PROVIDENCE — The music, lively and uplifting, was representative of traditional Hispanic customs, while the worshippers were smiling broadly amid the close-knit sense of family and community that prevailed as about 250 faithful with Latin American roots celebrated a special Mass in their honor Saturday at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
The Mass was the concluding celebration of the Diocesan Encuentro, a two-day gathering at the cathedral which served as the local component of a national process begun on June 9, 2013, in San Diego, where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs convened leaders of the Hispanic/Latino community to engage in the process of Encuentro.
The five-year, or V Encuentro process was convened in the context of the New Evangelization and emphasizes the importance of greater involvement for young, second and third generation Hispanics/Latinos in the Church. During the first three years, young leaders were identified across the country at the parish level and are now being cultivated to evangelize their faith.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin was the principal celebrant during the concelebrated Mass on the Feast of the Apostles Saints Simon and Jude, which featured an offertory procession of several Latin American youths and young adults dressed in colorful garments native to their home countries, as well as the blessing of a wooden cross crafted especially for the Diocesan Encuentro.
The bishop praised the preparation efforts of diocesan and parish leaders who have been working with Father Nolasco Tamayo, director of Multicultural Ministry for the diocese, and Silvio Cuellar, coordinator of Hispanic Ministry and co-chairperson along with Father Tamayo, of the Diocesan Encuentro, to facilitate the process, which is now in its fourth year.
“We are very proud of you. I think the Diocese of Providence has been doing a terrific job, about as much as anybody in the country I think, to prepare for the Encuentro next year,” Bishop Tobin said.
“I’m grateful to those of you who are leading the preparation process. I’m grateful for the great work you are doing, for Christ and his Church. We pray that the Encuentro process will be important not just for itself, but for its purpose … to bring you closer to Christ and more involved in his Church.”
The Bishop also encouraged the Hispanic community to help promote priestly vocations among their ranks.
“You have so many fine young people. Encourage them, speak to them,” he said.
The night before, participants gathered to hear a presentation by Dr. Hosffman Ospino, a professor in Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, whose research concentrates on the dialogue between theology and culture and the impact of the confluence of these elements in Catholic theological education, catechesis and ministry.
On Saturday morning, before the noon Mass, the Spanish-speaking gathering featured presentations by young people who expressed their hopes for more faith-based activities planned between parishes across the diocese, as well as group prayer.
Some of the young people spoke in their native language about the need to provide more opportunities for young people to get together in their parishes, as well as with other parishes in their communities.
Father Robert Beirne, who even as a senior priest continues to spend time ministering to members of the Hispanic community both at home and abroad, including South America where he served local parishes for several weeks earlier this year, was in attendance Saturday.
Father Beirne said he thought there would be even greater value in such presentations by having members of primarily English-speaking parish communities in attendance.
“It would be so wonderful for them to see another way of being churched,” he said. “[The members of the Hispanic community] are so alive and enthusiastic and happy.”
Planning was also done for those wishing to attend the upcoming March regional V Encuentro meeting, which will be held at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, and also the national meeting, to be held next year in Grapevine, Texas, which will complete the process and result in a document similar to one produced during the Vatican’s Synod on the Family.
“We’re identifying and forming new leaders and engaging in consultations to find the best ministerial practices,” said Cuellar, who noted that the first regional training for V Encuentro was held in the Diocese of Providence in 2015.
At the parish level, small group discussions lead to the gathering of ideas for what is working in terms of evangelization among members of the Hispanic community and the parishes they attend.
“The idea is not just to have an event, it’s to have a process by which people have an opportunity to learn more about their faith,” said Cuellar. “We are compiling the success stories so we can share them with the rest of the country. We need more support for Hispanic Ministry.”
Father Tamayo echoed Cuellar’s comments, adding that he was very appreciative of Bishop Tobin’s presence in offering the special Mass, and for all the help that representatives from the parishes Eclesial Movements, Marian Associations and the diocese, including from the offices of Immigration, Evangelization and Special Religious Education, were doing to help coordinate this important event for the Hispanic community.
Leonardo and Chris Diaz found deep enjoyment in Saturday’s events.
“It was very organized and very beautiful,” Chris Diaz said.
“It was such a beautiful Mass,” her husband added.
In his homily, during the Mass on the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Bishop Tobin called to mind the work of the those great apostles and likened it to the evangelization being promoted today through the Encuentro process.
“You and I are called to continue that work, to continue that legacy, to be witnesses of Christ in our time, in our world, in our place today,” he said.
The Bishop encouraged the faithful to continue that work by sharing the word of God, by living their Catholic faith every day and by serving other people in the name of Jesus.
“We cannot speak for Jesus if we do not know him. We cannot represent him in our work unless we know Jesus. It’s in the Church that we come to know Christ.”
Bishop Tobin noted that above all else, the faithful must always remember to maintain the Church at the center of all they do as they reach out to inspire others.
Quoting Pope Francis, the bishop said, “Christ and his Church are inseparable. It is not possible to love Christ without the Church.
Dulce Germosen, of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Providence, was elated following the Mass.
“It was awesome!” she said.
Germosen said she enjoyed taking part in the meeting and discussion of ways to improve evangelization among the faithful.
She also took Bishop Tobin’s call to heart to serve as Apostles in the modern day Church as Saints Simon and Jude did in their day.
“The message of the Bishop’s homily was very good because it’s what Jesus wants. We must be disciples,” she said.