By Sister Marilu Covani, S.P.
GRAPEVINE, TX—From September 20-23, 125 delegates from the Diocese accompanied Bishop Gerald Barnes and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio de Riego to Grapevine, Texas to participate on the National V Encuentro of Hispanic Ministry.
One third of the Diocesan delegation were Young Adults representing all the diocesan vicariates and another third were adult delegates from more than 50 parishes. They included four priests. Father Efrain Villalobos, M.S.P. went with three delegates from his parish, St. Joseph, Fontana; Father Sagarayaj Emmanuel, M.S.C. accompanied 2 delegates from St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside, where he serves as Parochial Vicar; Father Peter Ssekajugo, I.M.C., went with two more from St. Francis de Sales, Riverside, where he serves as Parochial Vicar. Four delegates from Corpus Christi, Corona were joined by Father Sergio Renteria, who is Parochial Vicar there.
The other third of the Diocesan delegation represented different ministries and ethnic cultures, movements, and delegates from Diocesan offices, and included four Religious Sisters, and four Deacons and their wives.
We all went ready to experience this national encounter, celebrate our faith, share with and learn from each other, and bring back to the Diocese some of the dreams and conclusions of this conference.
When we arrived some of us were, in some way, hesitant, after all the national media coverage of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in recent weeks and months. As time went on, I noticed the change on the faces of the attendees. The 150 + bishops present embraced the warmth and gladness of the delegates and recognized in many speeches Hispanic Catholics as a gift and a blessing for the U.S. Church.
Throughout the four days we all felt new hope and real joy. Three Ministerial Priorities were chosen by all during the conference, which will be implemented in the U.S. Church. They are Family, Youth and Formation.
After returning from the meeting in Texas, the delegates met with Bishop Barnes. His message to us was to bring back to our communities what we have heard and learned, and to start to open and enlarge the circle of missionary disciples to encompass other parish groups and ethnic communities.
I can tell you we all have come back wishing to be carriers of the Good News in our parishes, sharing the hope for a new beginning brought back from the V Encuentro by the voices we heard.
At this crucial time for our country, when we hear different voices calling for division, violence, and racism; when they want to alienate us; we Catholics wish and hope to keep encouraging each other to continue crossing peripheries, and to reach and support those who feel afraid and despondent.
Pope Francis compared the church to “a field hospital, a spiritual place for healing in the face of today’s moral and social dilemmas.” May our Loving God during this time of Re-Encuentro through our active participation, help us to bring peace, healing, and new occasions to be missionary disciples.
Sister Marilu Covani is a Sister of Providence and Coordinator of the Diocesan V Encuentro effort.