As waters mingle, so does faith
Encuentro 2000 celebrates diversity that unites the Body of Christ
By Susan Gloss
Encuentro 2000, the annual national conference celebrating cultural diversity within the Catholic Church, drew more than 5,000 participants to Los Angeles July 6-9. Among the thousands attending were 16 from the Green Bay Diocese.
Encuentro (Spanish for "encounter") began in 1972 as a national gathering for the Hispanic Catholic community in the United States. This year's conference, under the theme "Many Faces in God's House," embraced American Catholics of all ethnic backgrounds.
They gathered not only to discuss and build bonds for the future, but also to share traditions and experiences. The format included speakers and formal meetings along with plenty of time for celebration and worship, drawing upon cultural music, costume, and dance.
"They had it all," commented Rudy Pineda, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Green Bay Diocese. "Tango, mariachi, hula -- so many beautiful colors and sounds, all brought together to give witness to one thing: the presence of God in our lives and the fact that our faith is truly one."
One symbol used to display that unity throughout the conference was water.
"Each participant was asked to bring a half cup of water from home," said Pineda. "The water could be from a stream, lake, or even one's kitchen sink. The water was poured into some vessels and was used for the sprinkling rite as we renewed our baptismal promises."
Language played another important role at Encuentro. The closing Mass on the evening of July 8 included songs and readings in Chinese, Spanish, Latin, Apache, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. Headsets were available for translations, and universal prayers were recited in all of the languages represented at the conference, in unison.
Over 150 dioceses were represented at the event. Among the speakers were Bp. Donald Pelotte of Gallup, New Mexico, (the first Native American bishop), K. LaVerne Redden, president of the National Council of Catholic Women, and Fr. James Mooney, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy.
Los Angeles proved to be a suitable setting for an event of Encuentro's nature.
"The L.A. Archdiocese is a melting pot in itself," said Pineda. "It is the largest and most diverse diocese in the United States."
Pineda added that a great deal of diversity is present in the Green Bay Diocese. "You don't have to travel to Los Angeles that kind cultural diversity. There's so much richness and so much that needs to be done right here. The important thing about Encuentro is that we take what we experienced there and share it -- our gifts are meant to be shared, not harbored away."
The group from the Green Bay Diocese was made up of participants from St. Willebrord in Green Bay, St. Gabriel in Neenah, St. Joseph in Wautoma, and St. Norbert College, De Pere. Pineada said that they will continue to meet and to work within the diocese to continue the spirit of Encuentro.