In 2016 at World Youth Day (WYD) in Poland, Pope Francis announced that he had a dream.

“My dream is of something greater: I wish I had a million young Christians or, even better, a whole generation who are for their contemporaries ‘walking, talking social doctrine.’ Nothing else will change the world but people who, with Jesus, devote themselves to it.”

This is how the DOCAT (pronounced doo-cat) was born. The DOCAT is a resource for teaching young people the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. Published in a question-and-answer format with pictures, drawings, quotes, sidebars, and other visually appealing design elements, the DOCAT is a peer resource to the YOUCAT (pronounced you-cat)—the Catholic Catechism for young people, commissioned by Pope Benedict and published in 2011.

When asked at WYD 2016 who would respond to Pope Francis’ call, a group of young people accompanying Fr. Rafael Capó of the Archdiocese of Miami came forward. They would take on the charge to bring the DOCAT home to the Southeastern United States to help with the social teaching and theological formation of Hispanic young adults.

These programs will help our young Latino Catholics become better missionary disciples, better citizens of their country, and agents of change in their families, community, and world.

The Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) is the educational branch of the US Catholic Bishops’ Southeast Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry. In response to Pope Francis’ charge to distribute and live the DOCAT, SEPI was asked to help with the theological formation of young Hispanics (those between 15 and 35) by training them to start studying it (using a published guide), preparing bilingual resources, and inspiring other young adults to live out the DOCAT’s teaching on issues like poverty, charity, social justice, and more.

SEPI’s programs are in direct response to Pope Francis’ call, as well as the mission of the National Encuentro, an ecclesial gathering of Hispanic Catholic leaders, which has identified the formation of young Latinos as a priority in the Church. Because 63% of young Catholics in the US are of Hispanic origin, these programs specifically cater to second and third generation Latinos in order to better integrate them into mainstream ministry and make them feel welcome. Through accompaniment, mentorship, and formation, SEPI’s programs prepare missionary disciples so they can have an impact, to reach beyond Hispanic circles and their families/communities and minister to the wider church across the United States.

With assistance from OSV Institute, SEPI has experienced tremendous response and growth to their multifaceted program that includes:

  1. Missionary disciples. SEPI missionaries are sent to the dioceses of the Southeast to carry out dynamic one-day workshops to motivate and inspire Hispanic youth and young adults to put their faith into action through the study of the DOCAT, both at the personal and community level. They are subsequently sent forth to their home parishes and communities to share resources, distribute copies of the DOCAT to other young people, begin active workshops, and spread the promise of Pope Francis’ mission.
  2. Collaboration with World Youth Day in Panama. After a visit from the Archbishop of Panama (host of World Youth Day 2019), SEPI was asked to collaborate with the event’s planning committee to present at the opening Mass on stage, distribute the DOCAT and study guide to attendees, talk about it and give small presentations at WYD catechesis sites, and take a vital role in promoting the DOCAT during the international conference. At the start of WYD, SEPI led a workshop to train other young adult attendees that were interested in replicating the mission project back in their home dioceses of Panama, as well as Central and Latin America—an effort that was even made known to Pope Francis himself.
  3. Summer workshops. Through continued support from OSV Institute, SEPI is now in preparation for two summer programs in Miami for young Latinos, especially those who are college-aged:
  • The Latino Summer Leadership Institute will be a week-long program that welcomes promising young leaders from different Southeast college campuses who are nominated by leaders of their campus ministry programs. Participants will sharpen their leadership skills and knowledge of Catholic social teaching through theological studies, discussions with members of the community, and visits from Catholic elected officials, professors, public servants from around the nation, and more.
  • Latino college students can also participate in the weekend Catholic Social Teaching Program to study the DOCAT more deeply and better understand Catholic social doctrine. This prepares them to return to their dioceses and continue the workshops, become leaders, and educate others.

SEPI also shares its resources with other programs throughout the US that aim to promote the DOCAT. With grants from OSV Institute, SEPI has been able to fund the leadership institute program, the upcoming Catholic social teaching summer workshop, and the study guide and workshop materials, which many of these programs rely on for teaching Hispanic young adults.

“We know there is polarization and division in our world regarding so many issues like life, social justice, and the environment,” says Rev. Rafael Capó, director of the US Catholic Bishops SE Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry and executive director of SEPI. “We feel it’s so important for our young people to embrace Catholic doctrine, know scripture, and understand the traditions of the Church.”

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