Hi again! I would like to update you on some of the things that were happening last month.
The Hispanic community at St. Barnabas Parish in Arden is beginning a new stage. During November I had a meeting with the pastor and his staff for faith formation. They had a fear that if we started a Spanish faith formation program, that we would be dividing the parish in the long run. Right now they have nothing for the Hispanics. We openly talked and shared. At the end, we came to a great conclusion: Let the Hispanics begin with the Bi-lingual catechism (the one that I had written, and which is being used in other parishes), and together we would work during these coming two years in trying to integrate the two communities. There isn't anything in the diocese to guide us, so we will be "pioneers" in a way. What I liked best was that we can work together towards a greater goal: how to build one parish community with two or more languages and cultures. Once we get started with the Bi-lingual catechism, it will be very important for me to work with the English speaking side of the parish. They are treading "unknown waters" as they open up to the Hispanics, and I am so proud to see them go forward in their openness.
Later in the month I had asked for people to become catechists. The response was great: 10 men and women, and most of them are young. I am now beginning to train them.
The Hispanic community of St. Joan of Arc in Candler is continuing to grow. Never has the parish had so many Hispanics at Mass. The pastor is extremely happy as I am too. But what most moves me is to see the enthusiasm of the parishioners. Practically all of them are new, and they have a great desire to form a community. We are now preparing for the first Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at this parish. This will be a great moment to welcome new members and to consolidate what they are doing.
Many of the adults are not going to Communion. So, this coming week we are having a meeting so that they can talk to me about this. I know something good is going to come out of this because so many of them expressed a lot of interest to assist and to talk about it.
Last month one of the saddest moments was the meeting with the sheriff on the issue of him working with I.C.E as an immigration agent in the county. But, we have learned that he had been quite moved by what the Hispanics had to say at last month's meeting at St. Eugene Parish, and he is open to work together with the Hispanic leaders to find a practical solution to this problem. He seems to be a good and compassionate man. May God guide us together on this issue.
Antonio is meeting with the leaders of the Hispanic organizations of the area to prepare this meeting and also to prepare a January meeting with all the clergy of all the churches and synagogues of the area to support the Hispanics. This will be a key moment in our church and society.
As regards to giving the Spiritual Exercices to the core members of Campus Ministry at UNC-A, they have finished the "pre-Exercices" work and they will begin the Exercices around the middle of January. They have asked to form a "buddy-system" to support one another better during this spiritual journey. Please rememberr them in your prayers. They are a great group of young men and women.
Now for the new activities:
The biggest event was the Cursillo that Paul Brant and his team gave in the Asheville Vicariate. It was great to have Paul, as another member of IMCM, to come and help out.
I would like to share some reflections on this: First, Paul is a great Jesuit and he works in a team with others. He has trained an excellent group of men to help him give these Cursillos. It was good for me to see how they all worked as one team, and how those who had been more time in Cursillos empowered those who had not been in them that long. It was good to see that it wasn't Paul's work, but the Team's work, and Paul was definitely a part of this team. This seems to be our way as Jesuits of working wherever we are. One of the laymen, Gerardo, alias "El Pelon", is one great animator. Secondly, the Cursillos themselves are an adaptation of the First Week of the Spiritual Exercices. The themes were good, logical, and in progressive order. They were put within the context of 'We are all the Church' and the spirit behind them was to make new evangelizers of the men who lived the Cursillo for the first time. The 15 new participants from the Asheville Vicariate were moved and motivated to continue.
Thirdly, the Cursillos have a way to continue through weekly support groups with an easy format (Piety, Study and Action). The men, as they leave the Cursillo, are encouraged to participate under their pastor in the ministries of their parish; and they become "yeast" in the parish.
November was a good month to get together with Jesuits. Ricardo Greeley came up to visit me and we spent all one day driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway seeing the beauty of the Fall and sharing our life stories. Here are some photos of that day. The next week I met up with Ricardo and together we went to visit Paul and Bruce Bavinger (we are the 4 Jesuits of IMCM in North Carolina). We had lunch and talked especially about the Cursillos. It was good to get together.
Other activities: The bishop came and the Hispanic youth that I was preparing received the Sacrament of Confirmation. I was not so happy about all the process of their formation (I wanted more of a team, but it didn't happen that well), but at the end I was so happy to see them integrated in youth groups and in parish ministries. It was good to see the sacrament continue in their lives.
After the Mass for the Gay and Lesbian Retreat at Maggie Valley, I was invited again to give a day of Recollection for the Gays and Lesbians of Asheville. Again, it was a very moving experience.
As I told you last month I am writing a small book (booklet?). I am one of 4 people. We meet at our Jesuit parish in Charlotte once a month. Each one of us is adapting the Spiritual Exercises to real needs of the people according to our own experiences and talents. One woman is a hospital chaplain and she is writing on finding God in the "Experience of Loss", based on 3 stories of disabled people; it is a moving book. Another woman is writing on how to adapt the First Week of the Exercises to youth. She has an uncanny way of introducing them into contemplation. A man is writing on how Gays and Lesbians can find God in their lives... and in their Church.
I am a catechist. So I am writing one for parents, grandparents and older brothers and sisters so that they can share their faith and spirituality with the child in their family. It is csompletely based on the Spiritual Exercises and has fun (and profound at the same time) activities for each month. It is a very practical guide for the older person and the child to enter into their own spiritual journey, where -surprisingly- they both begin to mentor each other on their way. I will give more details on this next time. Until then, God bless.