Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Raíces y Alas: Thinking and Walking with Their Shepherds

This week the Hispanic national congress “Raíces y Alas 2010” will be held in Chicago. The organizers are the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), an umbrella organization of more than fifty Hispanic Catholic national and regional structures and movements, with an ambitious agenda: “to recreate and reconstruct the vision for national Hispanic ministry.” The congress was convened in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Although this Congress is directed toward leaders in Hispanic ministry, there will be representatives from colleges, universities, religious congregations and U.S. Catholic institutions and movements “recognizing that any aspect of the Church’s ministry affects the Hispanic population. In the same manner, [that] any activity of the Hispanic Catholic community is understood as an activity of the Catholic Church.”

Overall more than 500 participants are expected.

The gathering has been planned as one of “celebration,” theological and pastoral “reflection on the current reality of Hispanic Ministry in the United States,” and “a look toward the future with concrete projections for ministerial actions.”

Notable is that the agenda for the meeting — the reflections on the reality of Hispanics Catholics in the U.S. — will be based on the five priorities of the U.S. Catholic Bishops:
  • Marriage (though in pure Latino fashion, they’ve broaden it up to “Family”)
  • Faith formation and sacramental practice
  • Young people and vocations
  • Life and dignity of the human person
  • Diversity with special emphasis on Hispanics
To our knowledge, this is the first national Catholic organization representing such diversity and scope in ministries and professional interests, with or without an ethnic or cultural focus, that has so plainly and openly stated that it intends to walk with the bishops and make the bishops’ priorities theirs. In fact, they are challenging themselves to reflect on how the structures, ministries, pastoral focus do or do not address those priorities.

Participants will also challenge the diocesan, regional and national structures (including those of the USCCB) and other Catholic associations on how to promote and empower Hispanic leadership on all those areas. This is a sincere effort to think and walk with their shepherds; to step up to the plate and exercise the leadership called by their pastores, el pueblo, and just the sheer numbers.

Against what some viewed, and derided, as “political correctness” on the part of the U.S. bishops —who set cultural diversity with an emphasis on Hispanics as one of their five priorities in their current five-year plan—, the bishops’ efforts to understand, affirm, guide and walk with their diverse flock may just be paying off.

To say that a convening of the Hispanic Catholic leadership at this level is overdue is an understatement. Organizers affirm their “desire to revive the spirit of the Encuentros and celebrate the 10th anniversary of Encuentro 2000.”

The process of the Encuentros guided and provided a national vision for Hispanic pastoral ministry in the last quarter of the 20th century. Fruits of them — there were three— were the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry and the creation of numerous, parish, diocesan, regional and national structures, many local pastoral plans, and associations for the advancement of Hispanic ministry.

As Hispanic Catholics were readying themselves to convene their would-be ‘fourth Encuentro’ in 2000, they were asked to sacrifice — for this one time — the inward cultural/ethnic focus of their Encuentro process and to share it and to transform the Encuentro into a multicultural celebration of the Jubilee. In the end, Encuentro 2000 was a magnificent, massive expression of the Church’s catholicity, of its unity in diversity. It is right, then to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

But Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic ministry also need nurturing and focus. Today’s pastoral realities are not the same as they were 30 and 40 years ago. Neither are the actors — ministers and people alike — or their needs. Thus the structures that serve them, as well as their participation and leadership in the wider Church, need to be reexamined in that light.

The last Encuentro de Pastoral Hispana happened 25 years ago. After 2000, sensing the urgency to address the need to further develop ministry among Hispanics, a leadership consultation was held by the U.S. bishops. This “2001 Symposium” in Colorado Springs, Colorado, led to “Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry,” issued by the U.S. Catholic Bishops as an addendum to the 1987 National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry.

Raíces y Alas 2010 promises to be a serious step in the right direction; ambitious indeed but so necessary.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president will be leading participants in prayer on Friday morning. Representing the U.S. bishops in the dialogue will be Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, president of the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity; Coadjutor Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Bishop Jerry Barnes of San Bernardino; Auxiliary Bishop Francisco González of Washington; Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo García Siller of Chicago, and Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Estevez of Miami. Also, representing the bishops of Puerto Rico will be Bishop Félix Lázaro of Ponce.

Other benefactors and supporters include Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese of Military Services, USA; Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Bishop Walter A. Hurley of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo; Bishop Roger P. Morin of Biloxi, Mississippi; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa; Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Bishop Joe S. Vazquez of Austin, Texas.

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