On Saturday, August 26, 2023, at St. George’s College in Santiago, the Holy Cross community in Chile held the 15th annual Lay Missionaries Encounter. Over 180 people attended the five-hour gathering, which brings together the Holy Cross religious and their lay collaborators from all the Congregation’s apostolates in the country.
Those in attendance ranged from young students from the Congregation’s schools and youth ministries to senior citizens participating in pastoral programs at its parishes, and everyone else in between.
Pickup from last year’s theme “Walking as a Family of Families”(Caminando como una Familia de Familias), this year’s gathering took as its theme and focus: “The Holy Family: A Family for and with us” (La Sagrada Familia: Una Familia para con nosotros).
Fr. Roberto Gilbo, C.S.C., Pastor of Nuestra Señora de la Merced Parish in Calle Larga, gave the keynote address, which explored the Blessed Basile Moreau’s selection of the HolyFamily as one of the principal images for the Holy Cross family. He emphasized that for the Congregation’s founder, the Holy Family was not simply an object of devotion, but rather a daily companion and guide in the life and work of any family or community.
Then, drawing from passages about the Holy Family in the Gospels, three presenters shared testimonies of modern-day families showing how their experiences find an echo and thus a source of strength and inspiration in the experiences of the Holy Family. All three presenters come from the Congregation’s apostolates in Chile: Mrs. Maritza Rivera, Director of Fundamor (a ministry that works with vulnerable kids and at-risk families), Mrs. Ana María Picicona, Director of Nuestra Señora de Andacollo School, and Deacon Ángel Lázaro de la Cruz, C.S.C., who serves at Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Andacollo Parish.
Following their presentations, the participants met in “families” or groups to discuss how the testimonies and the stories of the Holy Family connected with the experiences of their own families or the families that they accompany in their ministries. There was a wider conversation about how the Congregation might better walk with and accompany families in similar situations in its apostolates.
The day ended with a celebratory Mass commemorating the 80 years of Holy Cross in Chileas the first Holy Cross religious arrived to the country from the United States on March 1, 1943. Fr. José Ahumada, C.S.C., Superior of the District of Chile-Perú, presided at the Mass, and Fr. Rodrigo Valenzuela, C.S.C., Steward of the District of Chile-Perú and Director of Mission Engagement at St. George’s College, preached.
The day ended with a simple, yet festive lunch at the school, in which all expressed their gratitude for an engaging and moving day to learn more about the Congregation’sspirituality and tradition and experience its family spirit.