The archbishop of San Antonio gave the keynote address June 8 at the encuentro, held at the University of Notre Dame. The theme of the weekend was Weaving the Future Together.
“God is calling you. And whether he calls you to be a priest or an auto mechanic, a teacher or a mother, you are part of the new generation of apostles-the next generation of leaders in the Hispanic community, in the Church, and in our country,” he said.
“As Catholic leaders and as Hispanics, we must reclaim this culture for God,” he said.
The archbishop noted that the current generation of Hispanics is heir to the first missionaries in the New World, the Americas, North and South.
“We’re connected to these first evangelists by a common culture and shared beliefs, and by the Eucharist,” he said. “And we are called, you and I, to be the evangelists of the next generation, bearing witness to the reality and power of Christ at a time when our country seems to have forgotten him.”
He spoke of Blessed Jose Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and his eight companions, who were 20th-century martyrs in Mexico, killed in the 1920s.
“No, our country doesn’t torture anybody for praying in public or going to mass. But our culture, too, wants to get religion out of our lives,” he said. “Our culture tells us that religious faith is something we’re supposed to keep to ourselves, something private and personal.
“Our first and biggest challenge, my young friends, is to keep the faith in this culture. Here, we can learn valuable lessons from the Mexican martyrs,” he said.
He encouraged the young people to develop a relationship with Jesus by trying to live the way he did, by keeping his commandments, by going to church, by meeting him in the Eucharist, in the Bible, and in prayer.
He urged the young people to continue in their education in the faith, to defend the family and to be leaders.
“Being a leader means, first of all, accepting Jesus Christ as the ruler of your life,” he said. “Authority and power doesn’t come from social rank or money. True leadership depends on your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus told his apostles that being a leader means being a servant.
“You need to be apostles to your peers. Don’t preach to them. Lead by your example,” he said. “Have a good friendship with Jesus yourself. Be good sons and daughters, good brothers and sisters, good neighbors and friends. That’s how you are an apostle. That’s how you lead others to Jesus.
“They will see your joy, your love, and they will want to get to know you. They will want to know what makes you so happy, so generous. And you will be able to tell them about Jesus,” he said.
The archbishop reminded the young people that they are not only called to be “Hispanic leaders.”
“Be proud of your heritage! Deepen your sense of your Hispanic identity, the traditions and customs of our ancestors! But you are Catholics,” he underlined.
“And ‘catholic’ means universal. That means you can’t define yourself - nor can you let society define you - solely by your ethnic identity. You are called to be leaders-not only in the Hispanic community, but in every area of our culture and society.”
American hispanic youth and young adults should focus on defending their values and transforming society, Archbishop Jose Gomez told participants at the First National Encuentro for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults.