By Tim Harfmann
Standing under a “Bienvenidos V Encuentro” banner, Catholics waited anxiously to check-in at the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20. A group that drove 16 hours from Mobile, Ala., was first in line to check-in.
“We want to be here to support our Hispanic community and be that voice that our Archdiocese of Mobile needs,” said Sonya Garcia of Mobile.
And nearly 3,000 other Catholics from across the United States want to be a voice for their communities too.
They’re gathering at the national Fifth Encuentro to address the needs of nearly 30 million Hispanic Catholics in the U.S.
“How can we evangelize better our people, the Hispanics in particular; and also to listen to the concerns?,” wonders Asterio Velasco of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
These representatives first answered those questions in their own parishes and dioceses, and then at regional conferences.
Now they are gathering on the national level to discuss the challenges Hispanics face in the U.S. Catholic Church.
“More formation programs at every level. Our people need that desperately,” Velasco said. “And the second is to create more welcoming parishes and communities. People need to see that they are welcomed and really are an integral part of the community.”
“Sometimes we feel like we are separate,” shared Adrian Rodriguez, also part of the Mobile group. “We are Catholic, but we feeling like American on one side and Latino, or from other countries, on different spot, different side.”
But one of many topics will be how to unite the divided communities.
Garcia suggested, “Giving classes and doing more bilingual Masses, trying to incorporate the American culture to participate even in our big events.”