By Catholic News Service
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez urged the crowd at the archdiocesan "V Encuentro"Jan. 27 to bring "the people of our times to a new encounter with Jesus Christ and the mercy and love of God."
He addressed more than 1,000 Catholic lay leaders, clergy and religious from 52 parishes in all regions of the tri-county Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered at the Pasadena Convention Center.
Diocesan-level encuentros and regional encuentros are taking place around the country as part of a process of reflection and action leading up to the U.S. Catholic Church's Fifth National Encuentro, or "V Encuentro," to be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.
"Let us walk behind Jesus and take up our cross -- following him and to bringing the people of our times to a new encounter with Jesus Christ and the mercy and love of God," Archbishop Gomez told the crowd at the convention center.
"Let us reach out especially to those who are on the "peripheries" -- the homeless and the immigrant, the sick and the suffering, the child waiting to be born, the prisoner hoping for a second chance," he continued. "Let us walk together with Jesus and bring our nation and our world -- to the new encounter with Jesus Christ."
In his remarks, Archbishop Gomez also emphasized "this encuentro is not just about Latinos."
"It is about the whole church coming together -- men and women, black and white, Latinos, Africans, Asians, Europeans, the peoples of Oceania, all the beautiful diversity that makes up the family of God here in Los Angeles and throughout the United States," he said. "We are all called to live as children of God and to proclaim Christ as missionary disciples."
He added, "The disciples at Emmaus set out at once to tell everyone of their encounter with Jesus Christ. This is our task now. This is the call of this Fifth (National) Encuentro."
Angelus News, the archdiocesan news outlet, reported that throughout 2017, the archdiocesan chapter of "V Encuentro" sponsored consultation and evangelization workshops with parish leaders throughout the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Attendees at these sessions reflected on the encuentro process and discerned ways of becoming missionary disciples to strengthen the entire Catholic Church by serving all its members, especially the underserved.
The Jan. 27 gathering offered an opportunity for archdiocesan delegates to reconvene and continue the consultation process until the April regional gathering in Visalia, California, and the "V Encuentro" in Grapevine.
"The vision of 'V Encuentro' is to become more aware of God's love in our lives and to share it with others, especially those most in need," Ernesto Vega, coordinator of the archdiocesan encuentro, told Angelus News.
During the day, participants shared testimonials of healing and conversion based on opportunities they have had during encuentro trainings to serve people in need.
"The 'V Encuentro' is a wake-up call for all Catholics, but especially our Hispanic/Latino communities to become agents of renewal for church and society," said Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, a theologian from Loyola Marymount University, who facilitated the reflection session titled "Take the Initiative."
"For 50 years, the encuentro processes have contributed a strong pastoral and social justice agenda to the church in the United States, one that resonates perfectly with Pope Francis' call for pastoral conversion and missionary discipleship," he said.
To date, more than 3,000 participants have finished the "V Encuentro" process at 65 parishes and ministries of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The training workshops have included themes such as family ministry in modern times, lifelong faith formation, accompanying the immigrant, current and emerging lay leadership formation, community outreach to the peripheries, access to education, priestly and religious vocations and young adult discernment, and models and methods of evangelization.
"In its spirituality, theological vision and commitment to engagement with others, especially those on the margins, the 'V Encuentro' calls the entire church to proclaim the Gospel with creativity and energy suitable for meeting the immense challenges of today's world," said Father Figueroa Deck.
Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, a Loyola Marymount University theology professor, led a reflection session on the importance of "accompaniment" in being a missionary disciple. The session was based on a skit that she prepared and that was performed by children from St. Odilia Parish to show how people can overcome their fear of sharing God's love with others.
On Jan. 29, the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington announced that delegate registration for the Fifth National Encuentro opens Feb. 20. In attendance will be 3,000 Hispanic/Latino ministry leaders/delegates from dioceses, ecclesial movements, schools, universities and Catholic organizations from across the country.
The delegates will represent more than165 dioceses; they are being selected from among the nearly 250,000 people participating in the local process over the past year. Over 100 bishops are expected to lead diocesan delegations.
The national encuentro "is the summit experience" that comes at the midpoint of a four-year process, said Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, the USCCB's national coordinator for the "V Encuentro."
"One of the most important outcomes of the (national) 'V Encuentro' is the discernment of priorities and recommendations that will guide Hispanic ministry in the United States for the next 10 to 15 years," he said in a statement.
More details regarding the Fifth National Encuentro are available at www.vencuentro.org. This is an invitation-only event for diocesan delegates and other participants 18 years and older. Individuals will not be able to register separately. Information on obtaining media credentials to cover this event will be available at a future date.
Contributing to this story was the staff of Angelus News, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.