Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From A Silent Mountain Top To 500 Alleluias

In my last blog entry I talked about the experience of visiting a convent of contemplative, hermit nuns. This past Saturday I had another wonderful experience that was the polar opposite of that as I attended the "Encuentro Franciscano Hispano" run by my Franciscan province (Holy Name) at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, MD. I attended this experience along with Fr. Marty Bednar, OFM of our MOW team along with Mr. Pete Suarez from Miami, a lay preacher and collaborator with us. In contrast to the silence of the cloister it began with a solid hour of singing with drums, guitars, mandolins, keyboards and other instruments, not to mention a great deal of hand clapping and other gestures, all part of celebrating the Hispanic Catholic experience. The contrast of these two experiences reminds me of the richness of our Church, a richness that I have seen over the past 22 years of traveling around preaching missions in different places, a richness that I choose to concentrate on instead of the squabbling and bickering that often goes on in high places.

Back to the "Encuentro". In addition to the singing and clapping there was a great deal of time for serious reflection. The main speaker was Alejandro Aguilera-Titus Associate Director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Multi-Cultural Ministry Office. He made several interesting points, but the one that stood out to me was his statement to the effect that the Church's mission in a multi-cultural parish was not to merge all the cultures together but to allow the gospel to be expressed in each culture in that culture's own unique way. In speaking of the importance of young adult (not teenage) ministry he pointed out something that should get the attention of all of us--50% of all Catholics in the US under the age of 30 are Hispanic. That says to me that there is where the future of the US Church lies. There was also a wonderful dramatization presented by the St. Camillus young adult ministry, several very interesting small group sessions and a wonderful clsing Mass and homily presided over by Bishop Francisco Rodriguez, auxiliary bishop of Washington, DC.

All three of us left that day tired, but exhilarated, and renewed in my commitment to our work of preaching in Spanish as well as in English. You'll note on the top of this blog page that my schedule includes 3 bi-lingual missions this semester. I hope to do many more.

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