Fort myers | The Diocese of Venice is sending a delegation of 20 people to the Sept. 20-23 V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth.
This National Encuentro gathering is a key moment in the multiyear outreach initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with a goal of discerning ways for the Church in the U.S. to better respond to the ever-growing Hispanic presence. Specifically, the V Encuentro will develop new directives to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the new evangelization by Pope Francis, and their inculturation as missionary disciples serving the entire Church in the United States.
Under the direction of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, the Diocese of Venice has been actively participating in the V Encuentro process since 2016 and even initiated an outreach which has already seen strong benefits. Father Claudio Stewart, Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director, has been at the forefront of the effort with the knowledge that Hispanic Catholics represent the fastest-growing segment of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and Southwest Florida. The Diocese of Venice currently offers Mass in Spanish in 32 of 62 parishes.
The delegation to the National Encuentro will be led by Bishop Dewane, with Father Stewart and a number of community leaders and key lay representatives of different ecclesiastical movements in the local Hispanic community.
The group met at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers Aug. 30 to plan for the coming National Encuentro gathering. With such a large gathering, different delegates were assigned to attend specific talks and that person would be responsible for reporting back to the group on what was learned.
To help guide the group, Father Rafael Capo, Executive Director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute of the Hispanic Outreach of the USCCB in Miami, provided context and focus for the group as they prepare to go to Texas.
Here in the Diocese of Venice, there were initial presentations to explain the V Encuentro process, and this was followed by a number of different information sessions in each area of the Diocese. These gatherings sought to encourage the Hispanic/Latino community to become more involved in the Church, and to receive feedback from the faithful as to how the Diocese and the U.S. Bishops can better serve the Hispanic Catholic community moving forward.
The results of those sessions were presented to the priests, and then to the Hispanic/Latino community lay leaders, directors of religious education and Parish youth directors. This resulted in the creation of a Diocesan report that was then shared at the regional level and presented at an Encuentro gathering in Miami in early 2018.
One area of interest that was immediately addressed from the informational sessions was to help fill the gap in the formation for those Hispanics of the Diocese for whom English was not their first language. The result was a 12-part faith formation program in Spanish focused on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with nearly 700 earning a certificate of completion and another 1,500 attending some of the classes. Additional faith formation classes in Spanish are scheduled to begin in October.
The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish was to allow the participants the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helped streamline the instruction and allowed a more open discussion.
A second area that was addressed included bringing all of the different Hispanic Emmaus groups together for one rally. In addition, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal, the celebration brought the Spanish and English commissions together for the first time.
The theme for this National V Encuentro is: “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love” — “Discipulos Misioneros: Testigos del Amor de Dios.”
The discernment of the delegates includes the following areas: continual catechetical formation at all age levels; best practices on how to develop an active sacramental life among young adults directed toward ministry and outreach; cultural integration in all areas of parish life; the discernment of lay leadership among younger generations; and the start of a plan for fostering priestly and religious vocations.
Please pray for the Diocese of Venice delegation as they prepare to attend the National V Encuentro, that they may have a successful and safe journey.