More than 900 people from over 18 parishes gathered at St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral on October 14 for the closing celebration of the V Diocesan Encuentro. The word Encuentro is Spanish for encounter and it refers to the process of meeting people in a friendly way to learn about their struggles and accompany them on their faith journey.
The closing celebration was the culmination of ten months of reflection and consultation that occurred at the parish level. This process seeks to enhance the ways in which Hispanics/ Latinos respond to the call of the New Evangelization to become missionary disciples serving the entire Church.
“The V Encuentro allowed me to encounter many young people who seem lost. They are not Christian and they do not believe in anything awaiting them after death. This realization made me and many other members of my church dig deeper into our faith in order to be able to go out and evangelize people, with a focus on members of our parish who seem to be drifting away from the church,” said Sofía Pérez, a young adult parishioner from Incarnation Catholic Church in Tampa.
Over the past 10 months, parish communities have been formed to pray and reflect on how they can go to the peripheries and accompany our brothers and sisters who are not currently connected with the Church or have fallen away from the faith.
Encuentro participants have been learning a new missionary process, which involves recognizing their own need for God’s love and mercy and then bringing this hope in Christ to others.
“The V Encuentro is important because we follow the example of Jesus that we read about in the gospels and we respond to Pope Francis’ call to go out and bring the joy of the Gospel to the periphery,” said Carlos Flores, Director of Hispanic Ministry, Diocese of St. Petersburg.
All the parishes that participated in the V Encuentro created a “working document” that reflects the information gained from the missionary encounters and represents the observations and insights of the Parish Encuentro Team. These documents along with the recommendations stemming from the Parish Encuentros and the Diocesan Encuentro will be presented to Bishop Gregory Parkes and will become part of the Diocesan Working Document to accompany the 24 delegates of the Diocese of St. Petersburg to the Regional Meeting of Episcopal Region XIV to be held in Miami from February 22 to 24, 2018 and to the National V Encuentro to be held in Grapevine, TX from September 20 to 23, 2018.
“The V National Encuentro is a unique opportunity to engage the faithful of our diocese and country in becoming missionary disciples. The fruits of the Encuentro will be realized in our diocese through the ministries of our parishes. I ask for your prayers and support for this important initiative,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes.
To view a gallery of photos from the Diocesan V Encuentro/Hispanic Mass click here. A video highlight is available below.