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Catholic Latino Leaders Gathering in Philly to Discuss Challenges Facing the Continent

First Encounter of Hispanic and Latin American Families convened by US bishops

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More than 130 Catholic Hispanic/Latino leaders who work in family ministries in the United States and Latin America will convene in Philadelphia on September 21, leading up to the World Meeting of Families, to reflect upon the opportunities and challenges faced by Spanish-speaking families across the continent.

This unprecedented gathering, known as Primer Encuentro Hispano-Latino Americano de Familias (First Encounter of Hispanic and Latin American Families, or PEHLAF its acronym in Spanish), includes Latino family life ministers from across the country as well as representatives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and delegations from several bishops’ conferences in Latin America. 

The main objective of PEHLAF is to encourage dialogue on the challenges and opportunities Spanish-speaking families face today. It will also explore ministerial models and pastoral strategies that impact the quality of ministry with families in the U.S. and in Latin America. Collaboration across the Americas in the area of family ministry, particularly in light of the upcoming V National Encuentro for Ministry among Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S., will also be explored.

“It is hoped that this first encounter will be the beginning of some new conversations and mutual enrichment between the church in the United States and the church in Latin America with respect to the family,” said Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. “This is an opportune time to host this meeting, as families from around the world will be gathering in Philadelphia. We hope it is only the first of many more to come,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.

In addition to Bishops Barnes and Elizondo, presenters at this gathering include Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop Rubén Antonio Gonzalez Medina of Caguas, Puerto Rico, representing CELAM, the Council of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The presentations and dialogues will be framed in the context of the Apostolic Exhortation Joy of the Gospel, and the recommendations from the extraordinary Synod on the Family, which took place last October, plus the working document for the upcoming Synod in October.

The PEHLAF is convened by the USCCB Committee on National Collections- Subcommittee on the Church in Latina America, and the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church-Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs. The following organizations are co-sponsoring the event: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Editorial Verbo Divino (EVD), Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM), the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry (NCADDHM), Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), and Our Sunday Visitor (OSV).

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