Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Last minute details

In a week I’ll be back in the US for about 16 days, spending most of my time in and around Ames, Iowa. But it is not as if I have been slacking off. In fact last weekend was quite busy.

It started Friday morning when I accompanied about 40 new students of the Catholic University for the first morning of their new student retreat. The retreat was held in San Juan de Opoa, about 15 miles from Santa Rosa. I gave a talk on God’s Love and then got a ride to a bus to get to Dulce Nombre.

Friday and Saturday the parish was offering a workshop on Saint Paul – for the Year of Saint Paul. I helped work on it and we’re using materials from the Jesuit University of El Salvador – the UCA – which is oriented to the poor and those without a lot of formal education.

I arrived and led an activity which went quite well. I gave each group a section on St, Paul in the Acts of the Apostles and they had to prepare a skit. I told them they could use humor, if they want. Well, most of the skits were fantastic, full of energy and imagination.

I also had to lead two study sessions, using the materials from the UCA, which are very participatory. It went well, although it was hard to lead a session at 6:30 am – yes, AM – without coffee! But it went well enough.

We’ll have another workshop in March, using the rest of the chapters of the booklet. But then the different sectors of the parish will be n charge of leading most of the sessions. I told them that I’ll come out and visit with them between late January and early March to help them, since this might be quite a challenge for some of the groups. But, with a little help, I think they’ll do a great job. It is amazing how much people with six years of schooling or less do.

I returned to Santa Rosa Saturday afternoon but left Sunday for La Campa, a remote village with a beautiful colonial church. I had to pas through Gracias and so I had a chance to visit with Sister Nancy Meyerhofer who works there. We had a quick lunch together.

In La Campa I spoke with Father Cándido Pineda, the pastor, who is also the diocesan director of social ministry. Social Ministry has no funding but manages to do a lot with almost nothing.

Fr. Candido’s vision is to help develop the capacities of people in the countryside, using sustainable practices, utilizing the wisdom and experience of many of the members of the diocesan social ministry commission which meets about every two months. When I attended their meeting two weeks ago I was astounded by the knowledge of alternative agricultural practices these small farmers (campesinos) have. I had seen some of this when I visited Moises Rodriguez’s farm last year. But Moises is only one of the people on the commission who have incredible stores of knowledge and experience.

The problem is that there is no financing. There will be a four day conference in Gracias – and at Moises’ farm – in November, but the people will have to pay for food and for travel. There is so much that could be done with incredible human resources, but there is not a lot of financing available.

Father Candido and I talked about a good number of his projects – small gardens with vegetables and fruit trees, household water filters (costly less than $5), reforestation projects, etc. It was exciting to be able to dream and discuss possibilities. When I’m in Ames I’ll be talking to a number of folks about these possibilities.

I only stayed one night in La Campa since I had a number of things to do in Santa Rosa – including the lunch program for kids and a visit ot the jail to help with the literacy project (and buy two hammocks for the silent auction at St. Thomas on October 12.)

This Thursday to Saturday I am off to Copán Ruinas for a conference run by Project Honduras which will bring together people from the US and Honduras to share about projects here which have support from the US. I hope it’s a good way to make connections with others here.

Then a few days back in Santa Rosa and back to Ames on Tuesday. I look forward to the time there – to thank people for their support, especially the kids in religious education classes, and to spend some time visiting with friends. This is for me an important part of my ministry – promoting solidarity and making connections. This, I believe, is central to our identity as members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

As the US bishops wrote in 1986:
Christian communities that commit themselves to solidarity with those suffering and to confrontation with those attitudes and ways of acting which institutionalize injustice, will themselves experience the power and the presence of Christ. They will embody in their lives the values of the new creation while they labor under the old. The quest for economic and social justice will always combine hope and realism, and must be renewed by every generation. It involves diagnosing those situations that continue to alienate the world from God’s creative love as well as presenting hopeful alternatives that arise from living in a renewed creation. This quest arises from faith and is sustained by hope as it seeks to speak to a broken world of God’s justice and loving kindness.
US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 55

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