The Aparecida bishops list seven positive efforts in Latin American ministry. We’ll take these in two posts–spreading out the discussion a bit.
99. Pastoral efforts aimed at the encounter with the living Jesus Christ have produced and are still producing fruits.
The standard of fruitfulness is not popularity as such, but notice: the encounter with Christ. First up, the Word of God:
a) Due to the biblical inspiration of pastoral work, knowledge of God’s Word and love for it is growing. Thanks to assimilation of the Church’s magisterium and better training of generous catechists, the renewal of catechesis has produced fruitful results throughout the continent, and has even reached countries in North America, Europe, and Asia, where many Latin Americans and Caribbean have emigrated.
This is also true in the First World. But the training of catechists to go where no priests are assigned is part of the needful ministry vector in many parts of the Americas. I suspect the effort is less-directed in the US and Canada than it is in some Latin American countries, but not without examples.
Number two, liturgy:
b) The liturgical renewal emphasized the celebratory and festive dimension of the Christian faith centered on the paschal mystery of Christ the Savior, and the Eucharist in particular. Manifestations of popular religiosity are growing, especially eucharistic piety and Marian devotion. Some efforts have been made to inculturate the liturgy within indigenous and Afro-American peoples. The risks of reducing the Church to a political actor have been gradually overcome, with better discernment of the seductive influence of ideologies. Responsibility and vigilance over the truths of the faith have been enhanced, gaining in depth and serenity of communion.
This is a good summation of conciliar thinking: Paschal Mystery and the Eucharist. If popular piety is waxing in Latin America, it might have been on the wane in the North. My sense is that people in their heads rather than their hearts are the ones who dismiss or minimize religious devotions. You readers, what do you make of the comments on politics and ideology?
Clergy get a thumbs up from the people:
c) Our people have held priests in high esteem. They recognize the holiness of many of them, as well as the testimony of their life, their missionary work and pastoral creativity, particularly of those who are in remote places or more difficult settings.
This is true in the US, too. Even after the outing of abuse cover-up. People will trust and revere a priest from the get-go. It is generally when a community has been badly offended by a cleric or when the priest’s behavior is particularly troublesome do we see an erosion of regard.
Many of our Churches have priestly ministry and concrete experiences of shared life and a just remuneration of the clergy. The permanent deaconate has been developed in some churches, along with ministries entrusted to lay people and other pastoral services, such as delegates of the word, lay parish leaders and of small communities, including church base communities, ecclesial movements, and a large number of specific pastoral ministries.
These developments may be troublesome to those more focused on hierarchy. That’s a problem across the hemisphere.
A major effort is being made toward improving the formation in our seminaries, in houses of formation for religious life, and in schools for the permanent deaconate. The witness of religious life, its contribution to pastoral activities, and its presence in situations of poverty, risk, and on the border is significant. The increase of vocations to the male and female contemplative life is encouraging.
I hope the relationship with religious has been less contentious for the Aparecida bishops. That has been a major and needless distraction north of the Rio Grande. Cultivating a mutual regard and better teamwork will do nothing but support the effort of vocation and ministry.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.