A Culture of Encounter

Sr. Connie Probst, OSF, Director of Mission, Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Help

The elderly woman was weeping and grieving when I met with her. Her grandson had been shot at close range. Months later she allowed herself to approach the man who held her grandson as he breathed his last. The man shared with her that he did not do much – that he just kept repeating, ‘Go with God’ as he held him. The elderly woman handed him a card and a picture of her grandson. What a sacred encounter!

Pope Francis has continually challenged us to live the joy of the Gospel through a culture of encounter. Jesus teaches us the way. Each person He met was respected, seen and heard, and each one experienced compassion.

Pope Francis's encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” offers a tender challenge to all people of goodwill in a fractured world. Instead of seeing a person from another nation, religion or group as "other," the Holy Father challenges us to see a neighbor, a brother or a sister. He encourages a culture of encounter.

Such encounters should move us to action; to service that always looks at faces, touches flesh, senses closeness and even, in some cases, suffers that closeness and tries to help those in need.

This service may be meeting with immigrants who gave up everything to travel thousands of miles with their children in blistering heat, seeking safety and hope. It may be sharing in the Latino celebration of Las Posadas, re-enacting Jesus’ journey to Bethlehem. We are called to be fearless in the ways in which we look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others. We must step out of ourselves and be ready to encounter our sisters and brothers. Only a culture of encounter can lead to sustainable justice and peace for all, as well as genuine care for our common home.

A culture of encounter unites our love of Christ to our desire for justice. “All Things New” is rooted in an encounter with the Lord and the call to share the Good News that our Church shall be renewed, our mission strengthened, and the future bright for all God’s people and Creation. The Call of “All Things New” is not about buildings. It is about being God’s Beloved Community where each person is welcomed, seen, and heard.

All Things New in an initiative that will evaluate the effectiveness of the Church in St. Louis in proclaiming the Gospel and will identify opportunities for improvement and renewal within all parishes, schools and curia offices and agencies.

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