WASHINGTON (February 17, 1998) -- Representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and United States Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC) met recently with representatives of the Latin American Bishops' Council (CELAM) to discuss catechesis in America.
"One Faith, One Church, One America" was the theme of the meeting, which took place in Dallas, February 5-8.
For the past three years, the Committee on the Church in Latin America and other NCCB/USCC committees have met with their respective counterparts of CELAM, which represents 18 Latin American countries. These gatherings discussed common issues and concerns with respect to such matters as evangelization and migration.
However, the Dallas meeting is believed to have been the first intercontinental gathering between the Church in the North and the South since the recently completed Synod for America, held at the Vatican late last year.
The United States Catholic Conference Committee on Education joined with the Committee on Hispanic Affairs and the Department of Catechesis of CELAM in conducting the meeting. Some 40 participants, including bishops and staff, termed the gathering enriching and productive.
Bishops who participated in the Encuentro Catequetico described it in a joint letter to Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, President of NCCB/USCC, and Bishop Oscar Andres Rodriguez, President of Celam.
"We request that you communicate to the Holy Father our successful experience and our commitment to continue our efforts to build one Church in one America," they wrote.
"At this particular gathering, we discussed trends in catechesis in the United States and Latin America," the bishops said. "We shared experiences and resources in the area of catechesis and identified common areas for potential collaboration, in light of the New Evangelization and the Great Jubilee in the year 2000."
Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, Chairman of the NCCB Committee on Hispanic Affairs, and Bishop Ramon de la Rosa, president of the Department of Catechesis of CELAM, began the meeting by sharing with participants the vision of "one Church in one America" called for at the Synod for America, and by affirming the call to reflect on Catholic unity in this hemisphere. This sentiment was echoed by participants who recommended that future meetings include the participation of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to make them truly hemispheric.
The participants addressed the importance of recognizing that the unity of the Church takes place within a diversity of cultures and the lived situations of the faithful throughout the continent. At the same time, catechetical principles and guidelines were identified, such as a catechesis that is grounded in Scripture, is doctrinally sound, and is based on the lives of the faithful in their Christian call to discipleship in society.
"There was much enthusiasm and interest to continue the dialogue and to find ways to collaborate in a hemispheric catechesis that promotes conversion, community, and solidarity in America," the bishops said. "Our Encuentro Catequetico echoed many issues discussed at the Synod for America, such as the concern for the inculturation of the Gospel and the need for a catechesis that provides relevant answers to people's lives in today's world."
"We pray that the Holy Spirit will nurture our hope in bringing together, in Jesus Christ, all the peoples of America," the bishops stated. "For this we trust in the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Star of the New Evangelization and the Empress of our continent."
In addition to Bishop Barnes, the letter was signed by Bishop Placido Rodriguez, Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, Bishop Bernard J. Harrington, and, from CELAM, Bishop Ramon de la Rosa y Carpio and Bishop Vital J. Wilderink.
A formal report on the meeting will be prepared in the next two months.