18 AEC Participants, members of 8 different AEC diocesan Biblical Animation of all Pastoral Life (ABP) teams, including 6 priests in charge of ABP programmes and heads of other Diocesan Commission completed an intensive 2 –week training programmes for Multiplying Agents of ABP sponsored by CELAM and AEC in Panama 6-17 October,
The AEC participants comprised by far the largest number of representatives of individual Episcopal Conferences of Latin American and the Caribbean (CELAM) and nearly half of the total 38 participants from across the continent. The programme is designed to provide dedicated missionary disciples of Jesus the Word of God made flesh with a deepening encounter with Christ, in prayer and study, fuller understanding of the priority placed by the Catholic Church in knowledge of, prayer and life with the Bible, deeper communion in Lectio Divina and the Eucharist and strong motivation to contribute to the New Evangelization in the Region.
The strong AEC presence at the meeting reflected firm diocesan commitment to implementing AEC’s single major pastoral priority for 2013-2015 which is “the New Evangelization with specific emphasis on deepening the appreciation and understanding of the Word of God, and the profession and expression of faith of the whole People of God.”
The largest groups from the AEC came from the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, led by Fr. Robert Christo, ABP delegate and Vicar for Evangelization, accompanied by team members Fr. Gabriel Julien and Valerie Bethel; Belize, led by ABP delegate Luciano Cuellar accompanied by Sr. Maggie Cooper, diocesan coordinator for Evangelization and Novencia Diego a Garifuna speaking Special Education Teacher and Lay minister; Jamaica represented by the ABP delegate for Mandeville, Carleen Cato, and two members of the Archdiocese of Kingston ABP team Susan White and Tenicea Hewitt, who at 22 was the youngest participant at the Encounter.
The Willemstad team was led by Aruba priest Fr. Juancho Pilongo and catechist Xzmyra Croes as well as one of the translators of the Papiamento Bible Gwenny Emers of Curacao. Dominica was represented by ABP Delegates and Pastoral Centre coordinators Msgr. William John-Lewis and Sr. Lorraine Royer. St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Vincent were represented by ABP delegates Fr. Gerry Bernier, June Ann Pinkerton and Ancel Knights respectively, while the AEC was represented by incoming General Secretary Fr. John Persaud.
Host Panama was represented by 7 participants, Mexico by 4 including a priest and a lay couple all key members of an major network of more than 200 bible training centres in the Arcdiocese of Monterrey, 4 Colombians and 2 APP delegates from Paraguay, while the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Uruguay were represented by Priest coordinators of diocesan ABP teams.
The presenters during the 2 weeks included Bible Historian and Associate General Secretary of Celam Fr. Leonidas Ortiz; the General Secretary of the Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR) Fr. Gabriel Naranjo, Mrs. Maria Cristina Ariztia, head of the Chilean Bishops ABP Commission; and Director of CELAM Biblical Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean CEBIPAL and biblical scholar, Fr. Guillermo Acero. Participants agree they received a thorough and motivating vision of ABP.
The AEC group developed and presented the following 5 “Convictions” for ABP work in dioceses
- The Role of the Bishop / clergy. He has to take charge of the process
- Training and Formation of leaders, clergy and lay, who are convinced themselves of the power of ABP
- Making the Bible (in all its forms, electronic and otherwise) available to all
- Review all pastoral life activities to promote a dimension of the Word of God in them
- Contextualize—know the socio-ecclesial context in which we work
Spanish-speaking group’s 5 Convictions were:
- The Word has strength(Is 55:10-11) and we must be nourished by it
- Be promoters (missionaries) of the Word
- Permanent formation
- Commitment, availability, perseverance
- Be witness through a life that is coherent with the Word of God
During the second week of the encounter participants prepared and presented concise, focused plans for promoting the Encounter with Christ and love of the Word though the Bible in their dioceses.
Each day’s activities began with the Enthronement of the Bible and Lectio Divina coordinated by different countries. The evening Eucharist liturgies were multilingual with readings and prayers in Guarani (the national language of Paraguay) Papiamento (Curacao-Aruba) and Garifuna (Belize), Spanish and English. A Papiamento hymn “Danki Señor” also sung in English “Thank you Lord” and Spanish “Gracias Señor” was by popular acclaim designated the theme hymn of the Encounter.
AEC General Secretary Deacon Mike James provided volunteer interpretation along with a Panamanian Professional interpreter, utilizing new portable equipment that Celam had requested AEC to purchase on its behalf so that it can also in future better serve its multi lingual constituency of Spanish, Portuguese, French-Creole and English speakers. The US Bishops Conference contributed US$10,000 to the costs of AEC participants’ participation in the Encounter