It was a cold, but sunny morning Oct. 28, as parishioners from 34 parishes of the Diocese of Oakland gathered in the gymnasium of St. Elizabeth Church, Oakland, to participate in the Diocesan Encuentro.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, opened the event with an enthusiastic welcome to the 550 delegates and outlined the three priorities he has for the diocese:

• To get more parishioners to attend the Sunday Mass to have the experience of God.

• To promote the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.

• To form missionary disciples.

V Encuentro (Fifth Meeting) is the fifth national gathering of Hispanics initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; this year its theme is “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.”

The parish delegates came to the event armed with the result of surveys of people from the peripheries and parishioners about what the Church is doing and what needs to be done for the benefit of the Hispanics of the diocese.

“We are an outgoing Church, we need to reach everyone, especially young people, because … If we do not congregate them, we will have, very soon, only adults in the Church,” Father Alexander Castillo warned. “Let us not be afraid to dream big, we are not here for ourselves, but because we believe that the Risen Christ has called us.” Father Castillo is secretary to the bishop, Episcopal Master of Ceremonies, director of Faith Formation and Evangelization and head of the Office of Worship.

Delegates were able to hear the testimony of a person who met with inmates in an Oakland jail. The inmates expressed that when they were released, no one came to them. They were sad that when they leave, they want to serve the community but because of fear, doors are closed to them.

Young people, too, are “hungry” for more activities and training that will bring them to know the Word of God.

Delegates also heard there is a need for courses aimed at families, approved by the diocese, as well as a respectful attitude, in the parish offices, for humble, simple and vulnerable people.

Both Bishop Barber and Father Castillo said with conviction, “Let’s pray for more vocations.”

They said more Hispanic priests are saying: Do not ask for more Hispanic help if you can’t develop more Hispanic vocations.

Full story at The Catholic Voice.