February 2017 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
As we enter a new year together, we take pause to recognize, embrace and celebrate the increasingly diverse family that the Church has become. This is true across the Nation, and in our home diocese and parishes. We are blessed with an increasingly diverse and vibrant community of faith.
One of the most welcoming recent initiatives by the United States Bishops Cultural Diversity Committee is the V Encuentro. This effort at all levels within the Church in America is intended to build greater awareness of the growing presence of our Hispanic/ Latino brothers and sisters as an integral part of the life and mission of the Church. It will further encourage us to become more active together in nurturing solidarity and a sense of family within the Church.
For several months now, Sister Mary Jude Lazarus, Director of the Diocesan Hispanic Ministry, has kindly been updating the progress of the V Encuentro planning at the parish and diocese level. As she has noted in previous issues of the Four County Catholic, the V Encuentro involves conversations in parishes conducted over five sessions prepared to begin this month. By July, it will move to the diocesan level. Each diocese will then be sending representatives to their respective regions; and regional delegates are later sent to the national event, where all the reports and conversations are discussed and reflected upon with thousands in attendance in Dallas in 2018.
This initiative will help us become missionary disciples as we engage Hispanic/Latino parishioners in our own parish or encounter each other in neighboring parishes. In fact, the word encuentro fittingly translates to "encounter". This is true evangelization at work.
It is understandable that many families joining us in recent years from as many as 20 South America and Latin America countries have been hesitant to become fully involved in the Church. V Encuentro presents a concerted effort for all of us to help reach out to them and help make our parishes and diocese more welcoming and accessible. Asking ourselves how our faith community can better respond to the needs and challenges of our Hispanic brothers and sisters can be the beginning of a breakthrough. We all know in our hearts that we live our faith best when we extend our goodwill and welcoming spirit to every corner and edge of our communities. Encouraging conversation, outreach and faith-inaction is where the V Encuentro will lead us.
It will also be a vital learning experience as we will ultimately receive actionable information shared from across the expected 175 dioceses, 5,000 parishes and over one million national participants. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, describes in his Joy of the Gospel encyclical, “An evangelizing community is supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.” We will stand by and joyfully stand with our Hispanic brothers and sisters.
Standing with each other means talking to each other, reaching out beyond our own parishes, respecting the God-given gifts we bring to each other, appreciating that we are one family and recognizing the many ways that our Hispanic members can and will contribute to a church ever more alive and inclusive.
Consistent with the V Encuentro’s purpose of better understanding each other and building stronger bonds of faith, we need to be mindful of the high tensions surrounding current immigration policies and practices. It helps everyone sharing these concerns to assure one another that we support the position of the U.S. Bishops as expressed by Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Bishops Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, to “…remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate and common-sense immigration reform.” Our united purpose is to repair the existing immigration system to protect against dividing families and undermining human dignity, while respecting the security of the Nation in dangerous times.
The V Encuentro is an opportunity to be sensitive to the struggle. To stand with each other. It is the kind of initiative that fosters togetherness and strengthens all we are and all we do as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to get involved in the conversation, join in the outreach, spread the good word of the Gospel and help enrich our lives with the beauty and strength of diversity.
Please look for future V Encuentro updates from the Hispanic Ministry and from your parishes regarding next steps in this journey together.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael R. Cote