By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
The highly anticipated Regional Encuentro, celebrating Hispanic and Latino Catholicity in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, will take place April 28, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, 61 Georgia Road, Freehold.
Registration for the Regional Encuentro diocesan and archdiocesan representatives coming from many parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey will begin at 8 a.m., with an opening presentation following at 9 a.m. Diocesan presentations will take place at 9:30 a.m., and Mass will be celebrated at 11 in the Co-Cathedral by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Newark Archdiocese, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and other bishops. Witness talks and presentations begin at 1:30 p.m.; the day will end with closing prayer at 4.
Sponsored by the 10 dioceses and archdioceses of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Diocese of Trenton’s Department of Pastoral Life and Mission, the Region III Encuentro precedes the culmination of a four-year process of the V Encuentro – the fifth nationwide meeting of Hispanic and Latino ministry convened by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, set to begin Sept. 20 in Houston, Texas. The Region III Encuentro will highlight ecclesial reflection and action, inviting Catholics to gather and discuss missionary activity, leadership development and best ministerial practices related to the New Evangelization.
According to the V Encuentro website, “the process is a priority activity of the USCCB’s Strategic Pan for 2017-2020.” Beginning in 1972, Encuentro has helped to establish Hispanic apostolates and youth programs throughout the nation. Encuentros have taken place in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000, with a special Encuentro for youth taking place in 2006. To prepare for the national event, the Diocese’s Encuentro team met Jan. 28 in the Co-Cathedral to share the training it received on a regional level with a group of parish representatives from 19 nineteen parishes across all four counties of the Diocese.
“We are seeing new leaders and a renewed sense of motivation driven by the Holy Spirit to continue the Church’s mission to evangelize,” said Sandra Lopez, diocesan coordinator for Hispanic Ministry Initiatives. I hope that they will commit to serving as ambassadors for Christ in bringing joyful witness of the love of God.”
Lopez highlighted the Encuentro tenet saying “We are called to be missionary disciples who go out to meet our brothers and sisters where they are, seeing their needs and responding as one family that walks together in unity and love. The mission that we have as the Catholic Church is to take the Good News to everyone regardless of nationality or language; to find creative ways to reach out to those who are isolated and distant from God and who are on the peripheries of our society and the Church. We are called to ‘be Church’ to the most vulnerable.”
“The regional Encuentro, as I see it, serves two major purposes,” said Matthew Greeley, associate director of communications and coordinator of Spanish-language communication and media. “The first is to celebrate the work and engagement that has happened in all of the arch/dioceses of New Jersey and Pennsylvania through participation in the Encuentro process. The second is to continue that work by producing a document that speaks for and represents Region III.”
That document will go directly to the USCCB to influence the responses the Church will take on a national level, Greeley explained, which will eventually make its way to back to the Diocese of Trenton and its parishes.
“It has been refreshing and invigorating to see ‘new’ people stepping into leadership roles in their parishes,” he continued. “The process has offered opportunities for faith formation in the parishes, as well as for introspection – so parishes can better see and recognize their ministries and how they reach out to people who may not be active in their faith.”
In spite of the larger regional and national focuses, the primary concern for each diocese and archdiocese, Greeley said, is for its own local community. But the responses of the majority of New Jersey and Pennsylvania parishes are so aligned, it “deepens our sense of urgency and weight as diocesan representatives, because it reflects widespread realities we all need to address,” he said.
“I hope [Regional Encuentro participants] leave inspired and on fire to be advocates as the Church progresses to be able to more fully and genuinely walk with and integrate the Hispanic Catholic community into the larger Church family,” Greeley said. “I hope we all stop seeing ourselves as part of different groups or categories of Catholics, so we can simply walk together as one family of faith in Christ. We need to focus resources and efforts on places where there are real needs and that will mean making changes… and we all know that change is not easy!”
The Diocese of Trenton will offer video news highlights of the Region III Encuentro, including interviews with participants, which will be shared throughout the region and nation.
For more information, contact Sandra Lopez, 609-403-7138. To learn more about V Encuentro, visit www.vencuentro.org.[[In-content Ad]]