Presentation at the First Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean

Good morning, brothers and sisters. First of all, and on behalf of Bishop Oscar Cantú, Chairman of the Subcommittee for Hispanic Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and on behalf of the entire Hispanic/Latino People of God living in the United States, I would again like to thank CELAM for the invitation to participate in this historic Ecclesial Assembly. It was a source of great joy to receive the invitation from Archbishop Jorge Lozano to participate in the listening process that prepared us for this Assembly. The reason for the invitation was very clear and pastoral: The deep desire to also hear the voices of the millions of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants who live in the United States.

 

Later we were invited to register seventy delegates to the assembly from Hispanic/Latino Ministry in the United States. These delegates to the assembly have walked with us remotely and have been part of the fruitful small group dialogue, and have enjoyed the beautiful prayers, testimonies, inspiring presentations, and liturgical celebrations. Several of them have commented to me how enriching this journeying together has been, and how much they identify with the vision, language and sense of Church of the First Ecclesial Assembly.

 

In fact, and for reasons that can only be explained by the action of the Holy Spirit, Hispanic/Latino Ministry has walked in amazing harmony with the Latin American/Caribbean Ministry for more than half a century. You have had 5 General Conferences, we have had five National Encuentros, and each of these Encuentros has been informed and enriched by your general conferences.

 

The V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, held between 2017 and 2020 in the Church of the United States, was a synodal process inspired in part by Aparecida and based on the vision and methodology of Evangelii Gaudium. The theme of the V Encuentro was Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love, and in it, Hispanic/Latino ministers identified themselves as Joyful Missionary Disciples. The methodology used was the one that Pope Francis defines in EG #24 and which is based on 5 moments: Taking the First Step, Getting Involved, Accompanying, Bearing Fruit and Rejoicing, which helped us to create a culture of encounter in a missionary key. And so, after a year of preparation, we launched ourselves out into the peripheries in a Latino way, in other words, like the men and women of the People of God going forth who live and celebrate their faith in the United States. In a Latino way, with enthusiasm, with faith, with joy, with devotion, in solidarity and eliciting hope. It is worth noting that these same leaders are the ones who are now being consulted on how to carry out well the current synodal processes in their dioceses, saying to them: “We need your help because you already have experience in synodal processes.”

 

This pastoral harmony between Latin American/Caribbean Ministry and Hispanic/Latino Ministry in the United States which goes beyondborders, is deeply human, and its protagonist is a People of God who, for the most part, have had to leave their countries and homes over the decades. However, as the saying goes, “you can take the person out of their country of origin, but you can’t take the country of origin out of the person”. Our cultural heritage, our religious traditions, our faith in God’s providence, our authentic Marian devotion, our sense of community, our love for family – we carry them all with us. So, by becoming aware of our baptismal call, by feeling called to serve in our faith communities and in society, we discover that we are not only immigrants, but also missionary disciples to our destination country, missionary disciples with a prophetic voice and a great transforming power. It is surprising and fascinating to see how, from our poverty, and in the midst of a certain exile, we are missionary disciples to this country which we are also making our own because, with all due respect to the poet, I am from here and I am from there. We are bridge builders.

I am sure that the present and future fruits of this First Ecclesial Assembly for Latin America and the Caribbean will be a source of inspiration, hope and pastoral creativity for Hispanic/Latino Ministry in the United States. The two-fold focus on listening and overflowing has already begun to dwell in our hearts and souls. We also hope to find ways to journey together, in pastoral conversion towards the great celebration of 500 years since the Guadalupan Event and two thousand years of Redemption. Moving ever more from the ‘other’ to ‘we’.

I will conclude with some verses from the poem Pueblo Hispano: Pueblo en Marcha [Hispanic People: A People on the Move], written by one of the great missionary disciples in Hispanic/Latino Ministry, Sister Aida Sansor, from the Yucatan by the way.

I am part of a journey, of a pilgrim journey

and even if I wanted to stop … I know I am a pilgrim,

a pilgrim and emigrant who is constantly searching.

Do you want to know where we are going as a pilgrim people?

We journey because we came, we came because we left, we left because we followed the voice of the God we feel.

 

Do we journey towards a place? No, that is not our destination.

Our destination is not to arrive at a place, but to forge a path

 

in which one can walk with the freedom of the Son.

The freedom of Jesus.

Again, thank you very much and may we continue to journey together.

 

Alejandro Aguilera-Titus

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