V National Encuentro participants reflect on experiences

Don Boucher
Young adults bless Bishop Thomas Zinkula during V National Encuentro last month in Grapevine, Texas.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

During V National Encuentro last month, young adult Hispanic Catholics had the opportunity to share a meal and converse with bishops from around the country. Following the meal, the youths prayed over the bishops seated at their tables.

It was a highlight of the four-day event for Bishop Thomas Zinkula. “It was a pleasure to get to know and converse with a group of energetic young Hispanic Catholics who are totally committed to their Catholic faith.”

Don Boucher, diocesan director of Faith Formation, observed the “blessed and touching moment. …. It was powerful to see young adults praying for and blessing our bishops.”


This moment was one of many that stood out for the seven individuals from the Diocese of Davenport who took part in V National Encuentro Sept. 20-23 at Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. They were among roughly 3,200 delegates, bishops and representatives who spent four days discussing current and ongoing issues in the Hispanic Catholic community and celebrating the richness that the community brings to the church.

“I was so inspired, edified and encouraged by the 3,200 strong, vibrant and faith-filled participants who have a love for the church,” ,said Sister Irene Munoz, CHM, multicultural pastoral minister at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa .

Other participants from the Davenport Diocese were Miguel Moreno, diocesan coordinator of Multicultural Ministry; Ana Maria Shambaugh, administrative assistant for the diocesan office of Multicultural Ministry; Father Guillermo Trevino, who serves St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City and St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty; and Ricardo Rangel, a deacon aspirant and member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.

A message from Pope Francis

During the first night of the V National Encuentro, the first Encuentro since 2000, participants received a surprise Spanish-language video greeting from Pope Francis. The video included English subtitles.

“(This) is a historic moment for the church in the United States,” he said. “Through this fifth Encuentro, you seek to create a culture of encounter that rekindles hope. By gathering with people from different cultures, different ways of living, of thinking, of feeling, you encounter, one another and walk together in hope. … To tear down walls and build bridges.

“… I see that the fifth Encuentro is a concrete way for the church in the United States to respond to the challenge of going beyond what is comfortable, business as usual, to become a leaven of communion for all those who seek a future of hope, especially young people and families that live on the peripheries of society.”

“I am also pleased to see that the fifth Encuentro, in continuity with previous Encuentros, recognizes and values gifts that Hispanic Catholics offer today, and will continue to offer. “

Shambaugh said the participants clapped at the video’s conclusion. “I saw that the people felt so encouraged and energized (by the message.)

Invest in Hispanic youth

Engaging young people was a main topic at the V National Encuentro, as it was at the preceding diocesan and regional Encuentros. Issues that can hinder this group from participating in traditional events, such as National Catholic Youth Conference, include lack of money, documentation and cautious parents, Moreno said. “It’s not just the language.”

Encuentro participants identified the need for more clergy and lay leaders who can speak Spanish and understand Hispanic culture. Moreno said that in the Davenport Diocese, about 25 percent of Catholics are Hispanic, but most people in parishes aren’t trained or experienced in working with them. Parishes and dioceses are being encouraged to invest in this population and work to meet their needs.

Trevino said, “I learned that the Latino community is tired of being treated as second-class by the church. We have lots of positions for English-speaking people in the diocese and usually one or two for Spanish speakers. Bishops were challenged to support the needs of all people, including the Spanish speakers.”

“We need to listen to our youth,” Sr. Munoz said. “We need to bring new strategies, new ways of evangelizing.”

Going forward

The Encuentro process reassured Moreno that the Davenport Diocese’s Multicultural Ministry Office is moving in the right direction with its programming. The Lay Ministry Formation Program has nearly 100 participants, and the office is will host a Hispanic youth conference in March 2019. This is in addition to family retreats, pilgrimages and conferences the Multicultural Ministry office regularly hosts.

One program the office hopes to offer in the future is “Know Your Rights” to help educate immigrants in the diocese about legal issues related to immigration. Moreno said he felt such a program could have helped families affected by the immigration raids in Mount Pleasant earlier this year.

Reflections on the V National Encuentro

Rangel viewed the V Encuentro as a “spark to set us all on fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit.” He saw the experience as “a gift of God’s mercy, an oasis of love, peace, reflection and unity that we all need at this very moment.”

Boucher said the Encuentro process energized the Hispanic community. “They’ve discovered more about themselves, their gifts and the desire of all their community – even the marginalized and those who might have walked away from the church – to have a church and a faith that matters in their lives. I know this experience energized them and renewed their commitment to the faith and the church.”

Bishop Zinkula, having been mostly on the fringes of the Hispanic Catholic community, found it helpful to be fully immersed in the community for a few days. “At the Encuentro, there was a lot of joy, energy, enthusiasm and passion. A large percentage of the participants were young people, which gave me much hope for the future. …. We need to work hard to fully incorporate our Hispanic Catholic brothers and sisters into our parishes and dioceses in the U.S.”

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