Friday, February 12, 2016

Accompanying in the cold

It’s unusually cold here – lows in the forties and highs in the fifties or low sixties – with lots of rain and fog. Note: we don't have indoor heating (though I did take advantage of a small space heater I had a few times.)

But in the midst of this life goes on. People go out to harvest coffee; neighbors produce sugar from their sugar cane; kids go to school. And people participate in the life of faith.

The day before Ash Wednesday, the statue of St. Rose of Lima was brought to the church in El Zapote de Santa Rosa. That night there were confessions, Mass, and an all-night vigil. I stayed for the Mass and got home at midnight.

The statue arrives in El Zapote
Ash Wednesday we had Mass and blessing of ashes in Dulce Nombre. Many delegates of the Word had come for the Mass and for ashes to take back to their communities.

Padre German and I distributed ashes, recalling that we are dust and to dust we will return. Then those who had received the ashes placed their hands on the bible and were advised by the sisters who work in the parish to convert and believe in the Gospel.

Used with permission of Canal2 Dulce Nombre
I then took eight of the delegates to Zone 4, one of the areas very far from the parish center. Later that afternoon I passed by the church here in Plan Grande while ashes were distributed.

Ashes in Plan Grande
Thursday morning I accompanied a car from El Zapote taking the statue of St. Rose of Lima to meet people from Zone 2. We crammed into two pick ups for part of the trip but later the people walked in prayer to Vega Redonda. 

Walking toward Vega Redonda

Crossing the bridge into Vega Redonda
They had confessions, Mass, and an all night vigil last night.

Today the statue will be transferred to the main church in Dulce Nombre.

In the evening there will be confessions with priests from the deanery with the bishop, followed by Mass and an all-night vigil.

I plan to accompany the celebration until the end of Mass. Tomorrow I have a meeting with Communion ministers in the morning and then will accompany the transfer of the statue of St. Rose to the parish of San Juan Bosco in Santa Rosa.

The rain and the cold continue. But that still doesn’t stop our ministry.

This week I also attended a meeting of the coffee association in El Zapote de Santa Rosa. They distributed the cupping results to the members who had sent a sample. But they were also meeting with a group of women from the United States who are looking at possibilities for projects that would combine work on nutrition with prevention of violence against women. The meeting was arranged by Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa which has been working with the Association, helping them obtain legal status. Here's a photo:

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

In the cold, faith is alive

After warm weeks in December and February, we are in the midst of a cold, rainy spell. I know it’s not like what my friends are experiencing in the Mid-West and East Costa of the US, but when you have no indoor heat and the low is in the high forties and the high in the low sixties, it feels really cold, especially since it’s a wet cold.

But in the midst of this, life goes on in the parish.

Last week there were celebrations for Candlemas Day, February 2, in the neighboring village of Candelaria. The next day was the feast of the Virgin of Suyapa, the patron of Honduras and the patron of the church here in Plan Grande. The people went all out decorating the church for the occasion. Mass was preceded by a procession.

On Friday we had a meeting of catechists, to begin the year. Sixty-two came; though I had hoped for twice that number, we had a good meeting.

This year, as part of the celebration of the centenary of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, the statue of Saint Rosa of Lima is being brought to all the parishes for a week.

Last Saturday the statue arrived at the turn-off to Dulce Nombre from the main highway from Santa Rosa.

 It was accompanied to the parish by a good number of people who came out. They walked a bit and then stopped to pray at the site of the killing of a mayor a few months ago. Then all crowded into trucks until we reached the gas station at the edge of town.

 Procession and Mass followed.

Sunday afternoon the statue was to be taken to Delicias, Concepción, in Zone 4 of the parish. In a cold rain, we took the statue in vehicles to the turn off just past El Zapote Santa Rosa. There people from zone four were waiting

The statue was put in the bed of a pick up and the people started walking to Delicias, an hour away, in a cold rain. I was too wimpy to accompany them all the way, but I am amazed at the faith and commitment of these people.

Today I’ll accompany the people of Zone 2 for part of their evening of confessions, Mass, and all-night vigil.  

Tomorrow there is a 9:00 am Mass and distribution of ashes in Dulce Nombre; from there people will take the blessed ashes to distribute in their home communities. I hope to accompany some of them.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Celebrating mercy and a centenary

Sunday, January 31, thousands of Catholics gathered in Santa Rosa de Copán to celebrate the opening of the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy in the cathedral as well as the hundredth year of the diocese.

The diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán was established on February 2, 1916, and includes the five southwestern departments of Honduras. The region is mountainous and includes some of the poorest municipalities in the country. The majority of the people live in small villages in the countryside and subsist on corn and beans – as well as the production of coffee in the mountains.

The celebrations started with a procession to the cathedral.

The Holy Door was blessed and opened by the bishop.

Mass followed with thousands receiving Communion.

After Mass, people flowed into the cathedral through the Holy Door.

May God bless the diocese with peace and a faith rooted in the Gospels and seeking to transform the world with the mercy of God.

Something new in Honduras?

Is something new happening in Honduras?

For about a week the National Congress has been trying to elect a new set of fifteen magistrates for the Supreme Court. As of this morning, only eight have been elected.

The blog "Honduras Culture and Politics" has a good analysis here of why it’s not a good process

In former years the process would have gone very quickly, carefully arranged by the two traditional parties that “shared” control of the government – the National Party and the Liberal Party. In previous years the party that controlled congress would have its way. In many ways this is what the National Party, which controls the Presidency and has a plurality in Congress, hoped for.

But some things are different this year.

On the one hand the US government is very interested in who are elected and the US Embassy has expressed it concern about some of the original list of candidates.

But there is another change, this time within the Honduran National Congress. There are now two parties that don’t accept the two-party monopoly, as noted by Leticia Salomón in an article (in Spanish).

LIBRE, established from the Resistance that grew up in response to the 2009 coup, and PAC, the Anti-Corruption Party, founded about 2013 by a former sports journalist, refused to go along with the machinations of the two parties. They have forced the process of elections in Congress to be more transparent and they have been more forthright in opposing certain candidates.

It’s not that theses parties are without their problems and continue the process of party control. As I understand it, LIBRE is trying to force all LIBRE congressional members to vote as the leadership tells them and has castigated at least one member who opposed this procedure.

But something new is happening even as some see the presidency and his National Party as trying to control all the organs of government and establish this control for the future by their appointments to the Supreme Court and other government institutions.

But my question is always, “What is happening at the grass-roots?” Are the parties, even LIBRE, really listening to them and responding to them?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ten days in January

The last ten days have gone by in a flash.

Much of my work has been at home, preparing material for the base communities, based on saints of mercy. It’s not easy work – since I try to make the material understandable to people with great faith but limited formal education. I also try to prepare questions that make them think about what they read in terms of their lives and allow them the chance to share. This is not easy since much of the educational system (as well as the religious education system) is oriented to the question-answer memorization method. I finally got the booklet done and got it printed. Now the distribution begins.

I was also busy several days reviewing scholarship applications. St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, is providing funds for partial scholarships for student in the alternative program called Maestro en Casa, which provides classes on weekends for middle school and high school students. They listen to programs on the radio, fill out workbooks, and have classes one or two days each weekend.

Sunday January 24 was a good day. My neighbors’ children got married at the 9 am Mass in Dulce Nombre. I was glad to see them taking this step – which so many young people avoid.

After the Mass I met with twenty young people to try to begin the formation of leaders for youth base communities or groups in the parish. We only had representation from eight communities, but five of them have functioning groups. We have some activities planned and I need to get materials ready for them.

Monday January 25 was another good day.  

In the morning I took members of the small coffee producers association in El Zapote de Santa Rosa to Estu Café in Santa Rosa de Copán, a business that does cupping, roasting, and training of baristas. I thought only one or two would be coming, but eight showed up. I also thought that Estu Café would only take the coffee. But Juan Carlos and his staff spent almost three hours with the producers, talking to them about cupping, producing quality coffee, and giving them an abbreviated experience of how cupping is done. I am most grateful for the work of Estu Café.  

I will be forwarding the results to folks at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames to help them determine if and how much coffee they are interested in buying.

In the afternoon I got back in time to help transport some of the men who had been working on the parish coffee land, clearing the brush around the plants in preparation for fertilizing the field before the next harvest. I took about seven guys to their villages about twenty minutes away. Then back home for some food and rest.

Wednesday I made another trip to Santa Rosa, mostly to do some shopping. But the real joy was to spend lunch at Weekend’s Pizza with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters who now live in two places, Gracias and La Entrada. Visiting with them refreshes my spirits.

Thursday was the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. I decided to accompany Padre German to Mass in the village of El Zapote de Dulce Nombre. He praised Saint Thomas church up and down and prayed for the parish, ever grateful for their solidarity and aid.

After Mass he went to visit two bed-ridden old people to hear their confessions and celebrate the anointing of the sick with them. He had to rush to another village for Mass and so asked me to share Holy Communion with them and pray with them.

What a great privilege it was to be there with these two persons, people of faith. They were living in the home of some family members who cared to them. I asked them to pray for the parish, telling them that that is their mission.

I couldn’t help but remember caring for my dad is his last years. I spoke to the family and encouraged them to continue the loving care they were giving. In the first house I shared how seeing a poor family in El Salvador caring for a sick older family member helped me make the decision to care for my dad at home.

Friday, I stopped down to the parish coffee field where a small group was fertilizing a part of the field. I also spoke to Padre German about the base community booklet and then headed out to Santa Rosa- my third trip last week – to get copies made.

Today the dioceses celebrated the opening of the Jubilee year of Mercy and the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. That deserves a separate post which I’ll try to write later today or tomorrow – complete with photos. For a preview of the photos, check out the album here.