I’ll let Vincentian Father Michael Walsh tell you about this ministry and its needs. . . .
“The Arkansas Vincentian Mission has been working with the Hispanic community in Arkansas since the 1990s. Fathers Mike Walsh and Luis Ariel Ramírez, and Deacon Arnold Hernández, provide Hispanic ministry at St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, and three other parishes 40 to 70 miles away.
In Arkansas, as in most of the United States, the Hispanic presence is renewing the Catholic Church. By God’s unexpected grace, Vincentians working in Arkansas have seen a retreat program become a bond of faith and service among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics of all ages. The Vincentian Missionary Program—Programa Vicentino Misionero—is helping Hispanic immigrants find their place in the Arkansas Church and is drawing on their spiritual gifts to enrich the Church.
Catholics and Hispanics in Arkansas, like in much of the South, are minorities. Hispanic Catholics, especially those in rural areas, can feel doubly isolated. Seeking an experience that could bond Hispanic Catholics into a community, we drew on Vincentian programs that were working in other parts of the country to present men’s and women’s weekend Encounters in Spanish to kick off the Missionary Program.
These Encounters focus on experiencing God’s love: Dios Papá and Jesús Amigo (God our Father and Jesus our Friend, John 15:15). After the Encounter, the Vincentian Mission supports weekly church communities and larger formation events to continue the process of faith development and service. These groups are led by lay “Vincentian Misioneros” who have gifts of humility, simplicity, joy, and zeal. They invite inactive Catholics to experience God's love and live it out in their families, communities, and parishes. Again and again men and women marvel at the simple but profound changes in their lives, marriages, and family relationships.
But God had a surprise in store for the Misioneros. English-speaking parishioners said, "Those Misioneros look so excited after their weekend, couldn’t you do something like that in English?" So, the Misioneros hosted English-speaking weekends for their fellow parishioners. The results were amazing. English speakers were grateful and felt deeply united to their Hispanic brothers and sisters. Stereotypes crumbled as participants exchanged stories of faith and life; and new friendships began.
The Encounters have attracted people from a multitude of parishes and have bonded communities. In five years, more than 1,000 men and women have lived the Encounter in Spanish or English, and almost 400 regularly attend the 23 small-church communities scattered throughout Arkansas. Your prayers will support continued development for this Vincentian evangelization, and your donations will help the Misionero Encounter, provide formation materials for our communities, and help build a center for the program.”