By Sister Marilu Covani, S.P.
SAN BERNARDINO—”Planning our future. Always forward!”
This was the theme that about 200 delegates and participants of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Pastoral Ministry followed during a General Meeting at Aquinas High School in San Bernardino on May 18.
Bishop Gerald Barnes joined us after the Priest Ordinations, and spoke to the assembly, thanking everyone and inviting the many who were actively participating at the parish level during the initial years of the V Encuentro to recommit and unite with the regional and national delegates. The Bishop asked us to bring to our Diocese the spiritual force of love and compassion we absorbed and shared during the three-year implementation of the V Encuentro process.
He called us to continue our ministry as missionary disciples in our parishes and in our vicariates, and to be especially attentive to those in the peripheries whom suffer the most – the homeless, the immigrants, the elderly and the disabled - and to offer them hospitality and Christian love. He mentioned that he had just confirmed nearly 30 special needs children at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, and how he was moved by the love and care shown to them by their parents. These families come regularly to Holy Rosary once a month in the afternoon for the celebration of Sunday Mass.
Our Morning Prayer theme for our gathering was “Do what He [Jesus] tells you, the time is now.” The Wedding at Cana was used as our scriptural inspiration — the Gospel story of a wedding that ran out of wine, and how Our Mother Mary beckoned Jesus to perform his first miracle of converting water into wine. We all felt called to assume the leadership the U.S. Bishops called us to when they initiated the V Encuentro process, paving the way for transformation. The desire to share experiences and to plan was contagious.
Many volunteers and Aquinas High School students helped throughout the day and we are grateful for their support. In this time of crisis for the Church, opportunities like this to encounter one another make us more aware of the need for Church leaders and laypeople to understand that we cannot go forward without each other, that there must be continuous dialogue, that communion is fundamental, and that there cannot be isolated protagonists/ individual leadership, but instead we must work together to build our future with shared experiences.
During the day there was time for sharing and reflection and an opportunity to respond individually, jointly by parish, and jointly by vicariate about the V Encuentro process. Participants gathered to share their experiences and the responses shared throughout the day served to motivate each other to continue spreading the beauty of missionary discipleship within their groups. Vicariate chairs and teams were selected during the gathering. A representation of Purépechas, indigenous people from the Lower Coachella Valley, came and participated throughout the day as well.
Excerpts from Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, were read, and five young adults dressed as St. Bernardine, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, San José Gabriel Brochero, and St. Patrick participated in the Sending Forth Prayer. After his message, Bishop Barnes blessed us all and asked us to go back to the peripheries and return to our parishes and movements to spread the Good News that “Christ is alive.”
Sister Marilu Covani, S.P., is the Diocesan Coordinator of V Encuentro.