SAN DIEGO — The diocese needs to find new ways to make young Latinos feel at home in the Church. Clergy should be more accessible to their Latino parishioners. All ministry leaders need recurring leadership training.
Those are the priorities that emerged at the San Diego Diocese’s Encuentro, held last month. Some 240 Latino Catholics — representing 43 parishes from Escondido to El Centro — developed 30 proposals in all to strengthen Latino Catholics at the diocese.
The proposals are important not only for the diocese, where about 63 percent of parishioners are Hispanic, but for the U.S. Catholic Church, where 38 percent are. What’s more, about 46 percent of all Catholic millennials nationwide are Latino, underscoring the critical need to bring young people into the Church.
“It’s important for us to chart a course for the future, particularly for the Hispanic community, which was the foundation of our Local Church and is the majority,” said Bishop Robert W. McElroy at the opening Mass of the diocesan Encuentro. “And it continues to be a source of inspiration and joy and participation, both in Imperial County and in San Diego County.”
The Encuentro was held on Oct. 21 at the University of San Diego. It was an important step in a four-year process called the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, a priority project of the U.S. Catholic Church. The process continues next year with a regional Encuentro, April 27-29 in Visalia, California; and a national one, Sept. 21-23 in Grapevine, Texas.
The main goals are to discern the ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the presence of Latinos and to strengthen the ways in which Latinos themselves can lead not only their ministries or ecclesial movements, but their parishes, dioceses and the Church as a whole.
The bilingual process began at the grassroots level in January, when parishes held five sessions of reflections, discernment and actions; followed by a parish Encuentro. At each of those levels, participants developed proposals, which were submitted to the national Fifth Encuentro office to be analyzed by the U.S. Catholic Church.
“All of us are gathered here to ask how our Church must grow and change to accompany the enormous grace of this Hispanic moment in the Church of the U.S.,” Bishop McElroy told the Encuentro participants. “Let us walk together today, patiently and confidently, just like God accompanied His disciples on the road to Emmaus.”
Indeed, the evangelizing approach revealed in the biblical passage “The Encounter with the Disciple on the Road to Emmaus” provided the framework for the parish sessions and the diocesan Encuentro.