Hispanic Catholics from New England gather for regional Encuentro

BRAINTREE -- An estimated 550 delegates from seven dioceses across New England gathered at The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro March 10 for a regional Encuentro.

A U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initiative, the Encuentro (Spanish for "Encounter") is a two-year process that aims to promote evangelization, leadership development, and consultation in Hispanic communities across the country. Parish, diocesan, and regional Encuentros are held before culminating in a National Encuentro.

The first National Encuentro was held in 1972, and served as a way to take into account the needs and contributions of Hispanic Catholics throughout the U.S. Since that time, the event has taken place sporadically, with the last one, the IV Encuentro, taking place in 2000.

The V National Encuentro, to be held in September 2018, will focus again on addressing the pastoral needs of the Hispanic Catholic communities, which is one of the largest Catholic ethnic communities nationally and locally, as well as encourage communities to evangelize.

The regional Encuentro, held a little over a month after the Archdiocese of Boston's archdiocesan Encuentro, and months after the completion of parish Encuentros, allowed the hundreds of delegates who attended to review and discuss the findings of the previous Encuentros. The gathering brought together parishioners and Church leaders from the Archdiocese of Boston, as well as from the other dioceses of Massachusetts and in New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Representatives of the three dioceses of Connecticut as well the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts were unable to attend the regional Encuentro. A second regional Encuentro will be held May 12 in Hartford, Connecticut for those dioceses.

Speaking to The Pilot March 12, Father Francisco "Paco" Anzoategui, chaplain of the archdiocese's Hispanic Apostolate, said the results of previous Encuentros from all of the participating dioceses were compiled into a document, which was the "working document" for the March 10 meeting.

The document identified 12 different areas of ministry that pertain to Hispanic ministry, he explained, and during the regional Encuentro, delegates were divided into 12 groups to discuss each area of ministry, which included subjects like vocations, youth participation, and priestly ministry.

The goal, Father Anzoategui said, was "to come out with some strategies to better address these needs among the Hispanic people within the region, as well as to identify the challenges that we have moving forward in Hispanic ministry."

The Encuentro began in prayer and a keynote talk from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley. Discussions, music, and fellowship took place throughout the day, before it came to a close with a Mass presided by Bishop Edgar Moreira da Cunha of the Dioceses of Fall River, and concelebrated by Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester and Bishop Joseph Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island.

Father Anzoategui was optimistic about the results of the Encuentro, and said participants were generally enthusiastic about the process.

"People were very excited at the end of the day," he said, and they were looking forward to the national Encuentro.

The national Encuentro will be held in Texas from Sept. 20-23. The results will help inform the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in policies regarding Hispanic ministry.