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Nearly 1,900 pilgrims attended the annual "Encuentro Latino 2006" at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. The Marians are expecting an even larger crowd this year.

Marians Announce Plans for Encuentro Latino

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More than 3,000 people are expected at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy Saturday, Aug. 18, as the Marians of the Immaculate Conception host the third annual Encuentro Latino, or "Spanish Encounter."

The family-centered, religious celebration will include Holy Mass, a procession, confessions, music and food. The day will culminate with Holy Mass at the outdoor altar featuring main celebrant Archbishop Rosendo Huesca Pacheco from the Archdiocese of Puebla, Mexico.

"We welcome our Latino brothers and sisters to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy," says Shrine Rector, Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC. "In addition, it is an honor to have His Excellency, Archbishop Huesca, presiding at this special event. We are looking forward to a wonderful family day celebrating the rich culture and heritage of our Hispanic community."

He added, "Venga a celebrar con nosotros!" Translation: "Come and celebrate with us!"

In his homily at last year's Encuentro Latino, Archbishop Huesca described Divine Mercy as "an encounter with Christ. That is the essential part of Divine Mercy. It brings us into direct contact with Christ in a profound, life-changing way."

He also spoke of the importance of the saints in our lives, focusing on St. Faustina, the Polish nun who brought the message of The Divine Mercy to the world. "Saints are models of how to live. They are living instruments of God to move the world," he said.

Why do Latinos feel drawn to attend the special day? They come to experience God's mercy as a presence in their lives.

"This is the third time we have been to the shrine," said Julia Schlotzhauer, of Budd Lake, N.J., who attended last year's event with her husband, Robert. "We come back, and each time we gain a greater appreciation of God's presence. That's the simplest way I can explain it."

For others, the trip to the National Shrine last year provided an opportunity to give thanks and offer testimony.

"This is my first time here and I feel at home, like I'm praying with my family with all these good people," said Lucy Alfaro, of Warren, N.J. "This has been a dream of mine to come to the Shrine. My son was cured of a serious illness because of my devotion to Divine Mercy. I prayed the Chaplet. I prayed to Mary. So I have come here to say 'Thank you' to God for everything He has done for me."

The Marians need not study U.S. Census statistics to understand the important role Latinos increasingly play in the Church. They see it with their own eyes.

"Every weekend, every day, we have Latino pilgrims come to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy," says Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians' director of development and evangelization. "This is their home, too. They have a great devotion to Divine Mercy. They have a great love for Our Lady. And they have a special way of celebrating, which, in part, enriches the Marians as a community."

According to U.S. Census statistics, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population is Latino and 73 percent of Hispanics are Catholic. Indeed, Latinos now account for 39 percent of all U.S. Catholics, and the Latino population is only expected to grow.

"It is amazing to contemplate that the growth of the Church has been fueled in large part by Latinos," says Oscar Delgado, of Chicago, Ill., a longtime friend of the Marians who will attend this year's event.

For more information or to register your bus, please call: 800-462-7426, Ext. 3.

The schedule of events is:

- 9 a.m. — Gift Shop and Candle Shrine open

- 10 a.m. — Bus coordinators check-in

- 11 a.m. — Food tent opens

- 12 p.m.-3p.m. — Confessions, praise and worship, spiritual presentations, and children's activities

- 3 p.m. — Procession

- 3:30 p.m. — Chaplet of the Divine Mercy

- 4 p.m. — Vigil Mass, Principal Celebrant: Archbishop Rosendo Huesca Pacheco (This Mass satisfies the obligations of the Sunday Mass).

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