As this bulletin is being prepared while I am on vacation, I have asked Scott Brazil to write an article. Scott is on staff and also one of our lay Word and Communion presiders.
This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering of Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #198)
I have a confession to make. When our Social Justice groups schedule opportunities for parishioners to serve in the community, we are not simply trying to live out the preferential option for the poor, assisting those who are in need. Sure, that’s part of our motivation, but only part of it. The truth is that we are also trying to help you, the parishioner.
Pope Francis has continued to invite the Church to embrace a “Culture of Encounter”. Jack Jezreel, the founder of JustFaith Ministries, beautifully describes the desired effect of encounter (Spanish “encuentro”) in his recent book, A New Way to be Church: Parish Renewal from the Outside In:
Encuentro is not solely about changing something that is wrong; it is about a communion that changes everyone involved. Encuentro changes those who leave home on mission, and it can change those who welcome them. Yes, those of us tugged by love to wounded places might journey in the hope of changing some part of the world, but the experience of faithful people who leave home and family is that we must be prepared to change ourselves. The Gospel promise of metanoia, and indeed the mission of encounter and love delivers on that promise. Having formed relationships with brothers and sisters who have experienced hardship and abandonment, we will not remain the same.
Just in the past couple of months, I have personally witnessed Risen Savior parishioners experience what Jezreel describes and the Pope is calling us to embrace. It has come in the form of parishioners encountering Haitians on mission trips, ministering to prisoners during a weekend retreat, feeding the homeless while volunteering at the Matrix Emergency Shelter, serving women who were once caught up in the cycle of prostitution who found their way out and were celebrating their new found freedom during a graduation, and taking the time to listen to immigrants share their stories, their hopes, and their fears.
I have a great hope for the future of our parish precisely because of the transformation that has been experienced by these parishioners. They have a solid and rooted experience from which they can, literally, change the world. And yet, I have to wonder what our experience of being members of Risen Savior would be like if everyone was open to encuentro? I’d like to believe it would be something quite beautiful.
Are you open to encuentro? If so, please contact me. I’d love to share the experience with you!