The V Encuentro in the Life of the American Church

The Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing a process recently described by the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, as “the most dynamic thing happening in the Church.”  Launched about two years ago by the Bishops of the United States, the V Encuentro received its name from previous encuentros, or gatherings, organized in 1972, 1977, 1985, and 2000, all for the purpose of identifying the needs of Latino Catholics living in our country.  The main objective of the current encuentro is to discern the way in which the Church in the United States responds to the Hispanic or Latino presence, and to strengthen the way in which they respond and participate in the overall American Church as effective missionary disciples.

The V Encuentro is a grassroots movement where the faithful in parishes have asked questions, listened carefully, and identified pressing needs.  Over 5,000 parishes nationwide participated in this process, and it was done by faithful from diverse cultural backgrounds.  Parishioners were asked to reach out into the periphery of society and to describe the environments they are called to evangelize.  Many of our parishes in South Georgia participated in this process, and last year we gathered for our Diocesan Encuentro in Warner Robins.

After much preparation at the parish and diocesan levels, a Regional Encuentro was held two weeks ago in Miami where over 200 delegates from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana gathered to discuss the information identified at the parish and diocesan levels.  The delegates dialogued about how the Catholic Church can more effectively respond to the call from Christ to preach the Gospel in the Southeast.  It was an opportunity to meet, to share, and to encourage one another.

As the Regional Encuentro closed, two words emerged from the departing delegates: “hope” and “commitment.”  Having played a role in the development of a national document providing a long term vision for the missionary efforts of the Church in the United States, delegates certainly felt part of something much greater than just their local churches.  The regional gathering was an opportunity to network and to realize that the whole Church works together with one single purpose: the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was natural to be filled with hope, and for the delegates to recommit passionately to the task at hand.

Now the various regions of the United States will hold regional gatherings such as the one held in Miami.  The National V Encuentro will be held in September near Dallas, Texas, and afterwards will continue an implementation period of initiatives identified through the process.  There is great excitement, and the future certainly is bright.

Our diocese has not only engaged the V Encuentro, but for the past four years it has followed a Diocesan Hispanic Ministry Initiative.  The fruits of both processes in our diocese include a livestream catechetical school which reaches twelve parishes and missions, the development of lay leaders through regional gatherings, and assistance in developing local action plans centered on outreach, hospitality, and organization.

The Nuncio ended his homily at the Miami Regional Encuentro stating, “I am so happy to be here with you.  You all have a great responsibility.”  That responsibility is to preach the Gospel, a responsibility every baptized person shares.  This is the mission of the Encuentro, to empower the faithful to effectively preach the Gospel of Christ.

Logo of V Encuentro used with permission

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