Parishes in the Diocese of Tyler are currently engaging in a reflection and discernment process as part of the Fifth National Encuentro (V Encuentro), a four-year process of consultation, discernment, discussion, and collaboration. The main goal of the V Encuentro is to discern ways for the Church in the United States to better respond to the ever-growing Hispanic presence, and to help Hispanics Catholics to strengthen their Christian identity and their response as missionary disciples for the entire Church.

The Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry was launched by the U.S. bishops last November with the theme Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.

Starting at the parish level, the Encuentro process is intended to lead to the development of resources and initiatives to better serve the fast-growing Hispanic population in the Diocese of Tyler and the nation while promoting Hispanic leadership within the Church.

Father Ariel Cortes with parish representatives at a recent diocesan V Encuentro session.

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Father Ariel Cortes, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Diboll and diocesan Encuentro coordinator, said the process is intended to “respond more creatively to the Hispanic community in the Church” and to “promote leadership in the parishes that will (strengthen and inform) ministry and outreach to Hispanics by the diocese.”

Father Cortes said he hopes the process also will invite more Hispanics into ministry and the missionary work of the Church.

“We have a great many Hispanics in the Diocese of Tyler,” he said. “We have Hispanics from many backgrounds and cultures. They are a treasure of our diocese and the Church, but they do not always feel welcome or involved. With V Encuentro, we want to say to them, ‘You are welcome. This is your Church. We are ready to listen to you.’”

The five-session process of reflection and missionary action will culminate in parish Encuentros. Themes of the five sessions, as inspired by Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel (n. 24) are:

  • Called to a loving encounter with Jesus
  • With words and actions: Do it!
  • Walking together with Jesus
  • Bearing fruits of new life
  • Celebrating the joy of being missionary disciples

The parish-level process is slated to be completed by July 30. Information generated in the parish sessions will be used to prepare for a diocesan Encuentro to be held Oct. 14 on the Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School campus in Tyler.

Diocesan representatives will then gather for a regional Encuentro. After the parish, diocesan, and regional phases of consultation, reflection, and missionary activity are concluded, the process will reach its zenith at the National V Encuentro gathering to be celebrated in late September of 2018 in the Fort Worth area, with approximately 3,000 delegates from participating dioceses across the country. After that, a time for reflection on the findings, identification of good ministerial practices, and implementation strategies at the local level will follow.

More than one million Catholics are expected to directly participate in the process at different stages.

“The Fifth Encuentro is a time of grace,” said Bishop Nelson Pérez, auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, New York, and chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. “It is a great opportunity for the Church to reach out to our Hispanic brothers and sisters with Christ’s message of hope and love. It is a time to listen, a time to develop meaningful relationships, a time learn and bear abundant fruits, and a time to rejoice in God’s love.”

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) estimates that 30.5 million Hispanics/Latinos in the United States self-identify as Catholic. Currently, approximately 60 percent of U.S. Catholics under the age 18 are of Hispanic/Latino heritage.

For more information on V Encuentro, see the website here.