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Encuentro seeks to integrate Hispanic/Latino cultures

COLUMBIA—With evangelization as its primary objective, V En­cuentro turned to a landmark document as the blueprint for its efforts.

A four-year national pro­gram geared toward engag­ing Hispanic Catholics, the Encuentro, or “meeting,” held Aug. 12 at Cardinal Newman School centered on the vision of Pope Francis as written in his 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). The writing has been praised by Catholic lead­ers and scholars worldwide as the gold standard for 21st century evangelization.

“The team that put together the Encuentro this time out have really taken [Evangelii Gaudium] up as the struc­ture,” said Michael Martoc­chio, director of Catechesis and Christian Initiation for the Diocese of Charleston. “It’s an important part of just how we’re supposed to do this evangelizing and how we’re supposed to reach out to people on the peripheries. It’s more than where we just simply do some­thing nice for someone and walk away.”

The diocesan event at Cardinal Newman was the latest step in this four-year process. After completing a series of five-week, small group meetings at several parishes across the state, participants in those meet­ings came together for an all-day session to share their experiences and address the needs of their parish communities. Church officials will then begin to implement a diocesan-level action plan based on the infor­mation provided.

Delegates from the diocesan events will attend a regional Encuentro scheduled for February 2018 in Orlando, followed by the national Encuentro in Dallas in September.

At the conclusion of the national Encuentro, the information from the regional events will be reviewed by Church officials and incorporated into a national plan for the Hispanic ministry. It is scheduled for publica­tion in 2019.

All photos by Juanita Bustamante/Miscellany: Participants pray the ‘Our Father’ during Mass in one of the 26 indigenous languages from Guatemala. In Greenville, the Guatemalan community speaks three languages.

Much of the theme for the Encuen­tro, “Missionary Disciples: Witness­es of God’s Love,” revolved around the five steps cited in Evangelii Gaudium, Paragraph 24: “Taking the first step, being involved and sup­portive, bearing fruit and rejoicing.”

Father Teofilo Trujillo, vicar for Hispanic ministry for the diocese, led the rejoicing — a Mass that incorporated three languages. His homily emphasized the importance of discipleship as an ongoing com­mitment, which is an integral part of evangelization.

“To be a disciple is to be a learner,” Father Trujillo said in Spanish. “To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be engaged in a lifelong process of learning from and about Jesus the Master, Jesus the Teacher. This learning process is not haphazard, but intentional and disciplined. To become a disciple is to commit to such a process of growth.”

Father Trujillo, pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, added, “Of course, all of us are called to mature in our work as evangeliz­ers. As Pope Francis says, ‘We want to have better training, a deepening love, and a clearer witness to the Gospel. In this sense, we ought to let others be constantly evangelizing us (Evangelii Gaudium, para­graph 121).’”

According to the Encuentro website, “The main objective of the process of the Encuen­tro is to discern the way in which Hispanics/Latinos respond as Church.” Part of achieving that objective is seeking ways to integrate the many cultures of the ever-growing Hispanic/Latino community in the U.S. into the liturgy.

Mass began with a giant step in that direction, open­ing with a traditional Gua­temalan dance ritual. The Guatemalan people are Span­ish-speaking, but the roots of their culture trace back to the ancient Mayan tribes with 23 different dialects.

“I loved (the dance ritual). I had goosebumps,” said Joely Leguizamon, a participant and group leader at St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken who was born in Nicaragua and lived in Guate­mala for 14 years. “You just felt this sense of belonging and pride. Even if you’re not a part of that culture you appreciate moments like that.”

Members of three Mayan tribes — Kanjobal, Acateco and Chuj — took part in the Mass, which also includ­ed songs and petitions in their native dialects.

“(Hispanics and Latinos) speak Spanish as a common language, but that doesn’t mean we have the same culture,” said Gustavo Valdez, dioc­esan director of Hispanic ministry.

“The Church as a Catholic commu­nity welcomes all Hispanic diversity; people with different backgrounds, languages and cultures. Even when I don’t understand what they are saying because I don’t understand the dialects, to me, the fact that they show who they are, they’re showing a different face of Jesus among us. In the end, we all have the same faith. That’s the beauty of being part of the Catholic Church.”

Top photo: Mass was held at Cardinal Newman School Aug. 12 and began with a Mayan-Guatemalan procession, which includes princesses and queens that represent the traditions and hierarchy of indigenous communities from Guatemala. This Guatemalan community is located in Greenville.

To watch the Encuentro video in Spanish, visit  or in English, visit



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