By Jorge Dominguez
Having spent four years preparing and reflecting together as part of the V Encuentro (Fifth Encounter), Hispanic Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens are gearing up for the next stages of the nationwide movement.
Small groups within parishes that have a strong Hispanic presence have already held five meetings to reflect on the presence, the mission and the future of the Hispanic community in the Church and in the country. Now they will present their findings on the diocesan and then the regional level.
“The V Encuentro is important for the whole church because the Church is one,” said Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros. “The Church is the Body of Christ – what happens in one part of that body, affects the whole body.
“We have to emphasize that Encuentro is not just to isolate the Hispanics into their own private activities, but rather on the contrary, to empower Hispanics to move out into parishes, into homes, that is the missionary work – to invite everyone to participate in the mystery of Christ.”
This encounter is not just an event or a meeting, but rather a four-year reflection process. The preparation started in 2014 with the creation of the V Encuentro National Team of Accompaniment.
During 2015, the episcopal regional teams and leadership were selected and received training. The following year, the same process took place at diocesan and parish level.
Last year marked the beginning of the actual process with the parishes’ Encuentros.
“The next step for Brooklyn is the Diocesan Encuentro,” said Bishop Cisneros. “After the parishes had their individual Encuentro, delegates were chosen, and those delegates will go to the April 28 Diocesan Encuentro in St. John’s University. The main speaker will be the Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who will give two conferences, one in English and one in Spanish.”
The Diocesan Encuentro team is chaired by Bishop Cisneros and Deacon Jorge González. The members include Deacons Jorge Castillo and Guillermo Gómez; Cruz-Teresa Rosero, from the Charismatic Renewal; Connie Torres, from the Jornadas de Vida Cristiana; Mari Fernández, from the Cursillos movement, and Christian Rada, from the diocesan School of Evangelization.
Encuentro is not a “Spanish-only” process. English is the common language for 61 percent of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. According to Pew Research Center, 25 percent speak English only while 36 percent are bilingual.
Every single V Encuentro document is published in both English and Spanish. In most parishes, sessions are held in both language.
“Yes, some of them have been in English,” Bishop Cisneros said, “especially when you have the young people there who prefer to speak in English.”
The Next Step
After the dioceses’ Encuentros, the next step will be the Regional Encuentros. There are 14 Episcopal Regions in the U.S. The New York Region Encuentro will take place from Friday, June 22 to Sunday June 24 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany.
Recently, Bishop Cisneros has been asked to be the coordinator of the Encuentro in the New York Episcopal Region, which encompasses the eight dioceses of the State of New York.
“Each region of the United States Conference has a chairman, and our chairman was Bishop Nelson Perez from the Diocese of Rockville Centre,” Bishop Cisneros explained. “Upon his transfer to Cleveland, I was asked to take the leadership of our region.”
“The Encuentro goes from parish to diocese, to region, to the nation; so, my responsibility here in Brooklyn had been for the Diocese, but now I have taken the added responsibility of coordinating the Regional Encuentro.”
Speaking of his new role, the Bishop Cisneros said: “My job basically is to coordinate with all the bishops and all the delegates that have been appointed by bishops in every diocese to coordinate the Regional Encuentro.
“Next week, I will be traveling with leaders of all of the dioceses in the State of New York, and we will visit the city of Albany, where we will hold our Regional Encuentro. The purpose of our visit is to basically see the facilities, come together and begin the process of organizing the Regional Encuentro. To that Encuentro, delegates from every diocese in the Region that is New York State will represent their bishops and their dioceses. Hopefully the bishop also will be present too.”
After the Regional Encuentros, delegates from all over the U.S. will meet in the National V Encuentro Sept. 20-23 at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center, Grapevine, Texas. While this event will be the pivotal moment of the V Encuentro process, it won’t be the end.
During 2019, the Concluding Document will be published and discussed at regional, diocesan and parochial levels in Post-V Encuentro gatherings. Asked about his hopes, Bishop Cisneros said:
“My personal hopes – it would be a greater openness on everyone to come to terms with the idea that we are all together, and that we accept one another. We don’t look the same, we don’t speak the same, we have different ways of looking at things, but we have one goal. We have one thing that unites us, and it’s to see Christ at work in us.
“So, my goal is that we might see Christ at work in each and everyone we encounter, in each and every person that comes our way. And that we ourselves go out – as Francis says – into the world to encounter other people, and to see the face of Christ in those people.”