Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Diocesan And Regional Encuentro Consultations Focus On Assisting Immigrants

By Sharon A. Burns, Diocesan Director Of Hispanic Ministry

Two weeks ago, a diocesan team of three delegates attended the national Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas. The national Encuentro capped a two-year process of encountering Hispanic and Latino parishioners and community members, and listening to their hopes and dreams for fulfillment in Christ.

This article is the second in a series of three and reviews the main concepts of the diocesan and regional Encuentro consultation – including the gifts and opportunities, obstacles and challenges, and strategies for assisting the immigrants in our communities.

It’s no secret that most of the residents of the Diocese of Evansville are of Germanic descent. However, as employment opportunities have increased, and immigrants from Mexico, Latin and South America have settled here, we are enjoying a more diverse ethnic history and culture. The Hispanic and Latino people now comprise approximately six percent of two counties in our diocese and up to four percent in three other counties in southwest Indiana. Five of our 46 parishes have significant populations of Hispanic and Latino parishioners.

The beauty of the Hispanic people and their cultural practices offer many blessings to our towns and cities, and can serve as a guide to help all of us grow. Hispanic and Latino people enjoy a strong commitment to family and family structures, including extended family. Their faith in God is a foundational element in life. They are talented in their ability to fully rely on God and surrender to His will, especially in difficult situations, and they are aware and recognize that everything comes from God.

Adopting their understanding that we are not the masters of our own destinies might serve many of us well, helping us decrease the stress and anxiety we experience at work and home. Imitating the hospitality and welcoming spirit of our Latino sisters and brothers would build stronger and more cohesive neighborhoods, workplaces and parishes.

The Hispanic and Latino people do have special needs, and our responses to these needs provide unique opportunities for us to grow in faith, love and hope. The message of the Gospel is universal and calls us to go out and serve others. Language barriers present an obvious challenge for immigrants.

Transportation, employment and safe housing often limit the abilities of the immigrants living in our midst to fully participate in the blessings many of us enjoy. Service may include helping an immigrant family navigate our cities, particularly in accessing employment, housing and medical care. One particular need is for individuals to assist in transportation, as it is often risky for immigrants to drive themselves to work or appointments.

Addressing the community needs of our immigrant families is one way in which we respond to our baptismal call as Catholics. Next week we will examine the ways in which we can respond and fully welcome immigrants into our church families.

Burns is Director of the Diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry. Her series concludes in the Oct. 19 issue of The Message.