After the First National Encuentro of Hispanic Youth Ministry
The images of nets and the idea of weaving the future together were beautiful and suggestive. The music was joyful, noisy, catchy. The environment was one of fiesta and great celebration. The level of enthusiasm was high, very high, particularly when Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga spoke.
But all that would just have been a simple mega-fiesta, had it not contained a challenge. After years of hard work and effort, blood, sweat, and tears, the First National Encuentro of Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry was celebrated in June 2006 at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. And what now?
The jubilant cry “¡Sí, se puede!” needs to be accompanied by what it is that we want to be able to do. The cry, “Woe is me if I don’t evangelize” (repeated over and over after the cardinal’s intervention), needs to be accompanied by concrete times, persons, actions, and strategies. That is, everything has to be accompanied by commitment.
The long list of needs, aspirations, and ideas that the delegates from all regions brought in and discussed during the Encuentro now need to take flesh in people who really put into practice the words of the last commitment: “We commit to continue the experience of the Encuentro in our parishes and dioceses so that we can strengthen Hispanic youth ministry.”
The historic First National Encuentro was the culmination of a process of more than two years of parish, diocesan, and regional encounters, in which thousands of young people reflected about their reality, dreams, and needs. At the same time, it wasn’t simply a culmination but the beginning of a new era for the church in the United States.
The realization of the great deficits and voids in Hispanic youth ministry represents a huge challenge for leaders and for the youth themselves. What are they going to do about what they have seen?
The young people presented to the bishops a long list of needs for formation, resources, materials, and leaders to walk with them. And for their part, the church leaders (over 20 bishops) who accompanied the youth during these days, also issued some concrete challenges to the youth:
• Discover what your real vocation is, what God is asking you to do with your lives.
• There is absolutely no excuse not to complete your academic education.
• You need to be responsible for the leadership of the community and the church.
It seems like a tall order, but it is a necessary one. The young delegates seemed to take the charge enthusiastically. They want, they wish, they commit. “Sí, se puede,” therefore. The work is about to start. And a new day dawns for the church in the United States.
- Which of the challenges issued by the leaders makes you think and calls you to action more urgently?
- Are you ready to do it?