Family — the domestic church — is the cell of society where building communion among its members is experienced. However, due to our human condition, there are times when families are faced with challenges that affect their lives and those around them. This fact has concerned the church which has worked diligently on this matter.
St. John Paul II, in his apostolic letter “Familiaris Consortio,” reminds us that “the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God.”
Following his steps, Pope Francis issued a letter to families in February of 2014 where he so beautifully expressed, “In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support. … Nevertheless, if there is no love, then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”
This same year, Pope Francis called for the third extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops titled, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” It was divided in three parts: “Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World,” “The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges” and “An
Openness to Life and Parental Responsibility in Upbringing.”
The content provided a clear scope for conversations at the synod, and a follow up will continue at the ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family in October. The theme will be, “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”
In between these two major gatherings, the World Meeting of Families will take place in September in Philadelphia with the participation of Pope Francis.
Keeping in mind the vision of our pope and the priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) — which considers one of its priorities to be strengthening marriage and family life — last April, the Office of Multicultural Ministry’s Hispanic Ministry held a Day of Reflection titled “Called to Be an Evangelizing Family.”
A presentation on “Family and Evangelization: Affirming the Hispanic Presence” planted the seed on this important theme. Afterward, a follow up took place at the archdiocese’s second Hispanic Encuentro, titled “Continuing the Journey to Be an Evangelizing Family.” The encuentro (which means gathering or encounter) included a presentation on “The Domestic Church: Center of Evangelization” and highlighted Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel” in the context of family.
What comes next? At the national level, the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) will convene provincial encuentros in 2015 with the participation of Hispanic leadership from the dioceses in each province. The following points will be priorities:
- To assist in a discernment and planning process for Hispanic family life ministry in the Southeast.
- To obtain a renewed sense of mission and a clear vision on Hispanic family life ministry in the region.
- To provide the dioceses with pastoral resources and strategies to help in the evangelization of Hispanic families.
- To strengthen the Southeast network’s capacity to serve and empower Hispanic families facing their different challenges.
The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry, with great enthusiasm, will host one of the provincial encuentros on May 23. It will welcome leaders from the dioceses of Covington, Ky.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Lexington, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Owensboro, Ky.
It is with great joy and hope that we look forward to this day and continue our journey with the Hispanic community in the context of family life.
Eva Gonzalez is director of Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese.