Photo: Dan Valenti
Father Diego Maximino, MIC, presents his homily.
For Hispanic Pilgrims, an 'Encounter' with Jesus, Mary
Priests hear confessions near the St. Francis Grotto on Eden Hill.
An Oblate sister, whose Congregation has a convent on Eden Hill, and one half of Duo Preludio leads the children in songs and games.
These members of the Catholic League of Mary made the pilgrimage to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy from Flushing, Queens.
By Dan Valenti (Aug 20, 2011)
The kids enjoy the games. The hungry enjoy the Tex-Mex. But the reason nearly 5,000 pilgrims come to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., each August for Encuentro Latino is to encounter God. Maria Sanchez, a pilgrim visiting from New Jersey, put it best: "We come to find our way in Jesus and Mary."
On a brilliant day with comfortable humidity and nothing but blue sky, Latinos from the Northeast gathered in a day of praise, worship, confession, and Eucharistic celebration, led by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception for the seventh consecutive year.
From Humble Beginnings ...
The Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Marian Fathers in the United States and Argentina, remembers the early beginnings of the festival, when Archbishop Rosario Huesca Paceco from Puebla, Mexico launched the idea in collaboration with the Marians.
"The idea," Fr. Kaz said, was to plant the seed of the Divine Mercy message more deeply within the Hispanic community. "I'm sure the conception of this day was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the way we have seen this gathering grow each year. It has become a gathering of the faithful, and you can see the Holy Spirit at work here, with so many people accepting God's mercy and extending it to become His instruments of grace."
Father Diego Maximino, MIC, presided at the 1:30 p.m. Mass and served as homilist. Father Diego, whose love of God and devotion to Divine Mercy cross over into the joyously charismatic, joined with pilgrims in a mutual commitment of acceptance.
"We must accept Jesus' invitation to friendship," Fr. Diego said, "and commit ourselves to His loving care. Only then can we be beacons of faith, hope, and charity to a world thirsting for love."
'God, our Father, is Full of Mercy for Us'
Father Diego quoted from Pope Benedict XVI's teachings on God's mercy and the Holy Father's recommendation that we encounter God not as an angry Creator bent only on rigid justice but as the kind and gentle Father who is always ready to receive us, His children, with pure love that goes beyond our understanding. God, Fr. Diego said, "is our Father, and our Father is full of mercy for us."
Preaching to a crowded south lawn on Eden Hill from the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, Fr. Diego stressed the importance of mercy for families. Moment by moment, day by day, Fr. Diego said, God presents us with opportunities to incorporate Divine Mercy into our lives and family life. He said we should ask Jesus for the grace to grow in perfection, ever thankful to God, so that we may be prepared when our temporary earthly visit ends.
Among the pilgrims were the Catholic Daughters of Mary, a national organization. Five women from Flushing, Queens, in New York, Our Lady of Charity Court, represented the group. Nilda Tirado said her organization is 107 years old and takes as its patron Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Noting the Marian Fathers' devotion to the Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception and to the message of Divine Mercy, Nilda and her friends laughed in agreement when this writer said, "I guess you've come to the right place."
Nilda said they were making their third visit to Eden Hill for Encuentro Latino. Nilda said "part of the attraction is the message of The Divine Mercy, and having that here [at the National Shrine] is a true blessing." She said the group also came to pray for the intentions entrusted to them: "We have many people who need healing." She said it's also nice to be able to pray and attend Mass in their native language, Spanish.
Divine Mercy is Growing in Puerto Rico
Alberto Rosario, a Divine Mercy promoter from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, was attending his fifth Encuentro Latino. Alberto served as emcee for the day's events.
"Coming here gives me the opportunity to grow in my understanding of God's mercy," Alberto said on a break between emcee duties. "The more I can learn about Divine Mercy, the more effective I will be in spreading the message, which right now is growing in Puerto Rico. Personally, I have experienced many graces — for myself and my family — both in a human context [for example, a new job for his son at the University of Bridgeport, Conn., that tripled his salary] and in a spiritual dimension. We all need to know how much God loves us. If the world can learn that, it can transform everything."
Alberto began the day at 9:30 a.m., when he formally welcomed arriving pilgrims to Eden Hill from the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. Following his welcome, pilgrims heard music by Fuego Santo and testimonies on mercy from Edwing Rodriguez and Norma Vega from Puerto Rico. Duo Preludio, a song and dance team, performed a children's show culminated by the always-popular breaking of the piñata.
At 12:30 p.m. a Rosary procession brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima through the Eden Hill grounds, arriving at the outdoor shrine for the 1:30 p.m. Mass. Following Mass, pilgrims prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Confessions, Adoration, and blessing of religious articles continued throughout the day.