by Katie Hyde
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — They are stepping up, taking a seat at the table and bringing forward hundreds of ideas about how to improve our community.
The Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas — one of the fastest-growing and most vibrant segments of the archdiocese — is ready to be heard.
As the archdiocese’s Hispanic community grows, efforts to respond to the unique challenges facing this community increase as well.
The V Encuentro (the “V” is the Roman numeral for “5,” signifying that this is the fifth national encuentro sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) is a national effort to listen to and lift up the voices of the Hispanic community in the United States and to empower Hispanic Catholics to bring their faith, tradition and culture to bear on the entire Catholic community in the U.S.
The archdiocesan V Encuentro was held at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, on Nov. 18. A regional meeting of select delegates from the Midwest will be held in April 2018, and a national meeting in September 2018.
Many of the participants in attendance on Nov. 18 were bursting with ideas about how to live out their faith and how to unite English- and Spanish- speaking Catholics into one community.
In preparation for the archdiocesan V Encuentro, leaders from each parish’s Hispanic community visited hundreds of Hispanic Catholic families and listened to their experiences.
From that came a wealth of knowledge about the reality lived by Hispanics in the archdiocese.
“One challenge is [gaining] the acceptance of our whole community,” said Carmen Oregel, a member of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. Oregel was part of the six-person delegation from her parish.
“We’re kind of separated by cultures: the Hispanics and the Anglos,” she said. “And we feel we’re not being accepted.
“We need to be open to each other. Because Jesus didn’t believe in differences. There are so many different cultures in our church, but catholic means universal. We have different ways of thinking, of worship, of speaking.
“But our faith is universal.”
Openness and welcoming were common refrains. So, too, were misunderstandings and cultural divides. Many participants spoke passionately about the unique challenges facing the Hispanic community, including language barriers, cultural hurdles and immigration.
“We want to share more of our culture and our way of believing,” said Jorge Delgado, also a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Peter. “We don’t want to take anything from anybody. We just want to give back.”
And as members of the growing Hispanic community continue to share their culture and give back to the archdiocese, they hope that the cultural barriers dividing the English and Spanish communities will dissolve.
“We have seen that there is some lack of understanding in the community,” said Adriana Contreras Ordaz, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park.
“I am an immigrant,” she said. “But when I explain to others why I am here, that I am educated, that I don’t want to take their jobs, why I want to be in this country, they understand that I have something to contribute.”
“We are not Hispanics or Anglos,” she further explained. “We are one church, without regard to differences in race, language or culture. We are a church of differences, but we can become one in the love of God.”
This message of unity was echoed by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who celebrated Mass for the gathered and offered words of support and encouragement to the group.
“This meeting is not just for the Hispanic community, but for the entire church,” said Archbishop Naumann. “The Holy Spirit is working strongly in the United States, and the V Encuentro is one aspect where the Holy Spirit is working most strongly.”
For more information about V Encuentro, go online to: vencuentro.org.