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‘Onward’ pope tells Miami’s young missionaries

Pope Francis receives documents created by young people and Hispanic ministry leaders

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Pope Francis meets with the Missionaries of Mercy in Vatican City on April 10, 2018.

Photographer: Vatican Media/CNA

Pope Francis meets with the Missionaries of Mercy in Vatican City on April 10, 2018.

MIAMI | Pope Francis is now aware of the missionary work being done by the Southeast Pastoral Institute for Hispanics. Father Rafael Capó, SEPI’s director, told him about it during an audience in April.

Father Capó handed Pope Francis three documents. Two were written by young Hispanics themselves: an Easter Book of reflections and a bilingual study guide on the DOCAT, the catechism for youth of Catholic social doctrine. The third listed the conclusions of the Southeast Regional Encuentro held in Miami in February.

The Easter Book was created during Lent by Hispanic young adult leaders from throughout the southeastern U.S. It connects the vocation of young people with Pope Francis’ call for a Synod of Bishops focused on “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment,” which will take place in October of this year, and the World Youth Day set for January 2019 in Panama.

Pope Francis released the DOCAT during the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland, calling it “a user’s manual” for applying the social justice teachings of the Church in everyday life.

Father Rafael Capó, Southeast Pastoral Institute for Hispanics’ director handed Pope Francis three documents. Two were written by young Hispanics themselves: an Easter Book of reflections and a bilingual study guide on the DOCAT, the catechism for the youth of Catholic social doctrine. The third listed the conclusions of the Southeast Regional Encuentro held in Miami in February.

Photographer: L’Osservatore Romano

Father Rafael Capó, Southeast Pastoral Institute for Hispanics’ director handed Pope Francis three documents. Two were written by young Hispanics themselves: an Easter Book of reflections and a bilingual study guide on the DOCAT, the catechism for the youth of Catholic social doctrine. The third listed the conclusions of the Southeast Regional Encuentro held in Miami in February.

The pope asked “for a million young missionaries of the social doctrine of the Church,” said Father Capó, which is why after returning from Poland, the young people received formation at SEPI designed to deepen their knowledge of theology and ministry. Afterward, they began a missionary project based on the themes and chapters in the DOCAT. They also recorded bilingual videos for each chapter.

Using their guide, about 25 young people from the Archdiocese of Miami will spread out as missionaries among the 30 dioceses in nine states that comprise the U.S. bishops’ Southeast Region: Florida, South and North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. They will lead workshops in English and Spanish to help their fellow young people better understand the Church’s social teachings, live them out, and “provide a concrete response to what the pope asked for in Poland,” Father Capó said.

Finally, the pope also received the conclusions of the Southeast Regional Encuentro, conclusions arrived at by delegates of the 30 dioceses in preparation for the V National Encuentro of Hispanic ministry, set for September in Dallas, Texas.

The document is being simplified because it is very long. “We will make it public in the future with the conclusions and a pastoral plan also for the Southeast,” Father Capó said.

“The pope received all these documents with a smile, telling us, ‘Onward, push forward. That’s what the Church is asking of you at this moment,’” Father Capó said.

He met with the pope during Francis’ second encounter with the Missionaries of Mercy, held April 8-11 in Rome. The gathering brought together more than 550 Missionaries of Mercy from five continents, and was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

At the request of Miami’s archbishop and the bishops of the southeast, Father Capó was selected as one of those missionaries, and sent by the pope during the Year of Mercy — December 2015 to November 2016 — to be “a living sign of how the Father welcomes all those who seek his forgiveness.”

The pope asked the missionaries to be “accessible confessors, kind, compassionate and especially attuned to the difficult situations of individuals.”

“He asked us to continue to ‘misericordiar,’ the pope’s own word; to be those ambassadors of mercy through our preaching and in confession,” Father Capó said.

He added that, for the pope, it’s important that the missionaries return to their dioceses and pastoral work and continue promoting the message contained in his encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

At the end of the April 10 audience, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with all the Missionaries of Mercy at the altar of St. Peter’s basilica.

SEPI’s work of evangelization, formation and support of Hispanic pastoral ministry was born as a response to the recommendations of the II National Encuentro of Hispanic Ministry 40 years ago. It called for the creation of regional offices throughout the U.S. to support the faith of Hispanics.

Over time, the only regional office that remains, with an active team and permanent home, is SEPI.

“This is a very important moment for SEPI,” said Father Capó, because it’s assuming “a new role in the historical context of the V Encuentro, launching ourselves to face the challenges, especially the formation of a new generation of Hispanic leaders, and the formation of second and third generation Hispanics, who were born and grew up here, and also need a pastoral ministry to accompany them. This is SEPI’s new challenge.” 


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