With an increasing number in the United States, more and more Hispanics involved in the church, the community

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HOUSTON (CNS) – Catholic Church officials say they are not surprised by the 2020 US census showing Hispanics made up 51.1% of the country’s growth, reaching 18.7%, or about 62 , 1 million, of the American population.

According to the data, eight in ten Hispanics in the United States are US citizens. And for the first time, the percentage of whites fell from below 60% in the United States to 57.8% in 2020, according to the census.

For future planning of education and vocational training, the census indicated that the population under 18 is now predominantly colored at 52.7%.

In the southwestern states, the numbers are even closer, with Hispanics now the largest population group in California, while in Texas, Hispanics have reached 39.3% of the state’s population. , almost as much as non-Hispanic whites at 39.7%.

All of these census numbers align with a national program that the Catholic Church developed in V Encuentro, or Fifth National Encuentro, a series of regional and national meetings of Hispanic ministry leaders and youth, said Lazaro Contreras, director. of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Hispanic Ministry Office.

Now the office is finalizing a bilingual manual to help Hispanic lay people and church leaders “provide a pastoral response to the strong Hispanic presence in the church in the United States,” Contreras told the United States. Texas Catholic Herald, the archdiocesan newspaper.

“Another important aspect of V Encuentro is to support, encourage and prepare leaders among the Hispanic faithful to serve the whole church” and the community, “he added.

A 2018 national V Encuentro conference ahead of the pandemic brought 3,000 Hispanic leaders and clergy from across the country to Texas. Although COVID-19 slowed all follow-up responses, training sessions that included priests, deacons and parish leaders continued with virtual sessions, Contreras said.

Now they will return to in-person training, he said.

“The V Encuentro as a ‘culture of encounter’ opened dialogues… and steps of pastoral action in 28 ministerial areas such as intercultural competences, youth and young adults, family, vocations and formation leadership, among others, ”he said.

“As the parishes and offices of the Archdiocese reopen and expand their reach to the faithful during and after the pandemic,” Contreras added, “the process and findings of the V Encuentro can be used as tools to animate pastoral leaders to reconnect and invite others to parish life and community… not only to Hispanic Catholics, but to all diverse cultures.

The annual National Hispanic Heritage Month, which just ended on October 15, could gain prominence in recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements in the United States, have officials said.

In a video message, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston encourages pastors to follow V Encuentro.

“It has been an honor and a learning experience for me to participate in the V Encuentro… to better respond to Hispanics in our church and to help them live their lives of discipleship.”

Father Philip Wilhite, pastor of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Conroe, Texas, announced that on October 30, the parish planned to host “our first of several gatherings of leaders – staff, councils, school board and ministries – to implement the findings of V Encuentro as part of the establishment of our next five-year parish plan.

“A key priority is to develop and train new leaders, bringing them in especially from our Hispanic Catholics, to support the education and development of the Catholic community,” he said.

Among the 8,000 registered Sacred Heart families are Ivan and Cecilia Velasquez, who have seen the Conroe region’s Hispanic population increase in the past 14 years since arriving from Veracruz, Mexico.

“Our children are the future of the church,” said Cecilia, describing both her community and her three daughters. “My 17 year old daughter is confirming and talking about learning more and more about God. My children of 11 and 9 make their holy communion and take catechism lessons.

“When we started going to the Sacred Heart, there was only one Spanish Mass and now we have two celebrated,” added Cecilia, who attended the national conference. “With this continued growth, it is even more important for us to be actively involved in our church and our community.”

The Galveston-Houston Archdiocesan Committee on V Encuentro includes Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro and Deacon Phillip M. Jackson, Director of the Permanent Deacon Office.

Bishop Dell’Oro said he saw in the participants of V Encuentro “a sincere desire to serve the church in fidelity to the bishops”.

He believed that the process “gave the opportunity to build relationships beyond groups, parishes, ethnicities and languages. The church is already benefiting from it.

Bishop Dell’Oro made a comparison between the V Encuentro and the preparation underway for the 2023 Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

In preparing for this Synod, he declared: “I recognize that what we have learned during the V Encuentro has already been the beginning of our contribution to this new challenge that Pope Francis has just presented to Catholics around the world.

Deacon Jackson said, “The experience of being involved in the V Encuentro has far exceeded what I thought it would be. I started by thinking that this would be an opportunity to promote vocations for the diaconate in the Spanish speaking community.

“I have met on a deeper level,” he said, “people who have a love for God and His church, graciously willing to share that love with all of God’s holy people.

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Zuñiga writes for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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