By Ruby Thomas, Special to The Record
The second annual Encuentro Hispano brought together close to 300 Hispanic Catholics from pre-school age to older adults. They spent the day on Sept. 27 at St. Pius X Church worshipping and taking part in faith formation workshops all with the purpose of strengthening family evangelization.
The word encuentro is Spanish for “gathering” or an “encounter.” The theme “Continuando La Jornada a Ser Una Familia Evangelizadora” (“Continuing the Journey to Be an Evangelizing Family”) was at the heart of the speeches which those in attendance had the opportunity to hear.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz celebrated Mass and during his homily told the gathering that being there on that day was no coincidence.
“God has chosen you and me to be here today,” said the archbishop. “There are many Latino families, but God chose you and me because he has a special responsibility for us to achieve.”
The archbishop went on to tell those gathered before him that God wants to use their example and witness to teach others and to lead others to Christ. He assured them they didn’t need to do anything special to achieve this.
“God wants us to be ourselves,” he reminded them. The archbishop also praised Hispanic Catholics for their strong family ties saying “We learn what it means to have strong families from the Latino community” he told them. “You are not perfect families, but strong families that are faithful to one another; families that teach faith and teach the ability to celebrate God’s gifts with one another.”
Felipa Valenzuela, a member of Annunciation Church in Shelbyville, Ky., who attended the Encuentro along with her four grown children and grandchildren, said strong family ties mean everything to her.
She recalled those spiritual values taught to her by her father and recalled how they’ve helped her in life. She said those are the same values she instilled in her children and is very pleased with the results.
“Events like this Encuentro are very important for families,” said Valenzuela. “The home is the first school, so it very important for parents to instill spiritual values in their children. If within the home the parents are not following God then there’s no spiritual guidance and everything falls apart.”
During his keynote address entitled “La Iglesia Domestica: Centro de Evangelizacion” (“The Domestic Church: Center of Evangelization), Piarist Father Rafael Capo, who is the director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI), reminded those gathered that throughout the history of the church families have always been important in helping with the mission of evangelization.
Father Capo talked about St. John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and noted that each demonstrated love for families and called on families to be evangelizers. He also recalled St. John XXIII’s statement decades ago that the universal church begins with the domestic church … the one they have within their homes.
Father Capo told the gathering that he believes we are living in a golden era for the church and for Catholic families.
“I am convinced that, when we look back at history and they talk about this time, that it will be referred to as a golden era, because we have been given some powerful gifts through the grace of God,” Father Capo said.
This time in history is particularly important for Catholic families as the church is renewing its call upon families to be evangelizers, the priest added. And as Archbishop Kurtz did earlier, Father Capo reminded the participants that no large gesture is needed. All they need to do is take action, he said.
He also shared advice from St. John Paul II, who wrote in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio — “Family, become what you are.” Father Capo cautioned that it’s easy to become spectators watching from the outside as this era in the church unfolds. He exhorted the people to take action.
“You and your family are not spectators. You are called to be protagonists,” he assured them. “The church’s mission is to evangelize and every family is called to share in that mission. Your family is a domestic church, a small temple within the home where every member is called to walk in unity and to participate.”
The event was organized by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry — one of the more than 100 agencies and programs funded by the Catholic Services Appeal — and featured workshops for children, youth and young adults as well.
Piarist Father Nelson Henao, director of the Piarist Fathers seminary in Miami, Fla., was one of the speakers for the adult workshop. The group Disipulos Misioneros from SEPI and Art Turner, the Archdiocese of Louisville’s director of faith formation, facilitated the youth and young adult workshops. Elvira Conley, catechist from the Lexington Diocese and Nancy Miranda, catechist from the Indianapolis Archdiocese were among those who led the children’s workshop.
In other news involving the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Hispanic community, Archbishop Kurtz announced that Father Joe Rankin, pastor of St. Rita Church, has been named the archdiocese’s first vicar for Hispanic ministry.
“The vicar for Hispanic ministry will extend my presence in convening and supporting the priests and parishes involved in Hispanic ministry,” the archbishop said in a news release Sept. 26. He added that the appointment “reflects the growth of the Hispanic population in our archdiocese and the importance of parishes as the primary places of outreach and ministry.”
Father Rankin’s efforts, the archbishop said, “will complement the good work already being done by the Office of Multicultural Ministry.”