True Christian encounter is transformational, mission rally keynoter says

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kateri Mancini
For The Visitor

“What do you think characterizes a Christian encounter with others?”

That was one of the questions asked by keynote speaker Greg Darr at the Diocesan Mission Rally April 17 in Wadena.

Darr, who directs the mission education and promotion efforts of the Midwest division of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, spoke on the theme of “Mission as Encounter.”

“Encounter is a word we hear often these days from Pope Francis,” Darr said. “It is really the basic Christian experience in the day-to-day journey.”
Darr began his presentation by showing the documentary film “Monseñor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero” as an example of a historic church figure who serves as a model of Christian encounter and the way it can change both ourselves and those we encounter.

“Romero won’t be beatified in a few weeks because he came fully formed, but because he was open to being transformed because of his encounters with others,” Darr said.


Greg Darr, midwest regional director of mission education and promotion for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, was the keynote speaker at the Diocesan Mission Rally in Wadena April 17. Photo courtesy of the St. Cloud Mission Office

Attendees at the rally discussed the film and shared thoughts on the encounter theme.

“The poor and disenfranchised are everywhere, not just in El Salvador or even Third World countries,” said Helen Campbell of St. Mary Parish in Mora. “People need someone to reach out to them everywhere.”

Lorie and Jim Baron, parishioners of the rally’s host site, St. Ann in Wadena, also shared an experience of encounter they had last April hosting a delegate from the St. Cloud Diocese’s partner diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya.

“It just made me very humble, and opened our eyes and our hearts,” Lorie Baron said. “If you get the opportunity, let them into your heart.”

The encounters of the day were not only cross-cultural.

“For me what’s so neat is to see all the smiley faces,” said Elizabeth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, which sponsored the day. “You only see some of these people once a year, but it’s good to be together, and you know so much good is going on in between.”

Joy-filled work

The Mission Rally began as an event held every five years for parish mission groups throughout the diocese to come together. More recently, however, it has become an annual event open to other groups and individuals interested in mission.

In addition to Darr’s presentation, the 163 participants also visited displays of fair trade items and samples of work — quilts, rosaries, dishtowels, homemade clothing and more — done by mission groups during the year. More than 10,000 of these items were distributed to 20 different organizations and mission connections last year.

Bishop Donald Kettler, who presided at the day’s liturgy, expressed his gratitude.

“Thank you for being here for this rally and prayer as we celebrate the missionary work of the church, of the diocese and, of course, our own personal missionary call,” he said. “I’m here today to be able to say how important the missionary work of the church is — it’s top priority.”

Citing Pope Francis, Bishop Kettler added, “This work is joy-filled.”

Encountering others, as Christ, leads to joy.

“Often encounters with those different than us end tragically,” Darr said, citing examples from current events. “But Christ offers us another way.”

What does that look like?

Non-judgmental, acceptance, smile, compassion, love, humility, presence, listening, openness. These responses from the group to Darr’s question about Christian encounter describe missionary examples not only like Romero, but also so many in our diocese doing mission work.

It was a joy to have many of them gathered at this year’s rally. For truly, as the last words of the film that opened the day so beautifully stated, “Oh, to be with someone like that, what more could you ask of life?”

Kateri Mancini is coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office.