Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
Photography: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC
Representing 20 participating parishes and several movements, the delegates had been meeting since March with members of their local churches and groups. Now, their reports about the needs of their local communities will be compiled into an archdiocesan report on the needs of the Church in South Florida, especially in terms of Hispanic Catholics. That report, in turn, will become part of a regional report to be presented at another celebration in February, and ultimately at the national V Encuentro in Grapevine, Dallas next September.
It may seem like a giant jigsaw puzzle, said Father Rafael Capó, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Southeast Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry. And while the puzzle is incomplete, it is hard to see the big picture. But he assured the local delegates, “You are all part of the puzzle. Every one of the pieces is necessary. And the jigsaw puzzle is not ours. It belongs to the Lord.”
Father Capó’s office is coordinating the V Encuentro process in the 30 dioceses that make up Region 14; dioceses spread across nine states, from Louisiana in the west to North Carolina in the north and Florida in the south.
“We’re creating the history of the Church in the U.S.,” said Fernando Gomez, who co-chairs the archdiocesan V Encuentro process along with Rosemarie Banich, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
He alluded to the fact — repeated by many other speakers at the Oct. 7 celebration — that “this is a process. Our commitment begins now, the commitment to move forward.”
Indeed, the V Encuentro aims not just to look at what parishes and the Church in general are doing — and should be doing — to meet the needs of Hispanic Catholics. The entire process aims to make participants aware of their own responsibilities for spreading the faith. Thus the theme of the V Encuentro: “Missionary disciples, witnesses of God’s love.”
“It is a process, and it’s not being done by the priests but by the people,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski told the delegates after celebrating Mass with them. “The process is very important so that we can understand the guidelines for the Church to evangelize.”
He noted that when the first national Encuentro took place in 1972, the face of the Church in the U.S. was quite different.
“Today, the face of the Catholic Church in the U.S. is each day more Hispanic,” the archbishop said. “We’re not talking about a small or insignificant group. You have a lot to share, a lot to tell, so that this North American Church will be a missionary Church, as the pope says.”
One thing that is no longer true is that being Hispanic is synonymous with being Catholic. Secularism is not just a characteristic of the European or North American Church, “it’s also something very powerful in Latin America,” Archbishop Wenski said.
He noted that in the Archdiocese of Miami, most of those who attend the Rite of Election each year — which means they have not been baptized — are Hispanics.
“We who have been baptized have to live to take the Good News to others, in a way that is convincing and coherent,” the archbishop said.
The day’s keynote speaker, Father Alejandro Lopez-Cardinale, also noted the changes in the U.S. Church while encouraging the delegates to “primariar” — a word which is hard to translate into English and doesn’t even exist in Spanish, but which Pope Francis uses to urge Catholics to go out and evangelize. The word’s root means “be first,” as in not waiting for others to do something or even waiting for others to come to church.
Father Lopez-Cardinale is a priest of the Boston Archdiocese who is known in South Florida for his work with “Why Catholic?” He cited the changes since the first Encuentro: The Church in the U.S. now counts 30 Hispanic bishops, including the vice-president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. In many dioceses — and Miami set the example — Hispanic ministry is no longer a separate office but a concern woven across every office.
But Miami also has changed, from Hispanics being “almost all Cuban” to far greater diversity. Nicaraguans, Colombians, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Peruvians and Venezuelans, along with Haitians, Brazilians, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Chinese, are now present in most parishes. So is a second generation: the children of those immigrants who have grown up American while maintaining their language and culture.
This diversity should animate Catholics to re-evaluate their evangelization efforts. “We need to think that this is a bilingual, trilingual diocese,” Father Lopez-Cardinale said. “We still need to reach out more to the peripheries,” as Pope Francis says.
Father Lopez-Cardinale delved into the lives of the 12 apostles to illustrate the fact that Jesus called precisely those in the peripheries to carry out the work of evangelization.
The 12 were mostly older, John being the youngest at 18. They were from the outskirts, literally, of Jerusalem (Capernaum, Galilee, Bethsaida). They were mostly laborers — fishermen — which meant they probably had passed only the minimum requirements of Judaic studies: the memorization of the Torah, or first 5 books of the Bible. They were not “the best of the best” selected for further studies.
And they bore the characteristics of people in most church groups: the doubters (Thomas), the financially-minded (Matthew), the politically-minded (Simon the Zealot), the excitable (James and John, the Sons of Thunder), and the late-comers (Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot).
Like the apostles, “we are not the ‘best of the best.’ We are the ‘normal’ ones,” Father Lopez-Cardinale said. Jesus “made them what they were at the end of their lives, capable of giving witness with their own lives about what they believed.”
He urged Miami’s Church to follow the example of the Church in Antioch, “a Church that goes forth,” that seeks to encounter Hispanics and non-Hispanics, the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the lost and abandoned.
That’s the impetus Hugo Pino said he received from his participation in the V Encuentro. A native of Ecuador and delegate from St. Boniface in Pembroke Pines, Pino was involved in Emmaus retreats, the John XXIII movement and served as an usher in his church.
“But this V Encuentro is what really motivates me to take the Gospel … out into the streets,” he said. Specifically, the 80 apartments in the building where he works as a maintenance man. He had not thought of it before the Encuentro, but the work gives him an opportunity to reach out to each of those residents.
“I can give a little to each one, and God knows what he will do with them,” he said.
Estefany Castro, of the Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (Hispanic Youth Ministry), described a similar experience. She said the V Encuentro process impelled members of her group to go out and talk with young people from FIU and Miami-Dade College, to ask them, “what is your reality?” Even within the group, the process caused some members, who had been shy and reserved, to open up to others.
“Now they all know each other. They’re all friends. It was beautiful to get to know so many people,” Castro said. “They had a need not only for God, but for a community. Now they have a new family.”
Here is the list of parishes, movements and entities that participated in the V Encuentro process in the Archdiocese of Miami:
- Blessed Trinity, Virginia Gardens
- Corpus Christi, Miami
- Good Shepherd, Miami
- Nativity, Hollywood
- Our Lady of Divine Providence, Sweetwater
- Our Lady of the Lakes, Miami Lakes
- San Lazaro, Hialeah
- St. Ann Mission, Naranja
- St. Boniface, Pembroke Pines
- St. Dominic, Miami
- St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Pompano Beach
- St. John Neumann, Palmetto Bay
- St. John the Apostle, Hialeah
- St. Joseph, Miami Beach
- St. Louis, Pinecrest
- St. Martha, Miami Shores
- St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pembroke Pines
- St. Raymond, Miami
- St. Rose of Lima, Miami Shores
- St. Stephen, Miramar
- Encuentros Juveniles
- Movimiento Familiar Cristiano
- Pastoral Juvenil Hispana
- Schoenstatt Movement of Florida
- St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach
- University of Miami Catholic Campus Ministry
V ENCUENTRO: BY THE NUMBERS
- 4 years: from 2016 (when development and training of diocesan teams began) to 2020, when the V Encuentro’s recommendations will be implemented
- 5 weeks: of reflection, action and consultation at the parish level
- 1: archdiocesan Encuentro, held Oct. 7, at Immaculate Conception Church, Hialeah
- 1: regional Encuentro, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral, Feb. 22-24, 2018 (location changed from Orlando)
- 85: The number of delegates Miami will send to the regional and national V Encuentro celebrations; by far the largest group from in the region. (Miami was originally assigned 106 but has “donated” some to other dioceses who needed more.)
- 3,000: The number of delegates from throughout the U.S. who will take part in the national Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23.