USCCB official Yohan Garcia is featured speaker during December retreat
By Casey Keeley
The Glenmary Home Missioners are a religious Catholic community of priests and brothers who establish Catholic mission parishes across Appalachia and the rural South.
St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Erwin hosted the missioners during its annual Advent retreat on Dec. 2, focusing on the Blessed Sacrament.
The Eucharistic Revival featured talks in English and Spanish and was followed by the sacrament of reconciliation with assistance from priests from surrounding parishes. Mass was celebrated by Father Kenn Wandera, GHM, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel.
Keynote speaker Yohan Garcia immigrated with his family from Mexico in 2003 in search of a better life in the United States. Mr. Garcia is the Catholic social teaching education manager of the Office of Education and Outreach for the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Garcia also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University in Chicago, where he teaches a course on Catholic social ethics and migration.
In his first talk, “This Is My Body,” Mr. Garcia challenged the audience to be vulnerable during the Advent season by humbling themselves and leaving their comfort zones in order to better relate to others within the same community. Mr. Garcia encouraged those in attendance to notice the strangers in their communities they may have ignored and to extend the love of Christ to them in being His hands and feet.
In this talk, Mr. Garcia pointed out that all Catholics play a role as members of one body of Christ, even though there may be apparent barriers that cause division on the surface. As a family within this body, Catholics are encouraged to focus on uniting qualities to bring each other together rather than what divides.
“We are all travelers from birth to death,” Mr. Garcia said. “We travel between eternities.”
In his second subject, “The Eucharist Prepares Us for Mission,” Mr. Garcia shared a tale of a man who claimed that he never committed sins to his priest and therefore did not need the sacrament of confession. The priest went on to ask him why he believed he did not commit any sins, and the man replied that every day he reflects on the Ten Commandments given to Moses to determine if he has broken any.
The priest replied with a challenge: “Did you clothe the naked? Feed the hungry? Pray for the ill?” Mr. Garcia pointed out that the Eucharist reminds us to recognize our place within our community and the human family as members of the body of Christ. Mr. Garcia encouraged reflection on the passage in Matthew 25, where Jesus said these same things.
“In being in the presence of others, we are also present with the Lord,” Mr. Garcia said.
Throughout the weekend retreat, Mr. Garcia challenged the parishioners to a new perspective on what the Eucharist calls Catholics toward in relation to the strangers in their communities.
For further information about the Glenmary Home Missioners and the parishes they serve in the Diocese of Knoxville, please visit glenmary.org.