Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Evangelization, arts, performance, and history combine for Tri-Cities Encounter weekend

the Inland Register

(From the April 18, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Dan Barnett, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Pasco, served as master of ceremonies for the Tri-Cities Encounter. He is shown introducing the Columbia Regional Symphony’s performance on Sunday, March 17. (IR photo by Rich Breshears)

What started as a conversation between colleagues over dinner about how to advance the New Evangelization in the Year of Faith blossomed into a major community cultural event for thousands of people. “Tri-Cities Encounter 2013: A Place for Us” was held March 15-17 in the Tri-Cities, Wash., organized by St. Patrick Parish in Pasco in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus, New York Encounter, World Youth Alliance and a broad range of civic and arts organizations and performers from throughout the United States.

Over 5,000 people participated over the course of the weekend.

The keynote speaker was Msgr. Eduardo Chavez. Postulator of St. Juan Diego’s cause for canonization and Director of the Higher Institute for Guadalupan Studies in Mexico City, he is the world’s foremost expert on the Guadalupe apparitions. During his keynote address, titled “Unity is a Person: Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he explained how Our Lady of Guadalupe is “a symbol of hope, love and unity for everyone in the world, rising above ethnic and national partisanship.”

When the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on the tilma, or cloak, of St. Juan Diego in 1531, it had an immediate effect on the entire society. It is important that she appears as a mestiza (mixed-race) Aztec princess. She said to St. Juan Diego, “I am honored to be your compassionate mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land….”

Msgr. Chavez points out that the nations did not exist yet, and what unites us is deeper than the political divisions which divide us. We are all members of “this land.”

Tri-Cities Encounter began on Friday evening with the “Stations of the Cross through the Eyes of Mary,” music, and adoration geared for both English- and Spanish-speaking youth. On Saturday and Sunday, participants experienced a broad array of guided exhibits about the World Youth Alliance, the Cristero uprising in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Faces of Grief, along with live performances by local, regional, and nationally-known cultural groups. Performers included Celtic Spring (finalists on America’s Got Talent), the Mid-Columbia Symphony,  Mastersingers, Ballet, and Musical Theatre, a mariachi band, folkloric dancers, Children’s Theatre, and many more.

Blessed John Paul II wrote that the fundamental vocation and mission of a parish is to be a ‘place’ in the world for the community of believers to gather together as a sign and instrument of the vocation of all to communion. “In the face of many tensions both within the Church and in society, we are called to generate a civilization of love,” said Father Daniel Barnett, pastor of St. Patrick Parish. “Our parish felt called to ‘put out into the deep’ in this Year of Faith and make a proposal to the world in which we live: that the object of our striving is neither an object nor a theory, but a Person.”

Nina Powers, musical director for St. Patrick Parish and first violinist with the Mid-Columbia Symphony, was the event’s coordinator and especially instrumental in coordinating the many performing arts groups that participated.

Powers knew immediately that bringing people together could be achieved through a faith-based event that also drew from the visual, performing and literary arts. “Nearly everyone we approached reiterated, ‘We love it! We’re in!’ We were amazed at the response we received,” she said.

“Tri-Cities Encounter 2013: A Place for Us” was an invitation to suspend the disbelief which surrounds us and experience true freedom precisely within the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of the modern world, and to do so as a very diverse--but united – family,” Powers said.

Many of those who volunteered to help with this event are either not actively practicing the faith, from other religions, or who do not belong to any Church. The experience of the Encounter was surprising to many. “Several people said to me, ‘I can’t believe the Catholic Church is sponsoring this! Amazing!’” said Powers. Listening to the keynote address, one of the stage managers remarked with amazement, “This is not the church I left!” Powers said.

The Encounter concluded on St. Patrick’s Day with a three-hour celebration of song and dance from all over the world. It was a place for us – for all of us.

Walking through the lobby thronged with people from different races, languages, ages, and cultures, Msgr. Chavez exclaimed, “This is it! The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is alive right here! This is the Church – a living tilma – and it’s beautiful!”

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