How appropriate the readings for these four weeks that speak of encountering Christ, being transformed and converted into his witnesses and disciples. This is the mission of the church; to experience a personal encounter with Jesus, learn of him, be transformed and commit ourselves to him by living a life that reflects these things so others experience the same. In Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World) he says, "We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. … Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace" (No. 14). All the baptized are called to proclaim by word and deed that Christ died, rose from the dead and is alive in us. It’s easy to want to keep Christ in my heart all to myself because he makes me feel loved. But no, it’s not fair to others, because how many can benefit in their own lives feeling what we feel, especially the marginalized and forgotten that are in the peripheries of society and the church?
Let me repeat that these readings are very appropriate because our church in the U.S. is embarking on an initiative that touches exactly what is the mission as church. From January to June we hope that many in the Diocese of Rochester, along with other dioceses, will participate in the Fifth National Encuentro (Encounter) of Hispanic/Latino Ministry. Maybe some have already heard about this process. If not, I invite you to visit the website and get acquainted to prepare yourselves to participate in your parishes, prayer groups, ministries, etc.: vencuentro.org.
In the spirit of the new evangelization and Pope Francis’ call to be "Missionary Disciples," this process of reflection, consultation and action invites all Catholics in the U.S. to open dialogue and identification of ways to revive our communities of faith. The main goal of the V Encuentro is to discern ways in which the church in the U.S. can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which they respond to the call to the new evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire church. The process is spearheaded by the Latino Catholic community while it creates awareness of the growing Hispanic Catholic reality in the U.S. The exciting part is that it is open and speaks to the entire community of faith and its realities, and not just to Latinos. Some may remember the encuentros of the past; this V Encuentro uses this memoria histórica (historical memory) along with the new reality to reach everyone without forgetting those who help accomplish so much.
If you wish to know more or to join the process, speak with your parish or ministry leaders or call the Diocesan Office for Cultural Diversity at 585-328-3210 and speak with Lynette Saenz or myself, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johnston is intercultural program specialist for diocesan Parish Services’ Office of Cultural Diversity.