IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn
By Norma Montenegro Flynn
GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) — Quoting from Pope Francis’
apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” Archbishop Christophe
Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic leaders and bishops to continue working toward being an
evangelizing church by seeking an encounter with Christ and taking
initiative while accompanying those on the peripheries.
“The church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of
missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive,
who bear fruit and rejoice,” Archbishop Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the
United States, said Sept. 20, the opening day of the Fifth National Encuentro.
Nearly 3,000 ministry leaders at the gathering in Grapevine were selected
to represent 159 dioceses across the country.
During the Sept. 20-23 event, participants were taking part in listening
and dialogue sessions to discuss a wide range of issues they consider to be priorities
in Hispanic Catholic ministry for the church in the United States.
The Fifth National Encuentro, also called V Encuentro, is a process of missionary
work, consultation, leadership development and community building that seeks to
develop better ways in which the Catholic church can respond to Hispanic
Catholics in parishes around the country. It also seeks to strengthen them as
leaders and missionary disciples.
As in previous encuentros, the goal is to develop a national
pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry for the present and for years to come.
Archbishop Pierre, in his keynote address, praised
the work done by Encuentro leaders to reach those on the peripheries as they
answer the call to be missionary disciples.
In remarks delivered in both English and Spanish, the papal nuncio
warned against judging and condemning the church and considering it distant. “We
are the church, if there’s need for a conversion it starts with us,” he
He also challenged the leaders to seek new ways to reach out
to those who are indifferent and to those who have abandoned the church or are
on existential and spiritual peripheries.
“What leads to a change of heart in Christians is
precisely a missionary spirit,” he said.
The archbishop described the characteristics of an evangelizing church: getting involved, taking initiative, staying committed, accompanying others, bearing fruits and feeling joy.
He reminded participants that as Pope Francis said: “The
church in the United States, as in other parts of the world, is called to ‘go
forth’ out of its comfort zone and become leaven of communion.”
The nuncio also urged everyone to get involved and not just
remain as spectators and invited bishops and clergy to keep their
“Accompaniment entails guiding, encouraging and
supporting, and uniting. The church that actively does this is a synodal church
— a church that walks together. One speaks of synodality in the church and
synodality of the church,” he added.
He explained synodality “in” the church as a church that
journeys together renewing the life and practice of faith through constant
discernment and action involving many forms of participation and action. Synodality “of” the church, he said, refers to the journey of the church with humanity
“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of
synodality ‘in’ the church — listening, speaking, participating by asking critical
questions and discerning the path forward. If communion is a sharing of the
faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the church, synodality is the
sign and fulfillment of communion.”
Bearing fruits requires discernment and patience, he stressed.
“Patience in the art of discernment and accompaniment allows the whole church
to move forward.”
Archbishop Pierre told participants not to forget about joy along
the journey. “Joy is the greatest experience of the church that goes
forth. The Eucharist is the source and summit of all life in the church. The
Eucharist is the sacrament which nourishes Christian joy.”
He concluded by inviting others to live the joy of the
“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these
days, we may be the church that Christ wants us to be — with him at the center
of our lives, our conversations and our ministry, confident that with the Holy
Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and to intercede for us, we may always move
forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”
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