A V Encuentro gathering for the Eastern Deanery takes place March 14 at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring. (COURTESY)

V Encuentro meetings are very fruitful

NAPLES  |  The Office of Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Venice is hosting a series of discussions in each deanery of the Diocese designed to follow the process of the V Encuentro, an intensive consultation and missionary effort of Hispanic/Latino Ministry by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The main goal of the V Encuentro is to discern ways for the Church in the United States to better respond to the ever-growing Hispanic presence, and to help Hispanic Catholics to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the new evangelization and inculturation as missionary disciples serving the entire Church in the United States.

At the direction of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Father Claudio Stewart, Institute of the Incarnate Word, Diocese Director of Hispanic Ministries, has taken on the task of organizing the V Enceuntro gatherings. Father Stewart encourages local Hispanic leaders to take the initiative of inspiring others in the Catholic Hispanic community to get involved and have their voices heard.

To help facilitate this, the Deanery (regional) level discussions are now ongoing with early gatherings for the Eastern Deanery at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, and the first Southern Deanery meeting at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples. Meetings for the Central and Northern deaneries are in the planning stages. At the first two meetings in Sebring and the first in Naples, large numbers of people have gathered, eager to share their ideas and provide input as to how to reach the Hispanic faithful at the Parish, Diocesan and national levels.

Nathalie Mandiolaza, the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator at St. Peter the Apostle Parish, told the more than 400 gathered March 23 that distance shouldn’t matter for Catholics. “We are from across Collier County. We come from different Parishes. We have different backgrounds, yes. But we are all part of one Church, one faith, following the path of Jesus Christ.”

The excitement at St. Peter the Apostle and St. Catherine was palpable as the faithful were inspired to become more involved.

The goal of the Deanery-level meetings — which occur in four separate sessions — is to start a dialogue for Hispanic Catholics. Divided into several parts, the sessions include prayer and song, a presentation on the weekly topic, small-group discussions, sharing of ideas, and much more.

Once inspired by the session, everyone is then encouraged to participate in an online V Encuentro survey. The survey answers will be good tools to analyze where the Catholic Church is at this moment in the Diocese. This information will ultimately be shared as part of a larger report to determine the status of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and what struggles and opportunities lay ahead as the number of Hispanics members continues to increase.

For more information about V Encuentro and about future Deanery gatherings, contact Father Stewart at pastoralhispana@dioceseofvenice.org.