Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sources of hope and strength

Obviously my faith gives me strength and hope but sometimes – many times – I need much more. “O you of little faith,” Jesus complained to his disciples.

It may also be that I am a little thick and easily forget the way God gives me strength and hope.

But the past few days I have been blessed.

It’s not been easy for me in the past few weeks and a confrontation with two people on Thursday made it all the worse.

But God kicked me in the butt - again.

A Social Teaching Workshop

Thursday and Friday we had the first of our deanery workshops on Catholic Social Teaching in Lepaera, Lempira.

Three lay persons, campesinos whose main work is agriculture, had gone to the diocesan workshop and were responsible for the diocesan workshop. They had studied the booklet I had put together to help plan the deanery workshops.

They did a marvelous job – with some pretty difficult content. It was obvious that they understood most of the material and were taking their role seriously. They didn’t just use the material; in several cases they added their own commentary and one even found a scriptural quotation to explain commutative justice. I didn’t write it down but it’s from one of the Wisdom books and speaks of the problem of unjust scales –using one that gives the sinner the advantage when buying and a different one when selling. Brilliant – and a sign that Wilmer knew what he was talking about.

I also spent time listening to some of the people's concerns and complaints, several times on the patio of the parish center overlooking the 17th century church with Puca mountain in the distance.

Some schools have one professor for 8 to 12 students – but not here. They spoke of teachers with 50, 80, or even 120 students.

A public health nurse has responsibility for six communities with about 2000 people in all.

One man approached me to see if there was a way to get vegetable seeds for his community, because there are 9 severely malnourished children there.

But the clincher for me was this story.

An poor electrician in a major city was contracted by a rich family to do some electrical work. He brought his lunch with him, not expecting to be fed. But the family’s dog ate his lunch. The wife was distraught and called her husband. “What am I doing to do? The dog ate the electrician’s lunch. The dog will be poisoned.”

What fear! What disrespect, discrimination, and classism! How different from my experience. They poor have shared so much – food, faith, and wisdom among other gifts.

The coming week I am off to two remote areas of the diocese for workshops in other deaneries. I need to keep my mind and heart open to listen to other wisdom that comes from the poor.

Dulce Nombre on Saturday

Saturday morning I decided to go out to the parish of Dulce Nombre. There was no activity planned but I wanted to go out and try to see some folks and catch up on what’s happening.

I first went to the Maestro en Casa program which is a type of distance learning education program promoted by the church and which the sisters in Dulce Nombre are facilitating there.

We’re working on a project to connect the young people there with the young people in the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames thought the internet. I’m not sure if it will be through e-mails or, as someone suggested, through a joint blog.

I spoke with two groups – the 7th and 8th grade classes. The 8th graders were interested and asked a number of good questions. The 7th graders were a little rowdy and I had to gently ask one of the girls three times to listen. They were working on music and learning the scale. So I decided that before talking about the project we’d do some work. So I sang and had them sing the scales! For me it was a lot of fun.

I then went to the parish center and found Franklin, one of the young employees in a parish agriculture project. I noticed he had his elbow bandaged. He proceeded to tell me that his knee was also bandaged. On the motorcycle going out to the villages he ran into a cow!

We talked about the possibilities of getting an organization founded by some friends to help them with some drip irrigation projects. It was a very productive meeting and I hope I can help arrange the help of the group.

I also walked back to the area where the parish is preparing a soccer field for youth in town and is planning to build a kitchen and dining area for groups as well as some housing units for groups that come for workshops. I found Salvador, a member of the parish council, in the cistern for rain water being built. He was repellando - putting concrete over the bricks so that the cistern surface is impermeable.

While in the parish center, I found out that there was going to be a confirmation at 10 pm in the church. That struck me as strange, since most of the confirmations in the parish are near the date of the patronal feast, September 8, the Nativity of Mary. But it ended up that the bishop was coming to confirm students and personnel from the Catholic University campus in Santa Rosa.

I stayed to the Mass. At the end of the Mass, the bishop asked me and Dr. Francisco Castro, the director of the campus, to come forward. Monseñor Santos introduced me and mentioned that I had been out to an area in this parish with a university class several years ago, where I had slept on the ground with only a sheet. Then he asked me to say something. I was tongue-tied but stumbled through something – encouraging the newly confirmed to live out their commitment in their studies and in their work.

After I spoke the bishop said some very flattering words about me. Luckily I had left the front of the church and could blush without many people seeing me.

Dr. Francisco Castro, director of the Santa Rosa Catholic University of Honduras campus,
and Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, bishop of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.

I came back to Santa Rosa after lunch at Dulce Nombre with the bishop, Padre Julio (the associate at Dulce Nombre), Padre Henry (the chaplain at the Catholic University), and Sor Pedrina (the sister who runs the Dulce Nombre Maestro en Casa program and does so much more in the parish).

As I drove up the street to my house, Sor Ines, a Spanish Franciscan who lives down the street, asked me to help transport some of the girls from their house to the cathedral for the confirmation. I gladly took them.

On returning I dropped by the sisters to borrow a hoe. Sor Ines and I spoke for about half an hour. A good chance to reflect on what I’ve been experiencing.

These are but a few of the things that have helped give me strength and hope. (I must also mention the continued support of Nancy Meyerhofer, a Dubuque Franciscan sister who works in nearby Gracias. Our meetings for pizza here in Santa Rosa, phone calls and e-mails help me put perspective on my life and faith here.)

But, as you can see, spending time with the poor is a priceless gift.


A final note, completely off the subject:

I think I have a name for my car – a 1993 Nissan diesel pickup: four wheel drive, and double cabined. I’m thinking of calling it, in Spanish, “la bestia” – a term which is used for horses or mules or other work animals. In English, it would be “the beast,” since it will probably cost a bit with repairs, etc.

Comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

They probably chose one of the selections from Proverbs, but this is my favorite quote on the subject:

Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land,
saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat? -- skimping the measure,
boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
The Lord has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget anything they have done.

This applies to any kind of hypocrisy...of dismissing one's own shortcomings while holding others to account, as when we demand that the poor work eighty hours a week just to survive, something we know is bad for the health.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...


I think that was the quotation - though I originally thought it came from one of the Deutero-canonical books.

Anonymous said...

That was Amos 8. :-)