An office for the Spanish-speaking was established in 1945 in San Antonio, Texas, under the auspices of the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC).
In 1969, the Division for the Spanish Speaking was established under the auspices of the NCWC Department of Social Development, in Washington, DC.
In 1974, the division was elevated to Secretariat under the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference..
The Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs has held three national Encuentros (gatherings that convoke pastoral leaders ministering among Hispanic Catholics in the United States) in the past twenty-five years.
The Encuentro 2000 was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center , in Los Angeles, California, on July 6-9, 2000.
In 1997, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously agreed to the recommendation of the Hispanic Affairs Committee to convoke a national gathering in the Jubilee Year 2000 to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the Church in the United States, thus, in November 1997, the body of bishops convoked Encuentro 2000.
Encuentro 2000 was an opportunity to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and to dialogue together as brothers and sisters among the many cultures which form the Body of Christ. It was an opportunity for the Church in the United States to gather, to engage in profound conversations about life and faith, to worship together, to learn from each other, to forgive one another and be reconciled, to acknowledge our unique histories, and to discover ways in which we, as Catholic communities, can be one Church yet come from diverse cultures and ethnicities.
Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs, referring to the Hispanic Catholic in the United States and to the three previous national encuentros, said, "Hispanic and Latinos are a tremendously important part of the Catholic Church in the United States with wonderful gifts of faith and spirituality to share. These encuentros have given them an opportunity to pray and share and listen to and with one another. As we begin the Third Millennium of Christianity, Hispanic Catholics in the United States want to gather once again with all their brothers and sisters in the Church to celebrate the cultural richness of the Catholic faith and to plan for new ways of evangelizing."
The Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs named an Encuentro 2000 subcommittee to plan the July 2000 gathering. The subcommittee was chaired by Bishop Gabino Zavala, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles. Other members of the subcommittee were: Bishop Emilio Allué, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston; Bishop Agustin Román, Auxiliary Bishop of Miami; and Sister María Elena González, President of the Mexican American Cultural Center. A national, culturally diverse national steering committee
, representing different ministries and national Catholic organizations, was also named.
The logo for Encuentro 2000 shows the jubilee cross and several faces representing the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of the Church in the United States. The faces and jubilee cross are framed by the words Many Faces in God's House: A Catholic Vision for the Third Millennium and are surrounded by the word Encuentro in more than thirty languages.
By bringing together people from different cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups in the United States as one Church, Encuentro 2000 is a prophetic sign of unity. This unity, reflected in our theme of Many Faces in God's House, can be achieved only through an encounter with the living Jesus Christ as the way to conversion, communion, and solidarity.
To help implement the Encuentro process at the local level, the Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs developed a parish guide. Although designed to be used primarily by parishes in preparation for Encuentro 2000 and the jubilee celebration, the sessions presented in the parish guide can be adapted for use by any group for almost any setting or meeting, before or after the jubilee year.
The parish guide for Encuentro 2000 has been distributed to dioceses and parishes in the country. It contains a Vision Statement, a Theological Reflection, six Parish Sessions, plus references and appendices. The parish guide may be purchased through the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs.
The content of the Encuentro 2000 parish guide is rooted in the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, and its call for a more welcoming, evangelizing, and missionary Church. The guide also reflects the themes of the apostolic exhortation On the Coming of the Third Millennium (Tertio Millenio Adveniente) and the objectives proposed in the bishops' document Open Wide the Doors to Christ. These objectives focus on the jubilee themes of reconciliation, peace, and unity.