“It was a life-changing experience,” said Stewart Marquina, a facilitator of the V Encuentro process at St. John Vianney Parish in Orlando. “An encounter is seeing Christ and then being Christ.”
The Encuentro is an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better serve the Hispanic/Latino population. This V Encuentro specifically looks to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples. It is a four-year process that begins at the parish, then extends to the diocesan, regional and finally national levels.
It has been only six months since Marquina first participated in a diocesan training session and became one of 12 facilitators at his parish serving 150 people in 10 small groups.
“The process is very effective in strengthening fellowship among parishioners,” he continued. “A few people came to session one and then brought others to session two. I brought my wife. When you see something wonderful, you want to share it with someone you love. Now people are participating in ministries – reaching out to other brothers and sisters – going beyond just attending Mass.”
For Marquina and his wife Carmen reaching out meant becoming ministers to the sick. Although they had been aware of the need before, they hadn’t experienced the sense that they could do something about it.
“Every time we meet we’re more a part of the Church – a bigger community,” explained Carmen, a teacher at St. John Vianney Catholic School. “I love that Stewart is very involved in Church. It helps the family – helps everybody to be closer to Christ every day. I’m proud of him because he’s helped more people to be a part of the Church – more involved for Christ.”
The fruits in the Marquina family continue. In November, Stewart took eldest daughter Andrea, a sophomore at Bishop Moore Catholic High School to the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis.
“It was a big step. It impacted her to go with my husband – a beautiful experience,” Carmen said. “She’s participating in the process too and has helped with the fliers and bulletin announcements.”
The Marquinas have two sons, 10 and 6, who attend their parish school.
“As parents and parishioners, we’re examples,” Carmen said. “If we’re involved, we can transmit it to them – we’re connected to God – impacted by God – the children see it and we’re examples for them to follow.”
Salesian Father Carlos Caban Vazquez, Parochial Vicar at St. John Vianney Parish indicated that there really weren’t any obstacles in the process.
“I have seen the results of people being heard,” Father Caban said. “Small groups are better to hear people and give them the opportunity to express the encounter. It is a necessity. We as Church need to hear peoples’ voices to understand them and the energy they have to give to being disciples. They need to be empowered, integrated and work for the Church with the pastor with them as family. The presence of the Church is needed in the peripheries – spiritual accompaniment.”
Father Juan Osorno, Parochial Vicar Holy Redeemer Parish in Kissimmee is participating at the parish and diocesan levels, looking forward to hearing the results of all the parish surveys and bringing them to the regional and national levels.
“The survey done at the parish level reaches people that have been set apart – someone next to me in the pew may have needs – kids/teens/young adults/married/elderly,” Father Osorno said. “We have identified one of the greatest needs in our midst is that the young people do not feel they are listened to, but our youth group is already producing good results – the group started with 12 – there are now more than 50 participating. We need to invite them; show them that they matter. It’s a process and we need to include these results so we can reflect on them at the next levels.”
Father Osorno is hoping to attend the National V Encuentro meeting in Grapevine, Texas in September.
“This is the Year of the Eucharist in our diocese,” he said. “We all come to be one – to celebrate the richness and beauty of each community. Each of us must be willing to take the risk to teach what it means to be Catholic – to be one.”
By Laura Dodson of the Florida Catholic Correspondent – January 4, 2017