Hispanic ministry conference focuses on the encounter

Musicians from Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia perform during the celebration of Mass at the Hispanic Ministry Conference. (Provided)

COLUMBIA—Helping young people find joy and meaning through a relationship with Christ was the focus of the annual Hispanic Ministry Conference held recently at Our Lady of the Hills Church. 

The conference drew about 350 people and focused on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Christus Vivit” (Christ Lives), released earlier this year in response to the Synod on Young People held at the Vatican in 2018. 

Attendees learned about the concerns of youth and young adults, and ways to relate to them and keep them involved in the life of the Church, said Gustavo Valdez, diocesan director of Hispanic ministries. 

Many who attended the conference are current students in the diocesan School of Faith Formation for Hispanics, which offers a three-year program of classes in Scripture and Church teaching at 12 locations around the state. Others heard about the event on Revive.fm, a radio station run by Hispanic ministry. 

“We wanted the conference to show people how to share the pope’s message in ‘Christus Vivit’ with young people,” said Reynaldo Mendoza, Hispanic adult faith formation coordinator for the diocese. “The central idea is that God loves them … and an encounter with Christ can help them live a better life and learn to give to others.” 

Katherine Angulo of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana was the keynote speaker. She discussed ways to help young people encounter Christ in their daily lives, such as offering concrete examples of how to put faith into action. 

A wide variety of workshops were offered by clergy and lay people, such as using the internet to evangelize, and helping young people discern their vocation in life. 

“Those who attended were mainly adults, which was important because on youth retreats we’ve discovered that there is a disconnection between what parents think young people are seeking and what their kids are really trying to find in life,” Valdez said. 

“Many parents are focused on working, paying the bills and providing material things, but what the kids are really looking for is their time, someone to listen to their concerns and talk with them. I heard from people who attended that they were going to rethink their role in the family and start investing time in what is important: their kids,” she said. 

The event motivated Marcela Escobar to work harder to spread the Gospel to youth at Divine Redeemer Church in Hanahan, where she is director of Hispanic religious education. She has served in that position for five years and has seen the number of young people enrolled steadily increase, but realizes there is more work to be done. 

“It was encouraging to me because it focused on the importance of helping the boys and girls to stay in their faith and to learn about God,” Escobar said. “Sometimes the work we do is difficult because there are so many kids who need so much from us, but this showed me we need to not hesitate and to keep going. We have to listen to our young people and open doors for them so they can hear about Jesus.”