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Friars Share Blessings with More Than 1200 at Franciscan Encuentro

SILVER SPRING, Md. — More than 1200 friars and lay partners, representing 17 Provincial ministries — 10 HNP parishes, Siena College, the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, the Franciscan Mission Service, and four HNP offices — as well as  friars in initial formation attended the Second HNP Franciscan Encuentro on Oct. 20. Three buses from Durham, N.C., and a caravan from Anderson, S.C., traveled overnight to the Encuentro site at St. Camillus. John Anglin, OFM, of the Ministry of the Word Team, traveled from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, welcomed all to the assembly, stating, “Your Hispanic presence is a great blessing to the Church. You have enriched us with your faith and popular devotions such as Posadas andMañanitas. You have stirred us with your love of the Bible, the family, and our Blessed Mother. You have inspired us with your spirit of fiesta, hope, joy, courage, and perseverance during your darkest nights. You have edified us with your struggle for justice, immigration reform, and the breaking in of God’s Kingdom, the New Creation. Your presence here is a blessing to our parishes, to the Holy Name Province, to the United States Church, and to the Universal Roman Catholic Church.”

Other highlights of the memorable event include:
•   The keynote by Lawrence Hayes, OFM, on building the perfect brotherhood
•   A presentation by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, on Justice, Peace and Integrity for Creation initiatives, featuring St. Camillus lay parishioners describing concrete advocacy actions taken
•   Testimonies by Encuentro participants about being the light of Christ
•   A formal commitment by all present to advocate, in coordination with HNP entities, for local and national versions of the DREAM Act, and to offer local spiritual support and guidance to those who call themselves DREAMers. (DREAMers are foreign-born young people who were brought into the U.S. by parents or relatives without proper immigration documents.)
•   A presentation to the Provincial and participating organizations of a catalog of the various Hispanic ministries offered by HNP parishes
•   An outdoor cultural festival featuring Guatemalan folkloric dancing; presentations and singing by children; the Paterson, N.J., choir leading salsa, merengue, and dance; and a dramatic recital of Rubén Dario’s poem “Los Motivos del Lobo,” about the wolf of Gubbio
•   The presentation of a segment of a new video designed to attract Hispanic vocations to the Province. Juan Turcios, OFM, also gave a vocation testimony and presented Wilmer Garcia, a Durham parishioner originally from El Salvador, who is entering the formation program in Wilmington. Wilmer humbly bowed down his head as he received a standing ovation.
•   A moving homily by Erick López, OFM, celebrating the selfless service experienced during the Encuentro day in many ways: music ministries from nine parishes, the Utopía Franciscana theatre team’s drama, “Temptation in the Desert and the Beatitudes,” and the extraordinary hospitality of St. Camillus parishioners who served three meals for more than 1,200 hungry pilgrims, provided child care throughout the day, and offered shelter for two dozen guests.

Participants compared the Encuentro event to the utter joy and satisfaction to be experienced in its completeness at the heavenly banquet. St. Camillus parishioner Carlos Velásquez of the HNP Hispanic Ministry Committee expressed gratitude to the friars and ministries at the Encuentro, adding, “I am deeply nourished and enriched by the Franciscan presence.”  As are the friars by our Latino communities!

Guatemala native Selvin Lopez, a young adult leader of the Langley Park Catholic Community, wrote, “I learned from Father Larry’s talk that when true fraternity occurs, our imperfections can be transformed, creating a stronger and more loveable brothers and sisters… I saw that each one of the friars from this country can share that fraternity without distinction and live in fellowship with others, especially with those who need it most… I felt the warmth of the living God in each one of those who were at the Encuentro, sharing their talents. In inexplicable ways you could feel the incarnation of the Lord among others.”

Lopez concluded, “Thank you for showing me how to be a true brother.”

 Fr. Christopher Posch is director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Wilmington, Del. He serves as chair of the HNP Hispanic Ministry Committee, co-chair of the San Marcos Guatemalan Solidarity Partnership Team, and site supervisor for Wilmington Franciscan Volunteer Ministries. Photos taken by Octavio Duran, OFM.