Sunday, July 11, 2010

Back to basics - part two

Yesterday I wrote about Santa Rosa de Copán. Today I want to share a little about Dulce Nombre de María, the rural parish where I’m helping out.

Today was a celebration in the main town, Dulce Nombre de Copán, to raise funds for work on the parish grounds. When Padre Efraín came here three years ago, the place was a mess. He’s already made a few major improvements, but there’s much to be done.

In addition, Padre Julio César, the associate pastor, works a lot with youth and has worked to fix up a small cancha, a fútbol [soccer] field, behind the church. To do this they dug up the area and put in drainage pipes. This year a retention wall has been built – with the help of the parishioners as well as some folks from St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames who came here.

Padre Efraín wants to build a new kitchen and a dining room. The center is used several times a month for training of catechists, pastoral workers, extraordinary ministers of communion, as well as for the parish council. Some groups stay overnight.

Right now the kitchen is a small room; people eat wherever they can sit down, with plates on their laps. The idea is to use the cancha retention wall as one wall of the dining area which will be on a lower level of the parish grounds. Padre Efraín also wants to build some housing modules for visitors and for the participants in workshops.

This will take a fair amount of money – but people are willing to work on the project, coming in from distant villages; this will bring down the cost. In addition, the parish council has asked every family to donate a cinder block or brick – or the equivalent in cash.

Today was the fund-raising day. The church was filled for the 9 am Mass. During the offertory a cinder block was brought forward as a symbolic offering. There was also a second collection for the project.

But after Mass, the action was outside the church and in the town park. People were selling small meals, ticucos (a specialty of Copán), empanandas (the Honduran form of pupusa, sort of a stuffed tortilla), mondongo soup (made from tripe), atol chuco (a corn drink with beans and much more, called “dirty” atol).

atol chucho

Entertainment was provided by groups (conjuntos) from rural villages – Mensajeros de Amor (Messengers of Love) from Oromilaca was the first group with pretty heavy ranchero style religious songs:

Next were the Primos del Occidente (Cousins from the West) from Quebrada Grande, with a youngster with a piercing voice:

There was a duo from Plan Grande; the Gran Familia (the big family) wasn’t playing because some instruments needed to be repaired. There were at least two more groups which were going to play. After a first song, the groups made the people pay up with donations before singing the next song. Some of the guys were great hucksters, milking the crowd for money. (Sorry, no women’s song groups as of yet.)

And, since the final of World Cup began about 1 pm, the parish showed the game on a large wall in the parish auditorium and charged 10 lempiras (55 cents) admission.

There was a great spirit among the people. I hope they raised a good bit of money.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, has been helping with three days of work by spring break group and donations from the parish’s Community Outreach Tithe. I hear that the summer bible vacation school will raise some money for equipment for the kitchen. Also, I think they might do a major fund-raising this fall to raise some funds for the housing modules.

For me it was a good day, even though I returned in the 1 pm bus. Good people, praying and singing at Mass and eating. Good music. And lots of friends to see and talk with.

It was a day of blessings.


On a slightly different note. The Mass and the celebration was broadcast over the diocesan radio station.

Padre Efraín took advantage of this to tell the Dulce Nombre parishioners and the radio audience that the priests of the diocese at a study meeting this past week expressed their support for a National Constituent Assembly, a constitutional convention, which would be composed of campesinos – people from the countryside – as well as professionals and others. As he said to me over lunch, it has to be of the poor and not just of the National Congress.

To recall a little of history, President Mel Zelaya's advocacy of a national constituent assembly and his call for a poll to ask congress to call for one was one of the his policies that got him in trouble with the economic and political elites in Honduras and resulted in the June 28, 2010 coup.

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