September 15, 2017

Evangelization and Catechesis Supplement

Archdiocesan V Encuentro will give ‘opportunity to reach out to peripheries’

By Natalie Hoefer

During his papacy, St. John Paul II preached on the “new evangelization,” calling for a reawakening of the faith.

Like a book with many chapters, there are many areas in which the new evangelization can be applied in the United States. One such area is Hispanic ministry.

To help define best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization in regard to the Catholic Hispanic population in the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) established a four-year process called V Encuentro, or Fifth Encounter.

The Criterion spoke with Oscar Castellanos, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, to learn more about the overall plan and the archdiocese’s involvement.

An increase from 25 to 40 percent

As the title suggests, four prior Encuentro processes have taken place, starting in 1972.

Just what is Encuentro, and what is its goal?

A fact sheet from the national V Encuentro process organizers describes the effort as “a four-year process of ecclesial reflection and action that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development and identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization.”

It goes on to emphasize that the process “starts at the grassroots level and calls for the development of resources and initiatives to better serve the fast-growing Hispanic population in dioceses, parishes, ecclesial movements and other Catholic organizations and institutions … .”

To quantify the term “fast-growing,” a 2014 study by Boston College and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that the percentage of U.S. Hispanic Catholics was at the time about 40 percent, versus about 25 percent in the 1980s. The study notes that “at some point in the future, it is possible that a majority of U.S. Catholics will be Hispanic.”

The goal of the process, as stated in the fact sheet, is “to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church.”

While V Encuentro looks at “where the Hispanic community is in the U.S. today, the process is for everybody,” says Castellanos.

“It’s important [for the archdiocese to participate] because we are following an initiative of the bishops who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have summoned every diocese in the country to live this Encuentro process. It’s important because it will give an opportunity to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to reach out to those living in the periphery through the missionary process of evangelization and consultation of the V Encuentro.”

He noted participation of Anglos in the five-session process at some of the parishes that participated this year. At St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, the process was carried out in three languages: English, French and Spanish.

The session topics—which were inspired by Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter—revolved around encountering Christ and taking action to be missionary disciples.

Information refined ‘up and up’

A major milestone in the four-year V Encuentro process is approaching on Sept. 30, when representatives from the 10 archdiocesan parishes that participated in the process, along with other special guests, will gather for a day at St. Andrew the Apostle School in Indianapolis. About 200 total people are expected for the event.

“The archdiocesan celebration is more like a working day,” Castellanos says. “Every parish that was involved produced a working document, which is basically an analysis and summary of their five sessions.”

Castellanos and his V Encuentro team will combine the parish contributions into one document that will serve as the point of discussion at the archdiocesan meeting.

The day will consist of five “moments,” or activities, he says.

One of these moments will be a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson. In two sessions, small groups will discuss the combined document, and in two other sessions a keynote address and a personal reflection will be offered.

In the end, each small group will identify “one idea from the document that they wish to emphasize to the archdiocese,” says Castellanos.

Other special guests have been invited to observe the daylong event. These are people who are “somehow engaged in Hispanic ministry or that could benefit from the process,” says Castellanos. “I’m thinking of the heads of the [archdiocesan] secretariats, seminarians, ecclesial movements like Cursillo, Charismatic Renewal, IndyCAN, and we’re inviting the priests involved in Hispanic ministry, permanent deacons and so forth.”

The special guests will not be commenting during the discussions, nor will they be eligible to be selected as one of roughly 15 delegates to represent the archdiocese at the next stage of the process.

The next stage will be a repeat of the Sept. 30 format at the regional level—which for the archdiocese includes Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin—and then at the national level. Both the regional and national meetings will occur in 2018.

Prior to each regional event, the diocesan and archdiocesan documents will be combined into one, and prior to the national event, each regional document will be combined into one.

“The process refines the information up and up and up, so information at the parish level is presented to the bishops,” Castellanos explains.

“The main goal at the end by 2020 is there will be a national plan from the national level. It will come to us, and we can distribute it to the parishes.”

The document the bishops produce could be a national pastoral plan for Hispanic evangelization, as was the case with III Encuentro in 1985, he says. Or it could be a document suggesting best practices.

Whatever form it takes, Castellanos says, “one of the biggest emphases [will be] on youth and young adults. It coincides with the same momentum nationally.”

He notes that another challenge the process addresses is regional differences.

“The south [issues are] not the same as in the Midwest. The East Coast [issues are] not the same as the West Coast,” he notes.

Castellanos is looking forward to seeing the results of this four-year process.

“They’re really the best theologians in the country interested in having a thorough process of consultation and evangelization.” †

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