Monday, November 26, 2007

Pastoral Work

Wednesday, November 21, I made a short trip to Gracias, Lempira, about 75 minutes from Santa Rosa by bus. I went to talk with Fr. Loncho, the pastor there. Greg McGrath, an Iowa State University student is doing a study on possible sustainable energy sources for a Center fro training and Retreats that Fr. Loncho hopes to build near Gracias. Greg had a few questions that He wanted me to ask Fr. Loncho.

We had a nice lunch and Fr. Loncho answered Greg’s questions. We talked about his parish, where Sister Nancy Meyerhofer works. (Nancy is a Dubuque Franciscan sister who has been here in Honduras a little over two years.) There are over 70 rural villages in the parish. Next month there will be confirmations – 1600 of them – in four different locations in the parish. During the Easter Vigil next march there will be forty baptisms of youth, young adults, and others who began the Christian Initiation process last August.

In the next month the bishop will ordain two men to the priesthood which brings the number of priests to about 63 for over a million people in widely scattered villages. (A few weeks ago I was speaking with the bishop and he spoke, with concern, of the financial difficulties some priests face – the collections in some very poor rural parishes don’t equal $30 a month.)

The faith has survived here because over forty years ago the church began a program of training Delegates of the Word to preside over weekly celebrations in widely scattered villages.

In the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, this has been slightly expanded and the church tries to have at least three evangelizers in every village, with responsibility for the three areas of pastoral ministry – the prophetic (teaching, formation, preaching), the liturgical (preparing liturgies, music), and the social. Also, the diocese sees comunidades eclesiales de base –church base communities – as the way that people grow in faith. Many rural villages have more than one base community and so in a parish like Dulce Nombre de María where I’m helping there are probably two hundred or more base communities in about 46 villages and municipalities. Of course, the quality of the experience will vary. I think Father Efraín Romero, the pastor of Dulce Nombre, hopes that I can help in some education and formation work with the leaders in his parish.

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