By FATHER ‘RICK LABRECQUE
The last week of September brought unique gatherings to the two churches of western Horry County in the northeast corner of the diocese.
Parish Encuentros were held at Resurrection Church in Loris on Sept. 24 and at the Church of St. James in Conway on Sept. 30.
“Encuentro” is a Spanish word that encompasses the actions of meeting, connecting, getting acquainted, understanding and appreciating. “Encuentro 2000” was the national gathering of American Catholics for the jubilee year 2000 sponsored by the U.S. bishops. Almost 70 participants from the Diocese of Charleston went with Bishop Robert J. Baker to Los Angeles July 6-10, where they joined close to 6,000 fellow Catholics from more than 40 diverse racial, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.
Among them were Father ‘Rick LaBrecque and seven parishioners of the Loris and Conway churches.
“Many Faces in God’s House,” the theme of Encuentro, set the stage for a celebration of the multiculturally rich diversity which is the church today. The challenge was to bring the spirit and reality back to the diocese and parishes.
The Loris-Conway team, joined by pastoral associate Joan Cato and the English- and Spanish-speaking choirs of both parishes, planned local gatherings that will give a taste of what was shared in Los Angeles and will encourage personal contact among parishioners of all ages, races, languages and ethnic backgrounds. Both parishes embrace southern and northern Catholics of European, African, African-American and Asian backgrounds, as well as large Spanish-speaking populations. About 70 people participated in each gathering, and they represented a cross section of the communities.
Led by combined choirs, the participants joined in bilingual songs such as “Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo — We are the Body of Christ” and “Come to the Banquet — Ven al Baquete.” The latter was realized literally with a pot luck meal to which people brought special dishes reflecting their own heritage.
Team members gave presentations on the Encuentro experience and what it can offer communities. Everything was done bilingually, including overheads prepared by Gloria Kinney of Loris. In diverse groups of five to seven, participants discussed getting acquainted and understanding. Gladys LaPietra, Ignacio Ramos, Oswaldo Torres, Wilma Lucas and other bilingual parishioners provided translation as needed in their respective groups.
A simple prayer service with song and an opportunity for individual expressions of prayer ended the gatherings.
The reports from the gathering confirmed a positive experience. There was a unanimous call for more of these events, which are in the planning stages.
Both communities will enhance their traditional bilingual Thanksgiving Masses, and an International Heritage Fair is being planned for January, and small communities are being developed.
See next week’s issue for this article in Spanish.