Column: Archdiocesan ‘encuentro’ sets priorities for future Hispanic ministry

by Father Pat Murphy

The 2010 census recently stated that in the geographic area of our archdiocese there are over 100,000 people identifying themselves as “Hispanic.”

It was with this challenging number in mind that we gathered together on March 26-27 to celebrate Encuentro 2011. The word “encuentro” literally means “encounter.”

When we use this word in Hispanic ministry, we invoke the memory of the Encuentro process started by the U.S. bishops in 1972 where they called together the Hispanic community in the United States to “See – Act – Judge” in terms of organizing a national plan for Hispanic ministry.

In the past 39 years, many different dioceses organized their own encuentro and, in fact, here in Kansas City, there was one held about 10 years ago in order to organize the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry. Consequently, it was with this process in mind that about a year ago we began to make plans for Encuentro 2011 with a dual purpose: a) to evaluate the past eight years; and b) to plan the future of Hispanic ministry.

The process of preparing the Encuentro 2011 involved a series of 11 pre-encuentro meetings in the parishes where we currently have Hispanic ministry. In these meetings we had an opportunity to listen to about 440 people who expressed their dreams for the future. In each of the pre-encuentro meetings the pastors were present to hear the voices of their people.

During the encuentro weekend, we heard two presentations: 1) “A Review of the Historical Memory of Hispanic Ministry in the USA,” by Miguel Arias of Loyola Press; and 2) “The Mission of the Archdiocese and How It Connects with the Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry,” that I gave.

After receiving this input, the 150 delegates, which included 20 young people, were asked to work in parish groups to do three things: 1) To See — to share about what is happening in their parishes; 2) To Judge — what is working well and what needs to be changed; 3) To Act — to establish some action steps for both their parish and the archdiocesan office of Hispanic ministry.

At the end of the weekend, each parish was asked to share with the entire group three key priorities that we can work on during the next year. There was an enormous amount of enthusiasm generated with this process.

Some of the key words coming out were: Faith Formation – Communication – Unity – Hispanic Youth – Pastoral Planning.

We finished the weekend with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Naumann, and all participants were commissioned to go home and meet with their pastors. We have a follow-up meeting scheduled for June 3 when we will further discuss our plan of action for the future.

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