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V Encuentro: Your chance to imagine the future of faith formation

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For the past two years, I’ve been honored to serve as a member of the V Encuentro National Leadership Team, representing the Federation for Catechesis with Hispanics, part of the NCCL (National Conference for Catechetical Leadership). It has been an honor, and I am moved by the urgency of this V Encuentro process. The Encuentro in the Church of the United States has been a process by which the Church celebrates, identifies and articulates the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the Latino/a Catholics, especially those who are poor or affected in any way.

There have been four Encuentros. Historically, these Encuentros have reshaped the way we exist as a Church, and not just for Latino/a Catholics. The prophetic voices of our Archdiocese of Miami, as well of several dioceses in Texas and California, had an important role. Their diverse experiences of leadership in culturally diverse settings in which Latino/a leadership was promoted and encouraged presented a newness to the rest of the nation. Both our archdiocesan lay ministry formation and religious education and formation processes were visionary in every sense. The Encuentro process allowed us to share those local expressions of faith and opened us up to a dialogue that impacted the whole Church.

Nationally, the encouraging of multicultural competencies for priests was an important outcome of the I Encuentro in 1972. Creation of diocesan offices for Latino/a ministry, like SEPI (Southeast Pastoral Institute) and liturgy offices, were the immediate outcome of the II Encuentro in 1977. The National Pastoral Plan for Hispanics was the outcome of the III Encuentro in 1985, which presented a framework for multicultural work within dioceses and at the episcopal level; the prophetic document of our U.S. bishops, “Many Faces in God’s House,” was the platform and outcome of the IV Encuentro, celebrated in 2000. All these national Encuentros have permeated what we do in our local dioceses.

Why is this V Encuentro important for us in South Florida? Well, 60 percent of our U.S. Catholic children are Latino/a, and 20,000 leaders are expected to retire in the next five to 10 years. The question today, brothers and sisters, is how do we share the faith with our Catholic children in a way that meets and accompanies them where they are? This is the same question that our Irish and German Catholic ancestors asked. Their prophetic answer gave birth to the Catholic school system. How will we respond?

Dear friends in ministry, this V Encuentro is important for all of us in our archdiocese, as it has placed catechesis and faith formation at its center. The question is not how do we keep children in our religious education programs but rather what structure is needed to effectively share the faith with our next generation. The Church expects us to provide some light.

I don't know about you but that’s a huge task. So let’s start imagining, let’s begin articulating. The wisdom gathered around these local tables cannot be overlooked. We, In our archdiocese we have women and men whose lives have been transformed by ministering in a culture not their own. I hope you, listening to the Spirit of the Lord, will envision together a creative and prophetic approach to faith formation that affirms the best of our catechetical tradition and imbues it with new life.

Comments from readers

Peter D. - 06/22/2017 02:42 PM
Thanks James, for sharing your thoughts. Just to clarify, God "desires all men and women to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth": that is, of Christ Jesus. This Truth revealed by our Trinitarian God does not change. However, thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church. This constant conversion allows us, the Church, to understand deeper and better God's revelation (cf. Transmission of Divine Revelation, CCC74-94).
Yelva M.Berry - 06/21/2017 03:30 PM
Who wrote this article? I looked for his name, but couldn't find it.
James - 06/19/2017 02:49 PM
The Catholic Church is timeless and it's precepts are to be kept as they have always been. The church does not change with the times. Nor a certain ethic background. Only Jesus. Period. Thanks for your article. Blessings

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