New Bedford parish to host Encuentro gathering December 16

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Much has been written and spoken by experts and self-proclaimed experts about how many young people are losing interest in the Catholic Church in the United States.

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While some of those deductions are true, there is also a resurgence of the faith in other areas of the Church in this country — primarily in parishes with growing Hispanic populations.

“There’s a vibrancy with young Hispanic couples,” Father Craig A. Pregana, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at St. James Church in New Bedford, and diocesan director of the Hispanic Apostolate told The Anchor. “Not only are the young couples active in their parishes, but they are bringing their children and educating them in the Catholic faith and that’s  important for the future.”

The zeal with which Hispanic Catholics approach the faith has not been lost on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who in 1972 convened the very first Encuentro, a process for Hispanic/Latino Catholics to raise their voices, lend their ears, and act on where the Hispanic Church is going in the U.S.; what gifts they bring; and what challenges they face.

Since then, there have been four more Encuentros, the most recent beginning in January 2017, the V Encuentro.

According to a recent press release from the ENAVE, the National Team of Accompaniment which is a representative group of national Catholic organizations committed to advancing the call to the Encuentros program, the Encuentros gatherings are processes of “evangelization, consultation and mission to discern ways for the Church in the United States to better respond to the ever-growing Hispanic presence, and to help Hispanic Catholics to strengthen their Christian identity and their response as missionary disciples for the entire Church.”

Since the beginning of the year, 163 dioceses in the U.S., including the Fall River Diocese, have been engaged in the process of the V Encuentro.

On December 16 individuals from diocesan Hispanic parish communities will gather at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 1359 Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford, at 6 p.m. to “celebrate the Hispanic culture with a Mass and a concert,” said Father Pregana. The event is free of charge.

Part of the Encuentro process is for the participants to develop a document expressing hopes, concerns, ideas and ways to enliven the faith in those whose faith is lukewarm or non-existent.

“Members of the Hispanic parishes have been meeting, discussing with and listening to their peers to come up with input for the diocesan document that will be given to Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., upon completion,” added Father Pregana.

He said the document won’t be entirely completed for the December 16 event at St. Anthony of Padua, but “the night is more to celebrate and lift up the folks who attend.”

In addition to a Mass celebrated by Bishop da Cunha, there will be a concert by the Jon Carlo Band. 

 The Oregon Catholic Press website ( writes of Carlo, “Serving God through music is the driving inspiration for Jon Carlo García, a young Catholic producer and songwriter. Born in the Dominican Republic, he grew up in the Catholic Church and moved to New York in the early 1990s. After this, he was inspired to form a band that would become known as the ‘Prime Minister of Worship and Youth Worship’ in New York. Now known as ‘Youth Anointing,’ this group has inspired a new generation of charismatic worshippers in the city.

“An accomplished musician, Jon Carlo is very active in contemporary Hispanic Catholic culture. His music reflects a deep personal encounter with Christ. 

“Jon Carlo has toured extensively, including a 2013 appearance at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Currently he lives in McAllen, Texas, in the southernmost tip of the state.”

Father Pregana further described Encuentro as “a ground up process,” meaning that the input comes directly from the people in the pews.

This year’s fifth Encuentro follows the same format as its four predecessors. “There are five sessions during the year,” Father Pregana told The Anchor. “The people who attend have five reflections on which to meditate and five themes. The gatherings are about prayer and listening to each other.” From those five sessions come the ideas and concerns that may make it into each diocese’s document.

“The Church in the United States needs to be shaken up,” added Father Pregana. “And the Hispanic communities are doing just that.”

While many of the Hispanics are immigrants, “They must know that they have a life to live in the United States and in the Catholic Church,” he said. “It’s important that Hispanics recognize how strong their presence is in the Church, how their enthusiasm is so needed. They belong to the Church, they have a place and a voice in the Church. Catholic means universal and these people are a blessing to the Church and they need to continue to educate their children in the faith.” 

 For more information on the V Encuentro, visit its website at

For more information about the December 16 event at St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, contact Father Pregana at 508-992-5862.

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