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Encuentro is a two-year process of missionary activity, consultation, leadership development and pastoral discernment in parishes, dioceses and episcopal regions that culminates with a national event. A primary outcome of the Encuentro process is to discern pastoral practices and priorities to impact the quality of ministry among Hispanic/Latino Catholics, under the leadership of the U.S. bishops.
The Cross of the Encuentros symbolizes the faith journey of Hispanic/Latino Catholics in the United States over the past 50 years. This journey has received inspiration and direction through the National Encuentros on Hispanic Ministry, which call for a model of church that is evangelizing, communitarian and missionary. The Encuentros, past and future, are true movements of the Spirit where Hispanic Catholics in the United States anticipate (EG 24) God’s grace accompanied and guided by their bishops. Hispanic Catholics, immigrant and native, bilingual and diverse, today constitute 40 percent of all Catholics in the United States and more than 50 percent of all Catholics under 35. We find in Hispanic Catholics a renewed hope for families that are evangelizing and missionary, promoters of vocations, attentive to the existential peripheries, defenders of the poor, and who claim their right to live out their faith in liberty and with justice, in this great nation of many cultures and peoples.
The Cross of the Encuentros will be the banner of the Fifth National Encuentro on Hispanic Ministry, set to begin in the near future under the theme of Hispanic People: Joyful Disciples in Mission. The Cross of the Encuentros is also a symbol of communion and solidarity with the Church in Latin America, for the Fifth Encuentro is a way for the Church in the United States to enjoin herself to the Continental Mission.
Starting in January 2017, the cross will travel to dioceses throughout the United States, as parishes, dioceses and episcopal regions undergo their own local Encuentro process. It will then preside over the national Encuentro gathering envisioned for September of 2018. The cross will be housed at the USCCB headquarters in Washington and available for use in any future Encuentros.
The Cross of the Encuentros has a vertical beam that is 5.5 feet tall, and a horizontal beam that is three feet wide. The frontal width will be five inches and the thickness will be 2.5 inches. It will be made of oak wood, with a natural finish, and will have a removable base. The cross will have simple engravings of thorns and resurrection lilies. The inscription will read Hispanic People: Joyful Disciples in Mission. The cross will also include at the foot an inscription reading “Philadelphia, September 26, 2015” which will commemorate the blessing by Pope Francis.
The process of Encuentro for Hispanic/Latino ministry has been a deeply ecclesial experience. It is motivated by reading the signs of the times and convened by the bishops, who call the Hispanic/Latino Catholic community to raise their prophetic voices. In the context of this dialogue between the bishops and the community, we live a spirit of pastoral ministry illuminated by an ecclesiology of communion and a missionary vocation that seeks to reach out to those who find themselves estranged from the life and vision of the Gospel.
The main objective of the process of Encuentro is to discern the way in which the Church in the United States responds to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the way in which Hispanics/Latinos respond as a Church.
The I Encuentro (1972) allowed us to gain visibility and to express our needs, aspirations, and contributions as baptized persons and members of the Church in the United States.
In the II Encuentro (1977), we identified ourselves as a community of Hispanic Catholics that is diverse, yet unified by a common faith, history, culture, and language. We also discerned a way of being a Church based on the ecclesiology of communion and a preferential option for the poor and those who have fallen away. With the II Encuentro we identified ourselves as Pueblo Hispano: Pueblo de Dios en Marcha.
The III Encuentro (1985) allowed us to articulate a clear direction of the Church’s response to the Hispanic presence and our response as an integral part of that Church. This vision was recorded in the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry (1988) and in a model of a Church that is evangelizing, communitarian, and missionary. With the III Encuentro we recognized ourselves as Pueblo Hispano: Voz Profética.
The Encuentro 2000 (IV Encuentro) allowed us to host and share the experience of Encuentro with all of the cultures and races that make up the Church in the United States. The vision of a Church where all are welcome emerges from our most profound identity as a mestizo people that recognizes itself as a pilgrim people called to solidarity and to unity in diversity, as expressed in its overall theme Many Faces in God’s House, Unity in Diversity.
The Primer Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral Juvenil (2006) allowed us to listen to the voices of Hispanic/Latino youth and to discern the best ways to respond to their needs and aspirations, as well as to recognize their contributions as privileged protagonists of the present and future Church in the United States.
The V Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral will encourage us to continue our walk as God’s people, to raise our prophetic voice once more, and to discern pastoral priorities and strategies that are most appropriate to the present time. With the V Encuentro, we are called to be a Pueblo Hispano: Alegres Discípulos en Misión.
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