CARPENTERSVILLE, Illinois — Hispanics from across the Diocese of Rockford were encouraged to see the past, present and future during a diocesan encuentro.

The gathering April 28 brought together hundreds of people in preparation for the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, of the Hispanic community set for Sept 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

Carlos Hernandez, director of Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Green Bay, called on participants to take the Church into the future.

Hernandez and a group, including Ana Wilson and Cesar Quiroz from his diocese, along with Father Javier Bustos and Deacon Jorge Benavente, vicar general and director of Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, respectively, guided the Carpentersville event.

About 200 people from parishes and groups in the Rockford Diocese expressed their views about the strengths, weaknesses and desires of the Hispanic community in the local church.

Preparation for the diocesan event began in parishes.

Rockford Bishop David J. Malloy opened the event, stressing the importance of passing the faith to new generations. He also talked of the importance of attending Mass, especially on weekends as well as during the week.

“I hope we can transmit to the young people the Catholic faith. … What can we do to make our young people participate more in our schools? How can we evangelize our young people to the beauty of the family, of marriage?” he asked.

The bishop also urged the attendees to think about what can be done within the Hispanic Catholic community to develop religious vocations, especially for the priesthood.

Quiroz said of the growing Hispanic community in the United States, “Now we are a lot, and we want to be a host. What are we going to give to the Church? We need to sit down to think about recommendations.”

Msgr. Arquimedes Vallejo, vicar for Hispanic ministry in the Rockford Diocese, encouraged participants to be vocal about their faith.

He said it was important for participants to express “their feeling, their desires, what they want, what they are looking for in our reality and needs of the Hispanic ministry in our diocese.”

“We are one … in the unity of faith, as a Hispanic people, with our enthusiasm, our dreams and our joy,” he said.

Later, Deacon Benavente said he hoped “people can express themselves, because that is the purpose of the V Encuentro.”

“It is a consultation at the national level of the entire Hispanic community so that they can express themselves about all kinds of human and spiritual circumstances they have,” he explained. “The Church needs to know what Hispanics need. In the first place … what is the commitment that Hispanics can make to their own Church in the circumstances we find ourselves in today, here in the United States?”

Parishioners expressed excitement about participating in such a gathering.

Rogelio Villalpando of St. Monica Church in Carpentersville said he was looking for “knowing more about God” and wanting “our voice to be heard … so that there will be more fruits in our parishes.”

Yesenia Flores of St. Mary Parish in Woodstock, Illinois, said she hoped to “get several ideas on how to improve our church and also maybe learn from other churches, what they are doing.”

Preparations for V Encuentro were to continue with a regional gathering for parishioners from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, June 8-10 at the University of Notre Dame.

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Mendoza is editor of El Observador, the Spanish language newspaper of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois.