Atlanta Shows Big Presence At National Encuentro
Published: August 3, 2006
SOUTH BEND, Ind.—More than 2,000 young adults, cardinals, bishops, diocesan directors of Anglo and Hispanic youth and young adult ministry and lay leaders participated in the June 8-11 First National Encounter for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry at the University of Notre Dame.
The archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry took 92 delegates to the concluding event at Notre Dame, the largest group in the nation to participate. They were able to raise their voices on behalf of the church of North Georgia and to share with others the richness of their pastoral ministry, which joins together Hispanic youth and young adults from across the archdiocese for many spiritual, service and social activities, including monthly Mass and evenings of adoration, retreats, mission trips to Latin America, soccer tournaments, and a comprehensive catechetical formation program.
The conference, or encuentro, was convened by the National Network of Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (La Red). Delegates from 126 dioceses of the United States participated as well as a delegation from the Conferencia Episcopal Latinoamericana.
Dioceses held activities for a year leading up to the National Encounter, including parish-, diocesan- and regional-level encounters. As the Holy See news agency Fides reported, “The statistics are imposing. The Church is not ignoring the impressive growth of the Hispanic population, a fundamentally young population.”
Today the Hispanic Catholic population under age 25 is estimated to be 17 million, which is about half of all Catholics in this age range.
“All this represents a challenge for the Church,” Fides recognized. “In response to this reality the bishops of the United States have given their support to the Network of Pastoral Juvenil Hispana to organize this first National Encounter.”
The main objective of the first national event was to involve the young Hispanics in a process of encounter, conversion, communion, solidarity and mission, and to promote their active and responsible participation in the life and mission of the U.S. church.
Among the specific objectives were to identify and reflect on the needs, aspirations and contributions of Hispanic Catholic youth in the church and in society; to promote leadership and their formation and reach those separated from the church; to develop a common vision and some pastoral principles to guide Hispanic youth ministry in churches and dioceses, just as in apostolic movements and other Catholic organizations and institutions; to identify and promote the pastoral models and practices that have been most successful in accompanying youth in their process of maturing as Christian disciples; to develop strategies and assign sufficient resources to parishes, dioceses, movements and other organizations and institutions to equip them for their ministry to Hispanic youth.
The youth of the Archdiocese of Atlanta with the support of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory have fully engaged in this encuentro process in the past 12 months and have carried out the parish encounter meetings in 32 parishes with Hispanic communities. An archdiocesan conference was held at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville in which 400 young persons participated. In March St. Andrew’s in Roswell hosted a regional encounter in which 740 youth from 26 dioceses of the Southeast participated.
The conclusions from this entire process will be presented to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who will study them. They have promised that a response to this project will be provided in six months in a pastoral letter where they will support this hard work that has been done and the future projects that could be developed in support of the millions of Hispanic Catholic young adults living in the United States.
Leonardo Jaramillo is the director of Hispanic youth and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. For more information on the ministry, visit www.juvatlanta.com.