WASHINGTON (June 1, 2006)— More than 2,000 young adults, bishops, diocesan coordinators and other parish leaders from across the country will gather for the first National Encuentro for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry, June 8-11, at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana.
The historic meeting calls Hispanic young adults to a more active participation in the life and mission of the Catholic Church at a time when close to half of all Catholics in the United States under the age of 25 are Hispanic.
Guided by the theme, Weaving the Future Together, the event is the culmination of parish, diocesan and regional encuentro meetings held in several cities including Los Angeles, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee. Participants from 126 dioceses will attend, including 20 U.S. bishops. Bishop Adalberto Martínez of San Lorenzo, Paraguay, and Rev. Gustavo Monje of Bogota, Columbia, will lead a delegation from Latin America and speak about how immigration impacts pastoral ministry.
The event, which will be facilitated in both English and Spanish, is convened by The National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (La Red), a network of church-based organizations and pastoral ministers. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Hispanic Affairs, the USCCB Sub-committee on Youth and Young Adults, and the University of Notre Dame are co-sponsors.
"The expectations are awesome as we bring the hope of providing a better ministry for
young Hispanic people in the Church today," said Reinardo Malavé, the General Chairperson of the event and the past president of The National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana. "We are providing a platform for young Hispanic Catholics to share their presence, needs and gifts with the whole Church."
Since 1972, the U.S. bishops have convened four national gatherings, or encuentros, of pastoral leaders involved in Hispanic ministry. This encuentro focuses on the needs, aspirations and contributions of Hispanic young adults with the goal of developing a common vision and pastoral principles that will be presented to the U.S. bishops.
"Our gathering at this groundbreaking event marks a moment of grace in the life of the Church in the United States," said Archbishop Jose H. Goméz of San Antonio, who serves as the Episcopal Moderator of La Red. "As delegates come to share their stories, perspectives and experiences, their input is helping bishops, priests, religious and professional lay ministers to better understand Hispanic Catholic young people."
Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs, emphasized the ecclesial nature of the outreach leading up to the national gathering. "This is truly a grassroots, pastoral process in which tens of thousands of Hispanic young people have been engaged around the country," he said. "Not only are young Hispanic Catholics a significant presence in the Church today, but they will be a very significant part of the leadership of the Catholic Church in the future."
Carole Goodwin, the director of Youth Ministry and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Louisville, will make a six-hour road trip to Notre Dame with 14 young adult immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Columbia and Peru. The participants raised money to attend the event by selling tamales and washing cars. "For these young adults, this gathering will empower them to have a voice in the Church, and it says loudly to all of us that there is a wonderful richness right beside us," Ms. Goodwin said.
Keynote speakers will include Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange County, Calif.; and Sr. Maria Elena Gonzalez, RSM, of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio.