By Violeta Rocha
Special to The Texas Catholic
A year ago, Emily Lugo began directing the new Hispanic ministry at her longtime parish, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson. Soon after, the first Mass in Spanish was celebrated and a group of Hispanic parishioners founded the church’s matachines group, which performed for the first time during the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2016.
Despite these achievements, Lugo, who was born in Richardson, met a variety of challenges in the service of a community that within the Diocese of Dallas is emerging as a majority.
On Nov.18, Lugo realized she wasn’t alone.
On that day Lugo, 35, met with other Hispanic ministry directors and lay leaders in the celebration of the Diocese of Dallas V Encuentro held at Bishop Lynch High School.
About 500 attendees representing 22 diocesan parishes participated in the event, the culmination of months of reflection and consultation that occurred at the parish level.
Lugo was part of a team of 45 people who came to the Diocesan Encuentro representing her parish.
“Being at the V Encuentro as diocese means to really listen to what my heart feels,” she said. “For example on the immigration issue…we need to start a dialogue and build a bridge towards the English-speaking community so we are all unified.”
All the parishes that participated in the V Encuentro created a “working document” that reflects the information gained from the missionary encounters and insights of the Parish Encuentro Team.
These documents along with the recommendations stemming from the Diocesan Encuentro will accompany the delegates of the Diocese of Dallas to the Regional Meeting of Episcopal Region X to be held in San Antonio from April 13-15, 2018, and to the National V Encuentro to be held in Grapevine from Sept. 20-23.
“Our hope is that at the diocesan level we find support to cultivate the lay leadership particularly among the Hispanic community,” said Debbie Gonzales, director of the Family Life Ministry in St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell.
The Diocesan Encuentro compiled a series of common needs in most of the churches that serve Hispanics.
At the parish level, the following stood out: To ensure that each parish with a Hispanic congregation offers at least one Mass in that language and also has resources about priestly vocations in Spanish.
One of the things that nearly all the teams talked about was the need to train parish office staff so they have better skills to cordially welcome those who don’t speak English.
At a diocesan level, the consensus was to push for the creation of a Hispanic Ministry and the need to better inform the Spanish-speaking parents about enrollment opportunities in Catholic
Father Edison Vela, pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church, summed up saying that although the V Encuentro means “a lot of work and a lot of prayer”, it gives us “the bases to continue working and looking for a diocesan pastoral plan where new lay leaders will be born because we all make up the Church.”
Violeta Rocha is a freelancer writer for Revista Católica Dallas.