This week the Honduran bishops are meeting with the Pope for their ad limina visits to Rome which the bishops are required to make every five years. When the pope meets with the bishops he usually offers them a special message, related to the situation of their country or region. The pope’s message to the Honduran bishops when he met with them on Thursday, June 26, was very pointed.
The pope noted the deep piety found in the Honduran people, something I have noted, especially in their devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary.
The Honduran people are characterized by a deep religious spirit which can be seen, among other ways, in the many deeply rooted practices of popular devotion, which, carefully purified of elements foreign to the faith, ought to be a valid instrument to announce the Gospel.There are thousands of catechists and, according to Cardinal Rodriguez, there are more than 30,000 delegates of the word who lead Sunday celebrations in their widely scattered villages. Pope Benedict referred to this crucial role of the laity in a country with all too few priests.
I want to emphasize the significant role that Honduran Catholic laypeople are assuming in parishes as catechists and Delegates of the Word. An important aspect of pastoral ministry consists in working ceaselessly so that the faithful will be increasingly aware of the fact that, in virtue of baptism and confirmation, they are called to live the fullness of charity by participating in the saving mission of the Church. They, through the testimony of their Christian life, can take the light of Christ’s message to all the sectors of society, attracting to the church community those whose faith has grown weak or who are alienated from the church.To deepen these commitments, the pope advised the bishops that
the lay faithful need to intensify their relationship with God and acquire a solid formation, especially in regard to the social doctrine of the Church. Thus, as leaven in the dough, they will be able to fulfill their mission to transform society according to the will of God.The pope also noted some of the problems of Honduras and the need to respond in love, in acts of charity.
Just like the proclamation of the Word [of God] and the celebration of the sacraments, the service of charity forms an essential part of the Church’s mission…. I know well how you are troubled by the poverty in which so many of your people live, together with the increase of violence, immigration, the destruction of the environment, corruption, or deficiencies in education, among other serious problems. As ministers of the Good Shepherd you have undertaken, in word and deed, an intense effort to aid those in need. I strongly urge you to continue showing in your ministry the merciful face of God, developing in all your diocesan communities and parishes an extensive and broad service of charity, which will in a special way reach the sick, the elderly, and the imprisoned.As I read the pope’s address, I felt affirmed again in my call to be here. Amidst all the difficulties and setbacks, despite the frustrations, I still feel that this is where I have been called to be – to help in the formation of people to live their faith and to assist in projects to assist those most in need.
I see the poverty and need when I work in the rural parish of Dulce Nombre and have time to visit and talk with the people in rural villages or help with the formation of catechists and other church workers or talk with Padre Efraín about the needs of the people for enough food to nourish themselves and their families.
I see the way the students at the Catholic University of Honduras are besieged by the same secularism and consumerism as students in US universities.
I see the poverty of the children in Santa Rosa as I help in a kindergarten or visit the home for malnourished kids run by the Missionaries of Charity. I see it in the kids I see throughout Santa Rosa, selling fruit on the streets or helping their families in construction and other jobs. My heart is touched and I look forward to working soon with a comedor infantil, a lunch program for kids.
And so I am here, blessed by God for the opportunity to be here.