By Sister Marilu Covani, S.P.
It is Lent, and our Diocese once again is spiritually journeying toward the Holy Triduum when we celebrate the death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Missionary Disciples have also continued their journey in the process of the V Encuentro.
The V Encuentro is a four-year process of ecclesial reflection and action that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development, and identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization. Specifically, it calls for the development of resources and initiatives to better serve the fast-growing Hispanic population in dioceses, parishes, ecclesial movements, and other Catholic organizations and institutions.
Our Diocesan delegates are eagerly looking forward to the Regional V Encuentro, to take place in Visalia in the Diocese of Fresno April 27-29. They are preparing for this by reflecting on what has been done and accomplished so far, locally, and discussing the final document made from the responses the people they encountered shared with them. This diocesan report will be presented to Region 11 during the meeting in Visalia.
Looking at some of the accomplishments on this last year of the V Encuentro process in our Diocese, we are aware that it has made us more conscious of the reality surrounding us and helped our communities to manifest the love of God once more, and, in some way, differently. This is evident for us these Lenten days, when we are asked to be aware of the needs and the suffering of so many around us.
Here are some of the realizations and challenges missionary disciples had while crossing peripheries:
Our missionary teams had, together or individually, opportunity to visit and listen to people less connected to their local churches. For the first time, with the responses they shared with us, we have been able to identify in our Diocese more clearly such peripheries. Some had always been with us, with other ones we have been afraid to try, and still others, we realized we didn’t have adequate tools to respond to them.
Some of these were indigenous groups that live in our parish areas, such as the Purépecha of the Coachella Valley. They identify with the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to which they have a fervent devotion. The Mayas, who attend Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and St. Anthony Church in Riverside, Corpus Christi in Corona, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Rancho Cucamonga, have shared their hopes that this “encounter” might give them opportunity to live more deeply their spirituality and devotions.
Many young missionaries crossed peripheries meeting with young “Dreamers,” who shared their disappointments, fears and hopes of being able to continue studying. Others encountered young people with addictions, dependencies and confusion in their sexual identity, or isolated by generational and cultural causes.
Adult missionaries talked with people of the Third Age, and disabled, visiting them in rest homes, or in their homes. Others went to detention centers and prisons, where they met other detained missionary disciples who are participating in the V Encuentro meeting with their peers, and shared their concern for their families and their need for legal aid, as those processes are endless and costly. Many others sought out in their own parishes people they did not know.
We still need to cross other peripheries... and hope we will have more specific answers for those we find.
This initial stage should be continued. We encouraged all participants to take seriously the words of Pope Francis who proposes some simple acts of charity for Lent such as:
• Hearing the story of the other, without prejudice, with love
• Stopping to help another
• Being attentive to those who have a need
• Cheering someone up
• Celebrating the qualities or successes of another
• Helping when needed for others to be able to rest
These actions help not only those who live in our peripheries, but also those who are at our side: in our homes, our jobs and neighborhoods, and in our parishes.
Let us find them and share with them the joy of the Gospel, of a meeting of brothers, leaving aside our differences and recognizing ourselves all as children of God. Happy Lent!
Sister Marilu Covani is a Sister of Providence and Diocesan Coordinator of the V Encuentro.