Encuentro Latino is an Encounter with Christ

A crowd of about 5,000 pilgrims journeyed to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on a perfect August day for the Marian Fathers' eighth annual Encuentro Latino celebration on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass. They come for an encounter with Christ.

View a photo gallery from the day.

Jessi Tunas of Somers, N.Y., came to the Shrine in April on Divine Mercy Sunday to "pray for a miracle" for her son, Eric. Jessi did not specify the nature of her prayer for Eric, who accompanied his mother to Encuentro, but she said with a beaming face that "God in His mercy heard my prayer, and I come back to give Him thanks. I promised I would do that."

Jessi said, "Before I came to Divine Mercy, I was looking for something. I felt empty inside. Now, I am praying every day. I feel more alive. I have peace of mind."

God's Mercy 'is Amazing.'
Ketty Flores said she came to Eden Hill on a bus with her Divine Mercy prayer group from St. Mary's Church in Plainfield, N.J. Ketty said that for her, Divine Mercy is about prayer, trusting in God, and helping the Holy Souls in purgatory.

"When I read St. Faustina's Diary and read about how merciful God is to us, it is amazing," Ketty said. "[Even] when somebody dies, Jesus says we can pray the Chaplet [of The Divine Mercy] to help souls repent and get into heaven. That's why it is important to share this message with others."

Ketty, who heads the Divine Mercy prayer group at her church, said that initially, the pastor was reluctant to embrace the message and devotion. The group kept praying, however, and one day, the pastor told the group they could install an image of The Divine Mercy. He then gave them a small room, so they could prepare a small chapel devoted to The Divine Mercy.

"I feel the hand of God at work in all of this," she said.

'I Feel Happy, Happy, Happy'
For Karol Dimas, originally of El Salvador and now living in Schenectady, N.Y., Encuentro Latino is about encountering the merciful Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in the Eucharist.

"When I confess my sins, it is amazing that God forgives me," Karol said. "I feel liberated, like He has set me free. I feel grace filled and happy, happy, happy! I want to share this with others, definitely, because God is for everyone. I want to share my testimony."

An 'Encounter with the Lord of Mercy'
These pilgrims bear out a key point made by celebrant Fr. Diego Maximino, MIC, who said in his homily at Holy Mass that "faith brings us here, our faith in the Lord. In Him, we encounter consolation, peace, and forgiveness. This encounter with the Lord of mercy gives us new grace in growing stronger in faith, to proceed as if we are holding a torch, as in the Olympics. This torch of faith gives us new life, new life in the blood and water of our Lord."

Father Diego referred to the Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict, to run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. It is, he said, "a call to proclaim our faith with trust and hope." We do this, he said, the way Jesus instructed St. Faustina and the way shown to us by the Holy Father, "though our words, our deeds, and our prayers. Our faith is bigger than ourselves. We need to proclaim to others."

We Must Have Courage, Especially in Times of Trial
Father Diego said "St. Faustina gives us the courage to believe, even in the midst of trials, in darkness, and in difficulty - to believe because we trust in God. It is He in whom we have put our trust. Trust, trust, trust," he said. "With this heart of trust, faith is made easier." Saint Faustina also helps us "because she takes us by the hand on our journey of faith."

Father Diego encouraged the people "to pray to Mary. Pray to the Mother of God to help us trust in her Son and to proclaim our faith to those who are in crisis, to those who have fallen away from the Church, to everyone. Our Lady Mother of Mercy, pray for us. St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, pray for us."

View a video of his full homily:

After Mass, pilgrims prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, followed by Benediction and the blessing of religious objects. Confessions were heard most of the day, and prior to Mass, there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a Rosary and procession to the altar.

The Mass was celebrated at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. The day included music by Luz Divina and Sebastian Amaro, testimonies by Fr. Alfredo Nicola and John Nahrang, and entertainment for the children by Duo Preludio.

What's the most important spiritual gift of Encuentro Latino? Father Dante shares:

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