A December 2016 letter
Blessings for all my friends.
This year has been filled with blessings and sorrows, as have the lives of so many others here in Honduras and throughout the world. Our experiences here are not all that special – and definitely not holier. But I think they are worth sharing.
I continuing serving in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María and live in the aldea of Plan Grande, Concepción, within the parish. I am blessed with a great pastor, Padre German Navarro who works way too much, visiting every one of the more than 45 villages every two months. I often accompany him to the Masses.
I continue with workshops and assemblies of catechists and Delegates of the Word, as well as coordinators of base communities and of the three ministries in the communities. I also work with extraordinary ministers of communion as well as with those in training. A growing area of pastoral ministry is with the youth in several communities. I meet with leaders every two months of so. One of my great joys this year was the youth encounter one community held while I was on the US in late October.
I have also helped Sister Pat Farrell with a number of Alternatives to Violence programs in the prison in Gracias, Lempira. This has brought me great joy.
I also have continued working with an association of small coffee farmers who managed to send 3,042 pounds of green coffee to the US which is being sold by the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa. I hope this can continue and that the parish can purchase two or three times as much next year. It’s good coffee!
The big personal event this year was my ordination on July 15 as a permanent deacon for the diocese of Santa Rosa. This is a long story (which you can read on my blog). I didn’t seek this out but responded to a request from the bishop to consider the diaconate. It is a deepening of the gift of service which God has given me, especially these past nine years in Honduras.
This has not meant much more in terms of my pastoral ministry – except for baptisms and funerals, and preaching. I haven’t had a wedding yet. I continue visiting rural communities, often leading a Celebration of the Word with Communion. But the diaconate has meant a more serious call to serve those at the margins, e.g., visiting the sick. This coming year I plan to work with the Social Ministry in the villages to see how we can respond to the poverty, violence, and injustice all around us.
The diaconate has meant attendance at diocesan clergy meetings – for education and a retreat, as well as the deanery pastoral council meeting.
To prepare for my ordination I made a trip to the US to participate in a retreat with the deacon candidates in the Newark archdiocese, arranged by a priest friend whom I’ve known since summer camp in the 1950s!
I made a trip back to Ames, Iowa, at the end of October, to visit St. Thomas Aquinas parish which supports the parish where I serve. I had a good visit – and I especially was blessed to spend time with some friends whom I’ve known for years.
Visitors from outside Honduras have been few this year. Last Christmas I had a family visit me. It was a blessing to have them here, even though Christmas is the time of the year where there is not a lot happening. Then after New Year’s I had three more visitors. I had one visitor for my ordination as a deacon, and I hosted (twice) the directors of the AMIGA medical brigade that worked in our municipality for several days in March and October.
Life here in Honduras can be hard – interruptions in water, electricity, and internet service. But I have it much better than my neighbors. The violence and insecurity are not major concerns for me – though they are for the people I work with. I have had several very hard funerals recently – of young people dying before their time of diseases that can be controlled as well as two violent deaths. I feel safe and secure.
What helps sustain me is my pastoral ministry with the people with whom I serve. I am also blessed with the presence of the Dubuque Franciscan sisters with whom I meet fairly regularly. They are great women whose faith and commitment to the poor keep me humble.
This coming year I will turn seventy but sometimes I feel as if I’ve only just begun. I will continue working in the parish, serving the Church and the poor, finding more ways to be a deacon, a servant to those in need.
I ask you to keep me in your prayers. My needs are few – visitors who come with dark chocolate and a few books are welcomed with open arms. The parish has its needs and we’re finding ways of support. The people are poor and I hope that we can find ways to respond to needs in a sustainable way that promotes the participation and dignity of all.
If you want to support, you can do it through St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, or ask me for other suggestions. But remember that there are people in need a few blocks from where you live. Find them, meet them, work WITH them.
Please be assured of my continued prayers for all of you.
May the God of life and peace bring you joy in this holy season and throughout the coming year.
Paz y bien.