Am currently traveling back from the V National Encuentro (which is taking far longer than I expected since my flight got cancelled and I was rerouted!), but it’s given me the opportunity to reflect and process on these last 4 days in which I was privileged to accompany 3,000 others from across the United States.
For those of you who might be unaware, the Encuentro “process” was initiated more than 2 years ago by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops when they requested that the Hispano/Latino Catholic communities gather together to reflect, discuss, compile and then present the needs and desires of the Latino men, women, youth and children in the United States. These gatherings were held at the local, Diocesan, and Regional levels before culminating in the V National Encuentro held these past 4 days in Grapevine, Texas.
I was privileged to serve as a delegate from our diocese to the Regional Encuentro earlier this year, and now to the National gathering, too.
As I reflect on the last few days, my heart is filled with many images as well as thoughts about what I experienced that are almost too numerous to mention.
In particular what stands out are the smiles, the laughter, the joyful enthusiasm, the SINGING and DANCING, and the hope that undergirded and sustained all that we did–despite the serious challenges we discussed of how to address the challenging issues of pastoral ministry to those on the peripheries, immigration, illiteracy, economic poverty, isolation, fear, prejudice and a fundamental lack of understanding of the diverse Latino cultures that are vibrantly represented in this country and in our universal Church.
A constant that emerged regardless of issue is the desire for holistic formation. Formation that addresses all aspects of the person–human, pastoral, intellectual and spiritual. Formation not just about how to do something, but how to become ever more fully the someone God created each person to be.
However, Archbishop Lori of Baltimore said something this morning that still resonating. He shared:
“In this moment of present darkness, you are helping to bring about a rebirth of goodness, holiness and integrity.”
And that is a message that I will take home with me to share along with many other recommendations (that I will share in the days ahead) of how we can encounter, accompany and empower not just our Hispano/Latino brothers and sisters, but everyone to become ever more fully the missionary disciples that we are called to be.