It is possible that the Nuestra Señora del Encuentro parish passes too unnoticed among the streets of the Bellas Vistas neighborhood, which is now called in some circles "The Little Caribbean", due to the predominant presence of people from the Dominican Republic. It is possible that the temple, recently remodeled, gives the external impression of a box between residential buildings. It is possible that history marks the rhythm of parish life. However, what is hidden, once you have passed through the material and symbolic informative door of this parish, on Calle Pedro Barreda, 22, is one surprise after another.
Let's start with the story. On a plaque under two images, in the area of the entrance overlooking a confessional, which certainly invites one to enter it, reads: «Images of Our Lady of the Crosses and Saint Pantaleon, owners of the parishes of the same name created by Archbishop Morcillo in August 1965.
Today they open the way to that of: Our Lady of the Encounter, fruit of the merger of both, created by Cardinal Suquía on March 26, 1981. And blessed by himself on May 29, 1993».
By the way, it is not the only commemorative plaque in the parish. As soon as you cross the threshold, there is a reproduction of Ichthys, an ancient symbol of identification of Christianity, of life that overcomes life, and next to it a legend that says: «I know whom I have trusted (2 Tim 1, 12) Nobody ever dies alone. We are always accompanied by that face of God that awakens us to infinite life and smiles at us to fill us with joy in his presence. In memory of those who died in the pandemic. 2020”. There were not a few who, parishioners of this parish of some sixteen thousand inhabitants, with sociologically unequal areas, died during the hardest days of confinement due to the pandemic.
In the temple that now speaks of clarity, of light, of the presence of mystery, there is a painting of the Annunciation of Our Lady, from the 17th century, which is the hidden artistic jewel of the parish. The current parish priest of Nuestra Señora del Encuentro is the priest Juan Carlos González Osorio, the architect of an exterior reform and an interesting process of interior conversion of the parish. He is also a chaplain at the nearby Red Cross Hospital. He is accompanied by the priest Antonio Pla who has been in the parish for more than thirty years.
As González Osorio points out, "evangelization based on charity is the center and the leitmotiv of parish life." The monthly miracle is Caritas, which attends to 310 families in the area with food, rent, special aid, which means many kilos, tons we should say, of food, per month and per year. The parish priest describes some situations in the way of life of the people who come to Caritas that freeze the heart. The man who lived in an abandoned hearse – an almost macabre metaphor, if it weren't true – and who says that he has to thank God because his mattress, at least, is not exposed to the elements; the lady who goes to sleep in the attic of a house every day, and who pays a monthly amount of money that I prefer not to reproduce, or the family, with two children, who have rented the kitchen and a sofa, recently arrived from America. There is Caritas, with the help of the Vicariate and social services. By the way, there is some concern in the area about the announced closure of the Cáritas de Bravo Murillo store and about the future situation of the Food Bank.
The group of volunteers who attend this priceless service would serve as an example of the generosity of a parishioner, mostly elderly. The parish also has a CEM, a training center for children and young people, with high attendance. Also noteworthy is the help of a group of nuns, from the Mary Immaculate, Mercedarian, Divina Pastora and Sacred Heart institutes, who collaborate in various parish activities.
The time has come to put the pandemic behind us and return to ordinary parish life. Although the catechesis, at its various levels, and with symbolic numbers of children, has worked normally, it is time to start again. Both in adult training groups, young married couples, and in the Scouts, with their activities, such as the summer camp.
Two final notes of the surprise that is Our Lady of the Encounter. High attendance at devotional acts, exposition with the Blessed Sacrament and the daily rosary. And that here it can be said that we are in a parish with open doors, in which there are constantly people in a prayer that allows an encounter that changes life.