The upcoming New York Encounter cultural festival will explore the dynamic between "I" and "We" – individuals and community – and how the human person finds fulfillment only in relationship.

"It's a very human and common experience, realizing that you can't exist by yourself; you don't even call your own name: you need another one, to be called," Maurizio Maniscalco, chairman of the New York Encounter, told CNA Jan. 15.

"The I is actually born…only in a relationship."

The 2014 Encounter takes places Jan. 17-19 in midtown Manhattan, and is the fourth annual installment; it's theme is "The Time of the Person, The Origins of a People."

The Encounter is organized by the Catholic ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation and by Crossroads Cultural Center. The center aims to explore the relationship between religion and culture, and was founded by members of Communion and Liberation.

While the event is organized by Catholics, it is meant to be an encounter for all persons: "people come looking for something beautiful, and hopefully they will find it."

This year the Encounter will feature discussions, exhibits, and musical performances, as well as a Mass said by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the U.S. All will consider the tension experienced between the person and community – where the person finds both fulfillment and frustration.

"Looking at the present situation; looking at our culture, or lack of it; looking at our understanding of things and reality, the I certainly is, in a sense, at the same time (both) the center of our human adventure and the most neglected character in human history," Maniscalco said.

"It's the relationship with the mystery that makes us, and that generates a people."

"At the same time, a people can't just be the result of some intelligent mechanism, or a plan. It has to come from something deeper, something which is acknowledged as a common root, a common ground, a common origin. Now you can phrase it in a million ways, but basically the I doesn't exist without a people, and a people cannot be a lively entity if each and every person, if each and every I, is not fully expressed."

The tension between the I and the other, in whom we find our fulfillment, is "everybody's experience," Maniscalco reflected.

"That's why we try to offer this weekend: to open up a door to a possible different, or deeper, understanding of this dynamic, because it's true. The other is at the same time precious, indispensable many times, but he can be an enemy."

"Even though I still remain convinced that my worst enemy is my self, when I conceive of myself as alone."

He emphasized the importance of searching for truth in receiving what the Encounter has to offer, saying, "the dynamic of the relationship between the I and the other, is a journey in itself."

He reflected on his nearly 35 years of marriage with his wife as a prime example of the I-Thou relationship.

"We've been through a lot; it is a never-ending journey; there's tension, yes, we're excellent fighters, and at the same time, it's the acknowledgment of something that has put us together that allows us to, not only overcome, but embrace the difficulties as a step toward a deeper understanding of what being together is all about."

"So God willing, all that will be offered during the weekend will encourage us to take on to, to continue, a journey like this."

Noting the variety to be found in the events at the weekend of the Encounter, Maniscalco said "this is like life: we all get struck by something. Like when you fall in love with somebody, there is something in particular that strikes you; and hopefully instead of being the beginning and end of the story, it becomes the point of departure."