V Encuentro: A not-to-be-missed moment
in the life of the Catholic Church
In just about half of the parishes of the Diocese of Oakland — 41, by the count of Hector Medina, diocesan coordinator of Latino ministries — at least one Mass is celebrated in Spanish.
Thirty-five of those parishes are participating in V Encuentro, a nationwide initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to bring the "needs, challenges and aspirations" of the Latino community to light.
Seventy-five people representing 23 parishes packed into the parish hall at the Cathedral of Christ the Light on July 8 to learn how to help their fellow parishioners participate in V Encuentro. The morning session began with spirited song and prayer, setting a tone of participation and joy.
Participation is critical, said both Medina and Rev. Alexander Castillo, who serves as the episcopal delegate to V Encuentro in the Diocese of Oakland. Critical, too, they said, is reaching into the margins of the community to include young people and others who have not participated heartily in the life of the church.
To that end, each of the 35 parishes is preparing its own V Encuentro. Under the theme of "Missionary Disciples: Witness of God's Love," these community leaders are equipped with materials from the USCCB on how to survey their fellow parishioners on their thoughts on what the church does well, and what the church is missing, in serving the Latino community.
Parish leaders were given detailed information on how to submit the information they gather, as well as a template for a series of two-hour small group sessions to prepare for the daylong parish V Encuentro.
It's an opportunity not to be missed, said Father Castillo, who serves as episcopal master of ceremonies and secretary to Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ. The parish's responses will form the basis for a diocesanwide V Encuentro, scheduled for Oct. 28 at St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland. Each parish will send a delegation — median size is expected to be 30 people — including people under the age of 35; emerging leaders; established leaders; a member of the clergy or religious; and a non-Latino delegate.
At the diocesan event, the delegates will receive the results of the surveys, and decide which areas to put their efforts into for the coming two years. Also, delegates to the April 28 regional V Encuentro, to be held in Fresno, will be elected. The diocese expects to send 80 delegates to Fresno, and 34 to the national V Encuento in Texas in September 2018.
This is the fifth in a series of Encuentro events, dating back to 1972.
It is above all, leaders said, an opportunity to be heard; an opportunity to show the concerns — as well as the gifts the Latino community brings to the Catholic Church.
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