Taking the mission of V Encuentro back to parishes

Sister Gladys Echenique working one-on-one with faith communities  

Like the long-lived V Encuentro, Dominican Sister Gladys Echenique marches on with bringing the “encuentro,” or encounter, to parishes in the Diocese of Tucson.

While the US Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to formulate a plan on implementing the recommendations of last year’s meeting of Hispanic leaders, Sister Echenique, diocesan Hispanic Ministry coordinator, is visiting parishes to promote the advancement of Hispanic leaders, to encourage enrollment in Spanish-language faith formation and to listen to ways that parishes might need help from the Diocese to assist their Spanish-speaking families.

“This is a process of accompaniment to see how we can work together and help each other,” Sister Echenique said. “(Working at parishes) is a wonderful way to have the interactions we need to have.”

She said she especially likes getting to meet all the pastors, parish leaders and secretaries in their home environment.

The Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/ Latino Ministry (V Encuentro) was a historic ecclesial gathering of 3,000 Hispanic/Latino Ministry leaders/delegates from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations from across the country in Grapevine, Texas in 2018. The first Encuentro occurred in 1972.

A national goal of V Encuentro was to identify leaders in Church ministry as Hispanic Catholics continue to increase, and integrating them into parish, diocesan and national leadership roles. By the middle of this century, demographic trends suggest that Hispanic Catholics will make up the majority of Catholics in America.

Sister Echenique joined the Diocese in 2012 after working for three years as Hispanic Ministry coordinator at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson. With the help of a planning committee, her department created a five-year plan in 2013 for Hispanic Ministry and updated that plan two years later. Next, she developed and expanded Spanish-language catechetical and ministerial formation training, introducing a third-year – Level III – program in 2018. Response in parishes has been mixed, but after meeting with pastors, she said, there is strong support for continuing to advance adults who have begun studies along in training and to introduce more Spanish-speaking parishioners to Levels I and II.

“I am happy to be able to go to parishes and promote the names of the people who have completed coursework,” she said. “It’s important to invite more people into formation, because it benefits the parish.”

A common request from pastors in the first seven parishes she has visited – St. Andrew’s in Sierra Vista, Immaculate Conception and St. Luke’s in Douglas, Sacred Heart in Nogales, San Martin de Porres in Sahuarita, St. Francis of Assisi in Yuma and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Somerton – is for more training in ecclesiology, or the structure of the Church.

Hispanic ministry leaders may want to bring in a speaker from out-of-town or out-of-state, but don’t understand that they need to have the pastor’s permission to do that, she said. Diocesan policy also requires that all speakers have background checks and that they are vetted as part of its protection requirements.

Another goal of V Encuentro is to provide ongoing support for families and for young people. At least three parishes asked her for help with bringing the Christian Family Movement – Movimiento Familiar Cristiano – led locally by Sergio and Rosalba Cardona. The movement is active in a number of Spanish-speaking parishes in the Diocese already, and she will assist the other parishes make connections with the Cardonas to train lead couples in those areas where it is requested.

Bishop Weisenburger celebrated Mass at a regional gathering of the Movimiento March 9 at St. Joseph Church in Tucson, with more than 100 families attending.

There are other ministries that the parishes can use to support Hispanic families and nurture leadership, including Cursillo, Charismatic renewal and Arco Iris.

2019 © Michael Brown. This article was originally published in the Catholic Outlook. Reprinted with permission.


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