Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

The young adult attendees of this August’s Pastoral Juvenil Retreat, held at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center. COURTESY OF OFFICE OF HISPANIC/LATINO MINISTRY

The label that matters


During a beautiful summer weekend in August 2023, 25 young people and leaders from around the diocese and episcopal region gathered at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center to retreat from the world and spend time reflecting on labels.

As Gabriella Escalante, youth ministry coordinator for the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI), reminded us, we fill our life with labels. We describe ourselves by what we do, who we are in relation to our family, our hobbies, the areas in life where we succeed or maybe we define ourselves by our failures. As we made our way from session to session, we began to break down the labels and focus on one: “Loved” or in Spanish, “Amado o Amada.” This was the label that God first placed on us mattered the most, the one that superseded the rest.

As Hispanic young adults in the Diocese of Owensboro, there are many labels that get put on us by people that do not know us. As young people in a world that wants to define itself, instead of discovering the person God created us to be, we are tempted to find belonging in places outside of the Church where we are affirmed. This weekend provided the opportunity to find belonging in Christ, in His Body, where we are loved and seen. With the help of the Gasper River staff, this community of young people took leaps of faith and tested boundaries of trust through ziplines and giant ladders. In between leaps, participants and leaders managed to communicate between languages and cultures. More and more often, labels are being used to separate, but when we hold the label of “Loved” above all else, language and culture become a tool to communicate and not a barrier to separate.

The messiness of the label “Hispanic,” in the context of the United States, leaves many with more questions than answers on how to reach Hispanic young people. However, our diocesan effort to step into that messiness has seen fruit in the relationships and leadership we are seeing with our young people. If you would like to join in the effort of helping reach Hispanic youth and young adults in our diocese, please reach out to me, Susana Solorza, diocesan coordinator for the Pastoral Juvenil at [email protected] or at (270) 683-1545.

The participants of the Pastoral Juvenil Retreat at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center take part in an activity. The retreat was held in August 2023. COURTESY OF OFFICE OF HISPANIC/LATINO MINISTRY

Originally printed in the October 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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