Church is a safe place, bishop tells Encuentro

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas
Participants of the Provincial Encuentro listened during an opening Mass at Holy Family Church, 3926 Poplar Level Road, Sept. 28. Following Mass, they took part in small group discussions.

Bishop William F. Medley, of Owensboro, Ky., told a gathering of about 200 Hispanic and Latino Catholics that he’s aware of the hostility and hatred aimed at them. He also told them that he hoped they’ve found safety in the church.

“If there’s any place where you and your brothers and sisters and any immigrant and refugee from around the world can feel safe and feel at home, feel the dignity of being a child of God I hope it is when you come into the Catholic Church,” said Bishop Medley.

Bishop Medley addressed the group during the opening Mass of the Provincial V Encuentro which took place Sept. 28 at Holy Family Church, 3926 Poplar Level Road.

The event drew participants from dioceses in the Province of Louisville — including Lexington, Owensboro, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Louisville. They received encouragement from Bishop Medley and discussed the V Encuentro — a national gathering of more than 3,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics held in Grapevine, Texas, a year ago.

Participants spent the day in small groups, discussing ways to implement priorities for His-
panic ministry identified during the national Encuentro. Family life and youth and young adult ministry were identified as priorities during that national event.

Among the steps suggested to strengthen family life and youth and young adult ministry was the creation of a diocesan family ministry program for Spanish speakers and the creation of similar programs in parishes.

Participants at the provincial event also suggested training companion couples to help prepare engaged couples for marriage and accompany them after the wedding.

Bishop Medley opened the day with Mass, welcoming the congregation on behalf of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who was in North Carolina receiving treatment for cancer.

Noting that he attended the national Encuentro, Bishop Medley told the congregation, “I’m proud to be here praying with you as we continue that missionary discipleship.”

He noted that participants in the national Encuentro, were “commissioned to go forth” as Christ sent forth his disciples following the transfiguration on the mountain.

Peter, he noted, wanted to stay on the mountain top.

“We might have felt that way while gathered at the V Encuentro with the wonderful music and speakers and the sense of excitement we shared,” said Bishop Medley. “But we’re not called to live on the mountain. We’re called to take the message from the mountain to the fields.”

The bishop said that people are not always ready to hear the “whole Gospel, because the Gospel of glory and resurrection is far more palatable.”

Bishop Medley drew attention to the day’s Gospel reading from the book of Luke, where Jesus reminds his disciples that the “Son of Man must suffer.” It’s the same with faith, said the bishop.

Faith consists of cross and crucifixion as well as resurrection and glory. Neither Christ nor the “path of discipleship” can be understood except through the cross, he said.

However, “missionary disciples see beyond the cross,” said Bishop Medley. “You live among communities of immigrants and refugees who stand to give the church new insight, new spiritual wisdom about what it means to be disciples who bear the weight of the cross. We pray that the Catholic Church in the United States of America can stand as a symbol of light and a symbol of hope for those who come to this country seeking freedom or prosperity.”

Many there that day knew the “burden” carried by those who come to the U.S. seeking a better life, said Bishop Medley.

The “hostility and hatred is tangible, visible and real,” he said. While he doesn’t believe everyone has hatred for immigrants, he said he is aware that it’s real and that many immigrants experience hostility.

Despite what’s going on in the nation, Bishop Medley asked his listeners to keep their eyes “on the glory that is yet to be revealed to us.” The “power of the resurrection” should remind each that God, through Jesus Christ, can turn bad things into good things. It’s also in the church that hope is found, said Bishop Medley.

Following the provincial event, 370 Hispanic and Latino Catholics, including 100 middle and high school students, gathered Oct. 12 for a diocesan Encuentro on the campus of St. John Paul II Church, 3521 Goldsmith Lane. Participants took part in break out sessions where they discussed strengthening family life and ministry to youth and young adults.

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