September 27, 2018, Grapevine, Texas – Sister Lois Paha, OP, Director of Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, accompanied some 50 Hispanic Catholic delegates from her diocese to a September 20-23, 2018, national gathering of about 3,000 delegates, leaders, and representatives of national organizations.
The Fifth National Encuentro (gathering) of Hispanic/Latino Ministry was at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas, focusing on the theme “Discípulos Misionerios: Testigos del Amor de Dios” (“Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love”). Years in the planning stages, V Encuentro aimed to discover ways that the Catholic Church can be more responsive to the needs of Hispanic Catholics and to empower and encourage the Hispanic Catholics to be more involved in the Church’s work of evangelization.
Nationwide, Hispanic Catholics still face a number of challenges, Sister Lois said. “I think for some of them, language is still a barrier, and being accepted by [people of] other cultures,” she said. “In serving one another in their Spanish-speaking ministries, they are accepted, but to break some of the barriers of the enculturation and the multi-cultural reality is a challenge.”
Sister Lois explained the goal of the program. “One of the efforts of this Encuentro was to identify young people, listen to their call and try to reach out” to meet those needs through such avenues as faith formation, support of the family, and leadership development.
One of the highlights of V Encuentro was a dinner attended by young Hispanic Catholics, ages 18 to 35, with about 130 bishops. Sister Lois noted that about 700 delegates were in that age range – about one-third of the delegates, and they were able to offer their thoughts as young people.
“My hopes were that the delegates would be able to see not just what’s good for Tucson but for the whole Church and how we, as a border diocese, can respond to the needs of our local community,” Sister Lois said. “My goal to energize the delegates was definitely met. As we talked with them and they went out to the breakout sessions, they saw the bigger picture of a lot of dioceses across the United States.”
Sister Lois noted that participants at V Encuentro showed their solidarity with people around the world by participating in the Helping Hands program of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “In two lunch-time periods on Friday and Saturday, we were able to fill 20,000 bags of food for the people of Burkina Faso,” she said. Participation in this project helped participants to see the basic needs of people around the world.
V Encuentro was the culmination of years of preparation, beginning in 2014 with preliminary planning and formation and training of episcopal regional teams and leadership and diocesan and parish teams in subsequent years.
In Tucson, the first step was to set up a diocesan team, which included staff members in the Pastoral Services Department, as well as the Vocations Vicar, the Vicar for Hispanic Ministry, and leaders from various areas of the diocese. “They went through several steps, at the parish and diocesan level,” Sister Lois said. Because of the large area of the Diocese of Tucson, the diocesan gathering was held in Yuma and in Tucson – and in both locations, Bishop Gerald Kicanas celebrated Mass, greeted delegates, and showed his support for the process, she said.
The Diocese of Tucson is fortunate to have had two bishops support the ministry to the Hispanic/Latino community. The process began under the leadership of Bishop Kicanas, and upon his retirement, Bishop Edward Weisenburger has continued to support the national process and the commitment to the people of the diocese.
Delegates from Tucson then participated in a gathering of Region 13, which included 413 delegates and 12 bishops from the 10 dioceses in the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah. Those who participated in the process at all three levels – parish, diocesan, and regional – were qualified to be the Diocese of Tucson’s delegates to the national Encuentro.
Sister Lois is optimistic about the future. “We made a good choice in the delegation from Tucson and we see that they are willing to pick up the call,” she said. “Our next step is to decide how to implement what we heard” from the working document that will come out of V Encuentro, “not to go too fast, but to go fast enough, and also to inform the other parishes of the diocese so it doesn’t get isolated only into Hispanic or Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. We have at least one Mass in Spanish in all of our 78 parishes.”
Sister Lois said the Hispanic population in the Diocese of Tucson – and throughout the country – is mixed, with some being new immigrants or second-generation in the United States and others who have been in this country for a long time, third- or fourth-generation. But in general, the Hispanic Catholics want the Church to be a part of their lives. “They have some roots and they want the Church to be part of their reality and not just something outside of their reality,” she said. “They want the Church to be their companion, their strong support and strength” – and, for their part, to be involved in the life of that Church.
Feature photo: Among those representing the Diocese of Tucson at V Encuentro were, back, from left, Deacon Lauro Teran, delegate; Sister Lois Paha, OP, Director of Pastoral Services; Ofelia James, Pastoral Services/Formation Program Coordinator; and Joe Perdreauville, Pastoral Services/Associate Director; and front, from left, Oakford Dominican Sister Gladys Echenique, OP, Coordinator of Hispanic Ministry, and Lupita Teran, delegate.
May 4, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sisters on the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse Campus celebrate the beauty of the planet during Earth Week, April 22-39, by discussing ways to live more sustainably to heal our planet from environmental degradation.
The celebration began with the Mass of Creation, on Earth Day, April 22, with Father James Hug, SJ, Motherhouse chaplain, as the presider. Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Office of Sustainability, offered a reflection.
Focusing on the first letter of John, in which he writes, “Beloved, see what love our God has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God,” (3:1) Sister Corinne said she realized “the magnificence of the deep relationship offered to us – a relationship of deep knowing, a relationship of an intimate love binding us with God.” She added: “And as we continue to truly understand our place on this planet, this is a deep love, not only binding us with each other but binding us as creatures with all of God’s creatures.” The relationship of love is “between God and the fullness of Earth Community,” she concluded.
Later that day, the public was invited to an open house of a local juried art exhibit, “Earth, Our Home” in the art gallery at INAI: A Space Apart, adjacent to Weber Retreat and Conference Center. Guests had the opportunity to view paintings, photographs, pottery, weavings, and other artwork depicting the beauty and vulnerability of Earth and its plants and creatures.
On April 24, Dana Schumacher-Schmidt, Assistant Professor of English at Siena Heights University, led a group of Sisters in a sharing on “Food Connections.” The discussion began with reflections on the people that participants connect with the food they eat – special meals made by their mothers, or a special family fruitcake.
But Dana went on to discuss broader food connections. “I never thought about where the chicken came from or the people who worked with the chicken,” she noted. “It’s a marker of my privilege growing up that I never thought of where the food came from.” She gave the example of the origins of palm oil, used in a lot of processed foods. Harvesting the palms brings about deforestation, which affects animals and adds to global climate change, she noted. In addition, human trafficking victims have been forced to work on the palm oil plantations.
Dana urged the audience to think about the connections between the food we eat and its impact on the planet and on other human beings. “Disconnect as much as possible from destructive systems and create more connections – source more food locally,” she said.
Shared meals can also be a form of advocacy. Dana gave the example of the Siena Heights soup dinners, community-funding potluck dinners in which participants pay for the meal, watch presentations on up to four ideas on ways to benefit others in the community, and vote on the project they like best. The winning project is funded in part by the donations for the dinner.
On April 25, Elaine Johnson, Permaculture Specialist for the Congregation, and Sister Carol Coston, OP, gave a presentation on teas that can be made from locally-grown plants. Sisters had the opportunity to savor the teas – and the connections they made to the surrounding land.
Finally, on April 27, Sister Nancy Sylvester, IHM, former National Coordinator of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, gave the closing presentation on “Embracing a New Narrative of Communion.”
In her presentation, Sister Nancy described how people of our culture moved from an understanding that everything is connected to one of separation – particularly the separation of humanity from the rest of nature and the idea that humanity can control nature to their advantage. She drew much on the work of Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si.
The technocratic paradigm – the worldview that shaped the Industrial Revolution and pits humanity against the rest of creation – no longer works, Sister Nancy said. She described such a worldview as a habitual way of seeing the world, comparing it to the veil in a habit, which can limit the Sister’s peripheral vision. Just as cutting back the veil helped the Sisters to see more around them, a new consciousness of the interconnectedness of creation cuts back the blinders of the technocratic paradigm. “We’re cutting back the blinders that keep us seeing a very limited reality” and looking at creation in a more inclusive way, she said.
Sister Nancy traced the shifts in consciousness throughout history: from early stages, in which people saw “beyond the surface” to feel connected to animals, stones, and trees and to recognize they were part of nature; to faith traditions in which spiritual leaders had the authority. The Catholic Church, part of this traditional consciousness, transcends the magic and myth of earlier days. With the Scientific Revolution, people put their trust in science, which taught them that what is real can be measured. “In the mechanistic worldview [of science], God is the clockmaker, and once he finishes creation, he leaves it,” Sister Nancy said.
While science drew some people away from faith and from the notion of interconnectedness, new science – quantum physics – reunites people with the notion of connectedness. “Atoms are not separated – they’re all connected,” Sister Nancy said. “People are beginning to see mystery again. …The emerging state is the new integration of energy. It values dialogue, community, and relationship.” Sister Nancy noted the similarity of this worldview to that of Jesus, who “welcomed all to his table of communion.”
This new phase of consciousness invites people into contemplation, “taking a long, loving look at reality,” Sister Nancy said. “Contemplation invites you to become fully present to this moment and to be open to new things. …It opens us to the unconditional love of God.”
Earth Week was one way to promote the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s 2016 General Chapter Enactment to “[recognize] the violence against Earth community that places our common home in dire jeopardy and intensifies the suffering of people on the margins, future generations and all creation.”