July 20, 2016
USA, Stockbridge, Mass.: Shrine Celebrates Encuentro Latino
More than 6,000, mostly Latino, pilgrims made their way to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on a steamy August Saturday for Encuentro Latino. This year, a total of 101 buses descended upon Eden Hill, carrying pilgrims from as far away as Florida and Virginia, as well as from closer geographical points such as New York, New Jersey, and Boston, joining the Marian Fathers in this annual celebration of Divine Mercy with a Latino accent.
The day began at 9:30 a.m. as pilgrims gathered to listen to music by Fr. Dante Aguero, MIC, superior of the Marians vicariate in Argentina and pastor of St. Casimir Parish in Rosario Santa Fe, Argentina.
Father Dante travels Latin American and the United States giving missions through his preaching and music ministry. After Fr. Dante sang, dozens of children gathered around to take their turn hitting a piñata, excitedly rushing to grab the candy as it poured out. Throughout the day, pilgrims prayed the Stations of the Cross on the grounds at the Shrine, including a group of 25 teenagers who came up from St. Andrew’s parish in Westwood, New Jersey. Their chaperone said they have been coming up for Encuentro for the last four years.
The Adoration tent was full all morning. Lines for confession were 200 deep and the line of pilgrims waiting to pass through the Holy Door at the Shrine was about 500 deep throughout most of the morning.
At 11:30 a.m., a group of pilgrims was led by about 25 children reciting the Rosary, as a statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried in procession. As the group processed from the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, pilgrims slowly joined the Rosary procession, walking around the entire Shrine property, and swelling to 600-700 people praying the Rosary by the time they processed back to the outdoor Shrine altar.
Father Dante was the main celebrant and preacher of the Mass, which began at 1:30 p.m. On this Feast of the Transfiguration, Fr. Dante told the pilgrims, “If Jesus had to pray, we have to pray. Prayer is not optional.” He spoke about the power of prayer to transfigure us and the fruits of our prayer. He said that prayer is a gift and exhorted the faithful to pray the Chaplet and the Rosary. “While you pray, God works in you,” he told the crowd. “It’s not only what you get from prayer, it’s what God does within you and in your life and the whole world through your prayer.”
Father Dante’s preaching style was joyful and engaging. He asked questions while he preached. And the people responded. At one point, he started singing during his homily and the faithful joined in song with him. “Nobody can fall asleep during my homilies,” he said afterward.
Encuentro Latino is the main event of the summer months up here at the Shrine, said Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, rector of the Shrine. “It’s a very joyful day,” he added, “and it’s very family-oriented.”
Father Anthony said it’s important to spread the Divine Mercy message to all cultures. “We want to reach out to people of all ethnic groups so they can spread the Divine Mercy message — not only to other Latinos in the U.S., but to Latinos in other countries as well.”
Isabel, from Mount Carmel Parish in Astoria, New York, said this is her first visit to Encuentro Latino. She said she came here “to talk to God.” And quickly added, “I came here to pray more and to be with my brothers and sisters.”
Roberto, from St. Paul Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said this is his second visit to the Shrine during Encuentro Latino. He came back in 2010 and this year he brought his wife and his sister-in-law. He said they came to attend Mass and pray the Rosary and the Chaplet and to have a good day with family and friends from the parish.
Ana, from St. Philip Neri Parish, in Bronx, New York, said that she is at peace when she is here at the Shrine. She has been coming to Encuentro for four years because she has a great devotion to Divine Mercy.