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Year of Encounter

POWER is strong because it is interfaith—and also because its members continually look to their own faith traditions for fresh insight on the sacred work of social justice.

Inspired by the witness of Pope Francis—and his historic 2015 visit to Philadelphia and other US cities—Catholics in POWER and the PICO National Network developed the “Year of Encounter with Pope Francis” program.  The goal:  Engage the hearts and minds of Catholics in grassroots organizing to transform society—and to come together across racial and economic lines that often divide communities, including faith communities.

To date, 12 parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia—and 150 nation-wide—have participated in the program.


On the Move from Reflection to Action:

To date, POWER has engaged 12 parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the program.  150 others through POWER’s sister-federations in the PICO Network.  Highlights of our first year in the Philadelphia area (spring 2015-spring 2016):

  • Year of Encounter kick-off conference at St Joseph’s University. Keynotes: Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez (Pope Francis’ advisor) & panel of witnesses on racism.   In honor of May Day/ St Joseph the Worker, participants prayed with underpaid airport workers whose rights POWER supports.
  • Parish-based series on 5 forms of “exclusion” Pope Francis calls us to address: Racism, Poverty, Immigration Policies, Criminal Justice practices, Climate Change.
  • Meeting with Cardinal Peter Turkson (Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace) during Pope Francis’ Philadelphia visit (Sept 2015)
  • Monthly multi-parish gatherings to explore bold new ways parishes can be catalysts for change that affirms the dignity of vulnerable people.
NEXT MEETING for YEAR of ENCOUNTER Parishes— Others welcome to join us too!  
Sunday November 13, 2016 from 2 to 5 PM at Our Lady of Hope Church, 5200 N. Broad St, Philadelphia (just south of Einstein Hospital).
We will share updates on parish Action Plans, discuss our future as a coalition of diverse, inspired parishes—and conclude with a celebratory meal together!
Please RSVP to Mary Laver ( by Nov 6, and bring a dish to share.

Parishes Involved in our Year of Encounter Program

Our Lady of Hope/Olney

St Thomas of Villanova and Our Mother of Good Counsel / Bryn Mawr

St Helena’s/Logan

  • Create a Pastoral Formation Hub for Social Change, with focus on Immigration.
  • Integration of diverse communities within the parish around “both feet” of love in action
  • Training in English & Spanish to facilitate deeper “encounter.”
    Information & advocacy regarding legal and other needs of immigrant families, Networking with organizations with needed expertise including New Sanctuary, HIAS & POWER. Roots in this parish: This action strengthens the parish plan to deepen spiritual and social integration of diverse parish community (Filipino, Latino, African- American).

Parish contact: Sr Gertrude Borres, R.A. (

Our Mother of Good Hope & St Thomas of Villanova/ Bryn Mawr & Villanova

Dual-Parish commitment to educate, advocate and provide direct service to alleviate poverty, particularly food insecurity:

  • Advocate through Bread for the World letter-writing,  Catholics Confront Global Poverty website, and speakers.
  • Explore direct service options through CCHD-funded programs.
  • Strengthen relationship with sister parish (St Cyprian) through encounter & collaboration. Roots in this parish:  Builds on strong history of food-related outreach.

Parish contacts:  Anne Murphy/St TV (, Sr Anne Woodeschick/OMGC (

Desire to launch Information & Support for immigrants in the parish.

Listening for immigrants’ needs through Vietnamese & Latino lay leaders

Research on possible collaboration with organizations and persons with    immigration expertise (e.g Archdiocese of Philadelphia, law offices)

This project-idea emerges from the changing demographic of St Helena’s,

which now includes many Vietnamese, Latino and African immigrants.

Parish contact: Michael Campbell  (

St Patricks/Norristown

St Rose of Lima/North Wales

St Vincent de Paul/Germantown

  • Desire to form an Immigration Detention Center Visiting Ministry, especially for those who are isolated and/or alone. Initial project-exploration underway, through consultation w/ PA Immigration Resource Center. Will require coordination with government and private organizations; transportation assistance; volunteers;  training/ spiritual formation (inspired by St Paul and others who have suffered from detention/ imprisonment).
  • This project-vision emerges from the direct experience of many parishioners’ families.   Other Yr of Encounter parishes may be asked to help.

Parish contact (Spanish only): Martha Quintero   (

St. Rose Homeless and Hungry Project

  • The parish is building on its current poverty-related charitable outreach (including with the food cupboard at sister-parish St Helena’s) by introducing several new elements inspired by the “Year of Encounter”:
  • 1- A focus on the needs of “excluded” people in their own region/ Montgomery County
  • 2- an emphasis on direct encounter and relationship-building with those who are suffering
  • 3- a desire to link the “two feet of love in action” (charity and systemic change) through advocacy and action to change structures that cause suffering, including through the work of the interfaith POWER Metro coalition of congregations.

Parish contact: Jane Selner (

  • Renewed parish commitment to do Racial Healing together as a merged family of parishes of African-American and white Catholics in Germantown.  The cata lyst for this was the “Yr of Encounter” program—particularly the Lenten “lis tening session on race & racism”—and a transformative parish retreat.
  • Next- steps are intentionally open-ended for now, to make time for listening.   But two trends are promising:
    • 1-  Planning “unifying” events like occasional “one Mass” times, sacred pew conversations to break open God’s Word, and social events to encourage friendships.
    • 2- Participating in POWER campaigns, where parishioners work together with other faith communities to change systems that unfairly hurt families of color.

Parish contacts: Mary Laver (

Our Lady of Hope Church (5200 N. Broad St, Philadelphia) invites all “Year of Encounter” parishes to participate in their upcoming series on how to be a welcoming, inclusive parish in the spirit of Pope Francis!

Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers
A leadership program developed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, with excellent local presenters!
Tuesday evenings (7-9 pm):  Oct 18 & 25, Nov 15, 22, & 29

For more info & RSVP:  (215)-329-8100
Ask for any of the following parish staff members: Fr Efren Esmilia, Sr Gertrude Borres, Vicky Fontanez, Evelyn Bailey, Patricia Clark

Send in Updates

Parish contacts:  Please send updates and photos to POWER Communication Director Beulah Osueke ( for uploading onto this page.

“I’ve read your site. I want to learn more or join in…”

Please contact POWER for more information: (215-232-7697) Ask for Dr. Mary Laver, Catholic Outreach Coordinator, or contact her directly: , (610)-324-9388