V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14)
At the end of the old movie Tora, Tora, Tora, Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto of the Japanese Navy is informed of the success of his surprise attack on the United States Navy in the port of Pearl Harbor. In that same scene he tells his officers, “I am afraid we have awakened a giant.” After experiencing the profound faith of the Hispanic people in the United States, during the V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, recently held in Grapevine, Texas, I would venture to paraphrase that expression as “Thank God we are awakening the giant.”
The youthful Hispanic community is awakening with all its energy, all its enthusiasm, to fight as a joyful and loving army of the church of Christ in the United States. The Hispanic community is a giant that should not be feared, it is a giant who has awakened with a great desire to serve. It is a young giant who has not yet finished growing, and for this reason it continues to discover its potential day after day, surprise after surprise, stumble after stumble, service after service, longing after longing.
Without a doubt, the faith of this affable giant is greater than itself. This giant has been shaped with beautiful and gentle characteristics, taken after Our Lady of Guadalupe. With her tenderness, Mary consolidated Juan Diego’s soul, the youngest of her children. She granted him his new mission; she transformed him into a daring missionary disciple, to create a new race. A race that is tender and at the same time surprisingly courageous.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, this giant is opening its eyes to a new reality, a new responsibility and a new challenge of service in this land. As in Emmaus, this gathering has left the Hispanic giant not only awake but with a burning heart, which drives this giant to be a burning torch for others throughout the United States.
After the V Encuentro, the disciples understood the Scriptures with a new depth. This new depth helped them rediscover that even suffering and death are part of God’s saving plan for his people.
The growing Hispanic community that has awakened knows of its responsibility to avoid a state of somnolence and also knows that it must be a joyful missionary showing that Jesus is alive. The giant knows that the tomb is empty, that death was not able to keep Jesus, and this joy is renewed each time we share the bread in the Eucharist. This giant knows that its strength is in the tireless march as a community. Like the disciples of Emmaus, the Hispanic community now has a deeper understanding of its mission and wants to responsibly face the challenge of preparing new leaders to evangelize the multicultural church in the United States.
The giant that is awakening has the same characteristics of St. Juan Diego. It is young, bicultural, bilingual, gentle, faithful, fearless, grateful, generous; it is humble to acknowledge its shortcomings and astute enough to always find a way to deliver the message entrusted to it.
During the V Encuentro, someone beautifully suggested that we have to follow the example of St. Juan Diego. As a layman, he assumed his mission of being sent to the bishop with a heavenly message, demanding to build a new church where heaven promised to “listen” to its children. Thanks to Juan Diego, the hierarchy was awakened to new way of evangelization of the indigenous people. Our people are now also awakening the episcopacy of the United States to a new way of evangelizing that is less formal and programmatic but more affective and relational.
More than 50 years ago, the universal church opened its windows to the new winds of the Holy Spirit with the Vatican II Council. I believe that here in the United States, during the V Encuentro, the Holy Spirit gave us a tender caress full of joy, love and enthusiasm.
Do not be afraid of this gentle giant whose only desire is to be sent in the name of the whole church of Christ.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2019
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx