Encuentro: Encountering Border Realities
The Encuentro program is one of the hallmarks of the seminary’s curriculum: a signature anchor of its inclusive commitment to Latinx realities in which all M.Div. students participate. The annual, immersive three-week intensive course facilitates an encounter with the realities of the US-Mexican border, and provides familiarity with diverse Latino/Hispanic models of parish ministry.
Each January, Encuentro provides students with a unique opportunity to engage the complexity of the U.S.-Mexico border as a political, geographic, and religious space. Students visit some of the institutions that migrants encounter and negotiate: detention centers, safe houses, service organizations, border patrol, churches, and the impoverished “colonias” that line the Rio Grande. They are challenged to confront the difficulty, violence, and richness of life on the borderlands. In the second half of the course students spend time with various parishes engaged in Latino ministry throughout the state.
Encuentro creates a common experience of immersion and is one the foundational experiences that our seminary students share with one another. Daily required readings and evening reflections provide a context to understand, frame, and begin to interpret all that students experience. A full syllabus is distributed in the fall prior, to allow students time to begin to read and prepare.
“I was reminded that at the border we tap into the collective consciousness that ages of cultural oppression have concealed. By inhabiting the borderlands – even temporarily – I enter into communion with those who have been oppressed and who have suffered in silence in this space. … Our journey to Laredo was a call to be in solidarity with the inhabitants of the borderlands – with those who are considered aliens, criminals, rapists, transgressors, and unwanted. It was a beautiful moment to uphold the dignity and humanity of those who have been belittled and demeaned.”
~ Mdiv Middler, Santi Rodriguez