At recent gatherings of Sisters of Mercy, our conversations got me thinking about the dynamic nature of charism that calls us to form and reform our response to a vulnerable world. For our Mercy charism, this reshaping comes in a unified call from our Sisters of Mercy Community, from the Church, and from the world.
I hear the Sisters of Mercy in their 2023 Chapter statement and the Church through Pope Francis and the Synod on Synodality calling us to encuentro, truly listening to others. I touched on this in the September Charism Corner. It is a very important call in our world of war, racial tensions, migration, sexual orientation questions and individualism. How are we going to move beyond these tensions? How do we recognize Jesus’ call to “Love one another as I have loved you” and Catherine’s adage, “If the love of God really reigns in your heart, it will show itself in the exterior”?
I believe the concept of encuentro is an attitude/value that will help us move closer to Jesus’ and Catherine’s vision. Encuentro in Spanish expresses a much deeper understanding than its English counterpart, encounter. We encounter the other in very brief and nonsignificant ways. Even our greeting when we encounter another—“how are you?”—lacks a desire to truly know how the other is.
Encuentro involves an openness to the other of mystery and relationship. There is a commitment to understand each other and what we can do with or for each other. Encuentro leads the way to friendship, or at least to understanding. Jesus chose to call his disciples “friends” because he knew it is through a deep relationship that he would be able to share all that he had learned from his Abba, readying them to continue his mission on Earth. It was only in community and friendship that his followers could feel empowered to forward Jesus’ mission. It was only in encuentro that this relationship developed. And when we read the Gospel, we see how messy this was, even for Jesus.
We are all called to heal the divisions within our family, school, community, nation and world. Encuentro is the basis of that healing. It is in getting to truly know the other that we become friends and community. In building a culture of encuentro we denounce exclusion and isolation. Encuentro is a challenge for us that engages charism, a gift given for the good of others.
This is the sixth installment in the “Charism Corner” series written by Sister Regina Ward, RSM, Associate Director for Mission for Mercy Education. Catch up on all the columns here.