WASHINGTON (October 11, 2002) -- A renewed framework for the Catholic Church's ministry to Hispanics will come before the U.S. bishops for a vote at their annual meeting in Washington, November 11 to November 14.
Addressed to all Catholics and specifically to leaders involved in Hispanic ministry, Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry will be proposed as an addendum to the bishops' 1987 National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry. That statement called for the Church to be at once evangelizing, communal, and missionary, guided by a model known as pastoral de conjunto (communion in life and mission).
Encuentro and Mission calls for a comprehensive Hispanic ministry that addresses four vital dimensions of Christian life – formation, service and advocacy, collaboration and the building of community, and a liturgy and prayer life that is rooted in the reality of the Hispanic people.
The proposed statement affirms the 1987 National Plan while reexamining pastoral priorities in light of two recent national gatherings, the Encuentro 2000: Many Faces in God's House and the National Symposium to Refocus Hispanic Ministry, convened by the bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs in 2001. Encuentro and Mission is also the bishops' response to Pope John Paul II's call for a New Evangelization, the Pope's Ecclesia in America (1999), and recent demographic data on the Hispanic presence in the United States.
Hispanics currently comprise approximately 39 percent – or 25 million – of the nation's 65 million Catholics. Since 1960, Hispanics have accounted for 71 percent of the Catholic growth in the United States. While the number of U.S. seminarians who are Hispanic/Latino has grown to thirteen percent, there is one Hispanic priest for 9,925 Hispanic Catholics in the United States. There is one Catholic priest for every 1,230 Catholics in the general Catholic population.
Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry provides basic principles and priorities that situate Hispanic ministry as an integral part of the Catholic Church's mission in the United States. It also suggests actions for dioceses, parishes, and Catholic organizations and institutions as they address the needs and aspirations of Hispanics at the turn of the millennium.
While nearly four thousand parishes already serve Hispanics, the U.S. bishops and leaders in Hispanic ministry hope a renewed framework will effectively provide for the specific concerns of the Hispanic population. Approximately 12.5 million Hispanics, or 35.8 percent of the total Hispanic population, are under the age of eighteen, compared with 23.5 percent in the general population.
The bishops are encouraged by the fact that nearly 25 percent of all students enrolled in lay formation programs in the United States are Hispanic. Such commitment to leadership development will equip Hispanics to play a key leadership role in the life of the Church in this century.
The document is the work of the bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs. (A draft of the document can be found at www.usccb.org/hispanicaffairs/encuentromission.shtml)
The November meeting opens Monday, November 11, and continues through November 14. Media seeking credentials can find information at www.usccb.org. Credential applications should be submitted by October 28.