Hispanic Ministry Gathering Focuses on Working With Laity

Maria Hayes Friar News

The following recap of the recent Juntos Como Hermanos gathering is based on the meeting report provided by Fr. Ed Shea, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — From Sept. 17 to 20, friars from six U.S. provinces – Immaculate Conception, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. Barbara and St. John the Baptist –gathered at Washington Retreat Center for the sixth annual Juntos Como Hermanos (Together As Brothers) gathering for friars working in Hispanic ministry.

“This year’s Juntos Como Hermanos was a great experience,” said Edgardo “Lalo” Jara, OFM, who was one of the organizers. “As a group of brothers, we decided two years ago that we wanted to spend each meeting visiting a place related to our Franciscan life or with Hispanic ministry. There are different ways of getting to know each other, but sitting down all day long in meetings is not always helpful, at least in the Latino culture.

“This year, we had the privilege of visiting one of the most important places for Hispanic ministry in our Province, St. Camillus Parish,” he continued. “It was excellent because St. Camillus is not only Hispanic, but intercultural. We visited Saint Francis International School and our church, and we also had prayer and dinner with our postulants, who live next door. As we do every year, we also went out for dinner one night. We went to La Chiquita restaurant in the heart of Langley Park, which is one of the poorest places in the area, and where St. Camillus has had a mission for more than 10 years.”

The friars at La Chiquita, a restaurant in the Langley Park neighborhood of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Efren Quintero, OFM)

Working with the Laity
This year’s event focused on the importance of working with the laity. One of the first presenters was Carmen Nanko Fernandez, who has years of experience working with and teaching in the Church, most recently at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

“She challenged the friars, especially in light of the renewed clergy abuse scandal, to be rigorously honest about naming the reality in which we find ourselves and to not be afraid to move forward together ‘latinamente,’” said Fr. Ed.

Fernandez discussed the history and development of the 2005 document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard” that tries to address the question of cooperation and collaboration of laity in the Church, especially dealing with issues of the hierarchy and power struggles. She named three “movements” that have happened:

  • Laity as “Object” of Ministry – Laity were encouraged to “pray, pay and obey.” Clerics provided little sense of accompaniment. People found ways to pray that didn’t require the clergy, such as praying the rosary.
  • Laity “in” Ministry – Following Vatican II, the laity were recognized as “full, active participants” in the ministry of the Church, leading to the notion of lay ecclesial ministers working alongside the clergy. However, among Hispanics, there has been (and still is) a sense that their involvement is under-represented, under-studied and not as welcome. Various grassroots movements – such as Cursillo, Jornadas, Encuentro – have begun and continue under the direction of laypeople
  • Laity in Mission – Laity are developing a sense of shared stewardship along with an understanding of lessons that are still being learned, such as being intentional, understanding particular contexts, “acompañamentio,” OFM itinerancy, popular piety, and “conjunto” (not speaking for them).

Fernandez concluded by suggesting that the friars use a new metaphor when speaking of their co-ministry – “fiesta,” which includes the need for various “padrinos” to collaborate in the care for different aspects of their work.

Priorities of the Plenary Council
After Fernandez ‘s presentation, Fr. Gino Correa, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, spoke about a more pastoral approach to the question of working with the laity, especially in the context of the US-6 provinces’ recent decision to unify. Quoting General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, he encouraged the friars to allow God to “renew us as individuals and as a province, to re-ignite the fire, and to seek a ‘New Jerusalem,’” according to Fr. Ed. “Gino also challenged us to be aware of the choice between ‘engagement’ and ‘disengagement’ and called us to a new ‘metanoia,’ to go ‘beyond the mind.’”

He also shared with the friars the results of the Plenary Council that took place in Africa in June. The friars reviewed the Council’s seven priorities and began to brainstorm about how to apply them within the context of friars in Hispanic ministry.

The final part of the meeting was dedicated to sharing what is happening in each of the US-6 provinces, as well as future opportunities.

“We spent some time sharing our realities and dreaming of some possibilities,” said Fr. Ed. “What is clear is that there is plenty of good and creative work being done by many friars in the area of Hispanic ministry, only some of which is represented here in our gathering. It is our hope to be part of the future discernment of the level of the U.S. provincials, especially the US-6 as we move toward becoming one province. We would like to be pro-active in this conversation.”

The next Juntos Como Hermanos gathering will take place from Oct. 14 to 17 at one of the retreat houses of St. Barbara Province. This year’s event was a success, according to Fr. Ed.

“With special thanks to Lalo – Edgardo – and the other friars from Holy Name Province, as well as the interprovincial postulancy house, we had another fruitful and inspiring fraternal experience,” he said.

“Juntos Como Hermanos was not only three days of meetings,” said Edgardo. “It was a time for learning, discerning, reflecting, understanding, and also recreating and building fraternity. I hope that every year more and more brothers who serve in this ministry can understand that Juntos Como Hermanos is important not only for themselves, but for the time we are living now.”

— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: Information about future events of interest to friars around the United States can be found on the USFrancsicans website in the Friars Only section, in the calendar.

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