Last spring during the Lenten season, South Jersey’s Hispanic Catholics gathered in their own parishes, homes, and communities to reflect on how they could best become missionary disciples for Jesus Christ, and urge others to do the same.
On the last Saturday in October, these small Christian, Hispanic communities became one holy, Catholic, and apostolic church at Divine Mercy Parish in Vineland, for an all-day diocesan V Encuentro celebration.
Throughout the United States, V Encuentro gatherings have brought together Hispanic Catholics in the same way as South Jersey has, in reflection and fellowship.
The diocesan Spanish-language event, with 320 delegates from 24 parish communities, was in advance of next year’s regional and national V Encuentro gatherings, to take place in Trenton, NJ and Fort Worth, Texas, respectively.
The day, filled with spirited music, presentations and table discussions focusing on topics important to Hispanic Catholics, such as Evangelization; Marriage and Family Life; Youth and Young Adult Ministry; Social Services; Immigration; and Leadership Formation, was split in half by a Eucharistic liturgy with about 600 Hispanics in attendance and celebrated by Bishop Dennis Sullivan.
Just as the October 28 Feast day saints, Saints Jude and Simon, were, all must “walk the faith in our parishes, homes, and communities, as apostles and missionaries,” the diocesan leader exhorted the crowd in perfect Spanish.
Kathia Arango, Director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, motivated the audience in a passionate afternoon lecture, calling the day “a great moment, a time of grace, and a time of mission for our church, to show our love for Jesus.”
Looking out at the intergenerational faces gathered in the parish hall, Andres Arango, Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Camden, noted that “It has been a blessing to see so many Hispanics evangelizing in our communities, and it’s also a blessing to see so many young adults today in Vineland.”
Arango estimated, with pride, that almost a quarter of those in attendance were young adults.
“There is a lot of hope for the future of Hispanic leadership,” he said.
One of these members of the young church was 20 year-old Elizabeth Espinosa, sitting at a table with 8 of her peers from Divine Mercy Parish’s Catholic Millennial Ministry.
“I’m excited to be here,” she said.
“This V Encuentro is helping us grow, and reach out more to others.”
Also excited for the young church was Sister Graciela Rosas, MDPVM, one of 21 delegates from Bridgeton’s Holy Cross Parish.
Through this process, the young church will become “great disciples,” she knows.
“The Lord, since our baptism, has made us missionaries, to bring people together. United in Christ, we’re one family, encouraging, and strengthening one another,” she proclaimed.