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A message from the bishop

V Encuentro showcases the gifts, vitality Hispanic Catholics bring to the Church

(November 2018)
 
My dear friends,
 
Travel by air is always an experience. But this past September travel to the Fifth National Encuentro was great. I arrived in Dallas on a direct flight from Grand Rapids and even a few minutes ahead of time! I was in good spirits going into this national meeting, and I was not disappointed – attending the Encuentro was worthwhile in every respect!
The national process of Encuentro (which means “meeting” in English) has been the catalyst for developing ministries among Hispanics/Latinos during the past 50 years in the Catholic Church. Each of the previous four Encuentros has been a momentous experience that has changed the way the Church responds to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos can respond as Church. Since the IV Encuentro in 2000, the Church in the United States now finds an unprecedented number of parishes serving Hispanics/Latinos and a growing number of Hispanic/Latino ecclesial ministers. This is true for our diocese as well.
 
These realities set the stage for the celebration of the Fifth National Encuentro. The Encuentro is a four-year process of reflection and action that invites all Catholics to enter intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development, and the identification of best practices in the spirit of the new evangelization. Over 120 bishops attended the Encuentro as part of their diocesan delegations. More than 3,000 leaders and delegates from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations came together to answer this call to strengthen the Church in America.
 
Our diocesan delegation included Hilda Alcahuter from St. Mary's Church of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Muskegon; Teresa Cruz from St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Wyoming; Elizabeth Lerchen from St. Gregory Parish, Hart; Javier Orozco from the Shrine of St. Francis and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Grand Rapids; Rosa Yañez from Ss. Peter & Paul Parish, Ionia; Sister Trinidad Duque, MC, assistant director, diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry; and Juan Carlos Farias-Gonzalez, director, diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry. In addition, our diocese was represented by Father Steve Dudek, Father René Constanza, CSP, Joanne Jones, principal of Corpus Christi School in Holland, and Mariza Mandujano, administrative assistant, diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, who were personally invited by the USCCB to attend.The participation from West Michigan was strong!
 
This event marked the halfway point of the V Encuentro process. For the past two years, leaders in our parishes with Hispanic/Latino members have been participating in the Encuentro process. Through this process they have drawn on statistics and data of the local Church in West Michigan to reach conclusions on how to strengthen ministry to our Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters. The conclusions reached at the parish level were summarized at the diocesan level and then were sent to the regional level before this national event. What was discussed in Texas will be shared with our parishes and diocesan offices with final implementation of the national plan in 2020.
 
We have been blessed that this Encuentro process coincided with our own diocesan Plan Pastoral. Our Office of Hispanic Ministry was able to combine the processes to ensure that the work of our strategic plan mirrored what was developing at the national level. Our final strategic plan is set to be released this winter. You will be able to find the details in FAITH magazine once it is published.
 
It is time for the Hispanic/Latino membership of the Church in the United States to be recognized for its
contribution to building up the body of Christ. The Hispanic com-munity is not simply a community to be
ministered to, but a community already actively engaged in ministry and evangelization. We must promote and celebrate the youth and vitality of the Hispanic presence in the Church! At the V Encuentro, I witnessed and experienced the strength and energy of a truly vibrant Church on display. Our Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters have much to share with the larger American Church.
 
I pray that this gathering of missionary disciples from across the country at V Encuentro will intensify
our desire to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to those who most need to hear an encouraging word. May we live out the meaning of encuentro as we encounter the Risen Christ through our interactions with each other!
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak