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Looking for hope and the next generation of Latino leaders at Encuentro


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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The sunny weather was calling many of Washington's 20-somethings to rooftop pools, outdoor bars and bicycle rides, just as nectar calls birds to flowers, but Francisco Hernandez, 26, and Flor Diaz, 24, decided to spend the summer afternoon and early evening of June 24 in the church basement at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington.

Sometimes the two danced or talked in front of a crowd of about 50, trying to keep the conversation going during their parish meeting marking the first stages of the Encuentro, a four-year-long process of meetings and gatherings aimed at figuring out the needs of Latino Catholics in the U.S.

Around the country, parishioners in many Catholic churches with healthy Latino populations, such as the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, are hosting similar events, which they hope will yield not just information about the up-and-coming group in the church, but also Latino leaders, missionary action and a zeal for Catholic identity in the fastest-rising ethnic population in the church.

Such meetings with Latino Catholics have taken place in the U.S. Catholic Church before and they began as far back as 1972 as a way for the country's bishops to figure out how to better serve Latinos. However, this one seems to be particularly focused on young Latinos such as Diaz and Hernandez.

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