By Friar Sergio Serrano, O.P.
Looking back upon the V Encuentro National Gathering in Grapevine, Texas, has been a wonderful recollection of good memories and events that began years ago.
I cannot speak about the V Encuentro (Quinto Encuentro) as a solitary event, or about any experience in particular, without referring to the work that was done by varied individuals, parishes, dioceses, regions and finally this massive group of workers and volunteers that made the V Encuentro conference possible.
I had the pleasure of meeting with people of all ages and backgrounds, from laity to cardinals, and even with the Apostolic Nuncio.
Upon reflecting on the V Encuentro, it was not only the meetings that came to mind, rather the clamor from many people, especially the younger generation that is no longer connecting with the church, asking for an open, welcoming church.
At the V Encuentro, I was able to experience a church that has a face and a voice that is ready to be supportive of the clergy and the bishops, even as we face scandal.
Thus, there is a church that is growing quickly and is ready to be part of the missionary discipleship call made by Pope Francis to each and every one of us. The Hispanic Church gathered in Grapevine proved that it is the church that is ready to be heard.
The youth present at the conference made up almost 30 percent of the participants that have been very active, not only at the national level, but on every level that preceded this event, leading to this wonderful experience in Texas.
The representatives of the young Hispanic church were confident, with heads held high, and their eyes focused on our Lord Jesus Christ. We could not let them leave without a mission and a ministry in our church today. This is their time and place and they are willing to be sent out to do God’s work.
We may, not at this time, have many priestly and religious vocations, but we have thousands of young people begging for the opportunity to be part of the workers of the vine.
Are we going to let this opportunity pass us by? We are constantly praying to the Lord to send workers to his vineyard: Are these young members of the laity the answer to our prayers? Should we change our focus and see what the Lord is offering as our resources at hand?
Finally, V Encuentro served as a very valuable witness to the dedication of many religious, priests and bishops that have been for decades working with Hispanics and learning Spanish in order to better serve as their pastors and guides.
I could not feel more proud than I did upon seeing the bishops not only attending the meetings, but interacting with the people throughout the convention center, taking the time to speak with them, to pose for pictures and even letting them kiss their rings.
Our bishops were seen as true shepherds ready to engage with the people on their own journey.
Dominican Friar Sergio Serrano is director of the Hispanic Apostolate.