to reach out to all baptized Catholics, but particularly those who aren’t coming to church,” she said. “We visit families. We gather info and we find out why they’re not attending.”
Segoviano said the work of Encuentro also goes beyond the spiritual requirements of the person, identifying basic daily necessities.
Ultimately, “We are focusing on the formation of the human being and how they’re developing as a person – psychologically, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” she said.
Father Carlos Ruiz-Santos, Diocesan Director of Hispanic Ministry and emcee for the Encuentro, said the goal for the day’s participants was to produce a working document that would identify both the needs as well as potential ways to meet those needs within the context of the individual parishes.
“We’re looking for two or three strategies to concentrate on,” he said. “We’ll work to make these priorities a reality in the parishes of our diocese.”
“When the document is compiled, it will be brought to the regional Encuentro in Kansas City so we’ll see our plan as well as the plans of others,” Father Ruiz-Santos said.
These plans will be collected into regional working documents that will then be presented at the National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry in Dallas in late 2018.
The efforts of the meeting in Hays, like so many others around the country, serves to highlight both the cultural diversity of the Church in the United States as well as the Church’s desire to serve the members of those cultures most effectively.
In their statement titled Encuentro & Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry, the USCCB reiterates the gift that Hispanics/Latinos are to the Church.
“Hispanic Catholics are a blessing of God and a prophetic presence that has turned many dioceses and parishes into communities of faith that are more welcoming, vibrant and evangelizing. We, the bishops, consider Hispanic ministry as an integral part of the life and mission of the Church.”
Bishop Edward Weisenburger held a special Mass to close out the work of the diocesan Encuentro on Sunday, November 5, in Hays. Following the Mass, Bishop Weisenburger was honored with a farewell reception hosted by the Hispanic communities throughout the diocese.