When I reflect on the V Encuentro process, I can’t help but think of the word “discernment.” The experience of discernment through the V Encuentro was a unique one. It was one of discovery and affirmation of my gifts and my vocation.

I was serving at the Archdiocese of Chicago when I was invited to be part of the V Encuentro process. I joined late, as there were others on staff who were directly involved in Pastoral Juvenil. I had not been involved until the work started for the diocesan Encuentro. A late invitation from Sr. Dominga Zapata and Elisabeth Roman brought me to my first meeting.

What I found was a beautiful community of individuals committed to engaging in our own discernment: listening to where God was calling us, as Latino leaders in the diocese and listening with open hearts and minds to where we can best serve God’s people in Chicago. As I became more involved in the process, I found myself reflecting more on the gifts that the Hispanic community brings to the Catholic Church. As I listened, prayed, asked questions, and dialogued with fellow leaders, I felt my heart stirring. I found myself asking two questions:

1. What are the gifts that we, the Hispanic Catholic Community, bring to the Church at this moment? 2. What do we need to do to be able to share those gifts with our brothers and sisters?

These outward questions opened my heart to wrestle with a more personal questions:

What am I going to do about it?

As I thought and prayed more, I realized there was only so much I could do in my current role to act on these questions. I had seen the reality, judged that there was a need, and now was asking God to help me act on it. I found my prayer life circling on one intention: Lord, put me where you need me.

Be careful what you pray for! After the Diocesan Encuentro I found myself encouraged by many people who knew me , some through the Encuentro process, to apply for a position with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry as the first ever Director of Multicultural Ministry. It combined my passion for youth with my growing desire to lift of the gifts of the beautiful and diverse communities in the U.S. Catholic Church. I hesitated much, but as my community encouraged me more, I could not help but move forward in the process and realized that this is where the Lord needed me in this moment.

NFCYM has committed to supporting the youth and those who accompany them across the country. Our efforts include resources, conferences, and trainings for ministry leaders. We have adopted the important language of the Encuentro process: accompaniment as a key part of all we do. Our new slogan: “Christ leads. We accompany” shows how we are listening to Gods call through the Encuentro. We have especially looked at how we can offer more resources and formation opportunities, like our webinars, to highlight Pastoral Juvenil and provide them in Spanish to engage a new generation of Latino Catholics and ministry leaders. To learn more, visit our website at www.nfcym.org

By Darius Villalobos 2020 © All Rights Reserved. Photo by NFCYM.