Robert Duncan/Catholic News Service
Leaders in ministry to U.S. Hispanic Catholics stand in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in 2016 with the Oregon-made Encuentro cross: Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, national coordinator of the fifth Encuentro; Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles; and Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. 

Robert Duncan/Catholic News Service

Leaders in ministry to U.S. Hispanic Catholics stand in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in 2016 with the Oregon-made Encuentro cross: Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, national coordinator of the fifth Encuentro; Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles; and Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. 

Encuentro, a major national consultation on Latino ministry in the Catholic Church, is symbolized by a simple but elegant wooden cross that has been carried to the Vatican and other sites worldwide. The cross, blessed by Pope Francis, will be part of meetings set for the next several years as U.S. church leaders seek to discover needs and opportunities among Hispanics, especially young people. 

The 5-foot-tall, 60-pound cross was made in Oregon of sturdy local white oak.   

Richard Koehler was the craftsman. The Southwest Portland woodworker, son of Jesuit Volunteers who served in Woodburn, founded Folk, a Portland company that employs artisans to make high-end furniture, lighting and other goods. 

“Encuentro was reaching out to him,” says Alejandro Aguilera Titus, a former Portland Hispanic ministry director who now leads Encuentro. 

The cross, says Aguilera Titus, symbolizes the journey of faith and transforming power. It will be carried to World Youth Day and will be prominent at Encuentro gatherings.