The light of the Risen Christ glowed in the well-worn gym where 200 Hispanic/Latino Catholics celebrated their faith at diocesan headquarters. They came together from throughout the 22 counties of the Diocese of Davenport (for some, a treacherous trip through icy rain) to share their thoughts about better serving the fast-growing Hispanic/Latino presence in the Catholic Church.
Their input will become part of the Fifth Encuentro or V Encuentro, a four-year process and initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to strengthen the ways in which Hispanic/Latinos respond to the call of the New Evangelization as missionary disciples.
All of us — whatever our ethnicity or background — are called to be missionary disciples, to bring the Good News of the Risen Christ to the peripheries – to people of no faith, to people who have abandoned the faith, to young people immersed in secular life.
The church is asking us to collaborate with our Hispanic/Latino sisters and brothers, to encounter Christ in one another, so that together we build a church that carries on Christ’s mission for millennia to come.
In a story about the diocesan Encuentro that appears on the front page of this week’s Catholic Messenger, Victor Alvarez noted that 60 percent of all Catholics in the U.S. younger than 18 years old are Hispanic/Latino. They live in a “Spanglish” world, needing “their message in English with a celebration with a Latino touch,” said Alvarez, the keynote speaker at the diocesan Encuentro March 17.
Imagine what this observation portends for the church in the United States, in our diocese and in our encounters with one another as people of faith!
“The diocese reflects the growing number of Spanish-speaking (persons) in the United States,” according to a diocesan report prepared by clergy and lay persons who minister to Hispanic/Latino Catholics. “As pastoral agents ministering to Spanish-speaking and English-speaking (persons), taking into account other language/cultural immigrants from Vietnam, Cameroon, Eritrea, Philippines, Congo, Burma and Nahuatl-speaking persons, we believe that our future as a church is bound together.”
We are bound together, and that impacts what actions we will take to address the diverse needs and tap into the talents and skills within our church. We must provide outreach to and formation of Spanish-speaking youths, while acknowledging their need to preserve their cultural roots. We need to encourage vocations among Hispanic/Latino Catholics as well as provide formation for laity (Hispanic/Latino and Anglos) to minister to this growing population.
Our diocesan Pastoral Agents in Hispanic Ministry have identified recommendations, some of which are printed below. These deserve our endorsement and cooperation:
• Educate diocesan leaders (chancery, priests and deacons) and laity on the presence of Spanish-speaking persons at various institutes and in deacon/seminarian formation.• Keep or expand the current assignments of Spanish-speaking priests.
• Require seminarians to be bilingual (capable of ministry in more than one language).
• Emphasize that ministry to other than one language/cultural group is a positive value and ability that expands one’s ministry.
• Teach English-speaking deacons and priests to administer sacraments in Spanish (baptism in particular).
• Train Spanish-speaking laity to celebrate liturgies of the Word and/or Quinceaneras.
• Create a youth ministry component specifically aimed at Catholic youths from immigrant communities.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula, who participated in the diocesan Encuentro, was impressed to see people of all ages, including many young people, at the event. “The church needs to better recognize, embrace and promote the many gifts and talents of the Hispanic community,” the bishop said.
People like 17-year-old Anthony Chavez of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa, who invites his 14-year-old friend Max to Mass and leads a prayer group at his parish. Anthony also serves on the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee and is working with diocesan Multicultural Coordinator Miguel Moreno to organize a multicultural youth conference. He wants to help other youths to “understand why they should go to Mass every Sunday.” The youth conference will help answer questions about the Catholic Church. “There are so many things we don’t talk about and should.”
Encouraging youths like Anthony in their faith journey, as well as other Hispanic/Latino Catholics, will keep the light of the Risen Christ burning brightly.
To learn more about V Encuentro, go to vencuentro.org.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor