Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Continuing ministry

My life has been full of the little events that make up my life and ministry here.

Last Wednesday, the two seminarians who have been with me since June left to return to the US for their studies. It was good for them to be here. I took them to San Pedro Sula on Tuesday so that they could leave on Wednesday without having to get up very early and have a very long travel day.

The day after they left the diocese had a three day meeting for the coordinators of the social ministry in the parishes. I did a lot of the logistical work – signing people in, giving them a part of the costs of their travel, paying the retreat center, etc.

I did have two hours to do an introductory workshop on “Transformation of Conflicts,” which Caritas in Honduras is promoting. I used some of their materials but supplemented them with materials from other trainings I have had in the past, including the exercise, "Knots".

Sunday, August 14, I went to Dulce Nombre for Mass. Padre Julio César Galdámez, the associate at Dulce Nombre, has been named the pastor of a new parish, Saint John Bosco, which includes two barrios of Dulce Nombre, the chaplaincy of the Catholic University Santa Rosa campus, and the municipality of Vera Cruz.

Padre Julio at the Mass

Marco Tulio offers Padre Julio a net, as a sign of his mission

This will mean that the parish of Dulce Nombre will have one less municipality, which includes the town of Vera Cruz and about five villages. It will also mean that the chaplaincy of  the Catholic University will be able to assist students or staff who have not yet received some of the sacraments.

It will be hard for the parish to have one less priest, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I will be trying to do some more pastoral work there, especially in the remote villages. I do look forward to this.

That ministry sometimes takes on unforeseen directions. I do visit the meetings of the zones and sectors of the parish and will be making more visits (probably overnight) to some of the villages.

But occasionally I am called on for something that challenges me in a deep way. A few weeks ago one of the pastoral workers in one of the villages called me. He was in Santa Rosa and wanted to talk. He had been here for several days since his child was in the hospital. As we sat and talked, with his three year old son there with us, he told me that the child had been in the hospital because he had been abused by a man in his fifties from another village.

He told me this very calmly, but with obvious concern. He also told me that he had taken steps to connect with authorities and the man had been jailed. This was for me a very courageous act, since so often people here do not denounce injustices committed against them for fear of reprisals and out of a sense that it won’t make a difference. But this time his action did make a difference. Officials of the Juzgado de Niñez – a government child’s advocate office – had investigated and were following up.

The next day the pastoral worker and his wife were going to the Ministerio Público to follow up. I went and met them at the office and stayed there while they went through the proceedings. They afterwards went to the office of the Juzgado de Niñez.

Something has been done, in this one case, for a child in need. Would that there were more such cases.

Monday I went with most of the Caritas staff to the funeral of a woman who had worked in the bakery at Caritas and had died on Sunday of cancer.

The funeral was in a village way up in the mountains, above Belen Gualcho, Ocotepeque. It was 90 minutes to Belen Gualcho and then another 35 or so minutes by car and ten minutes on foot to get to the village of Hierba Buena (“Good Herb” or mint).
The area was beautiful, in the folds of the mountains. The small chapel, named in honor of Salvadoran archbishop Monseñor Oscar Romero, was packed.

Padre Efraín, director of Caritas, led a Celebration of the Word, after which the crowd walked to the cemetery, about 3 kilometers away.

The celebration in the church and the procession to the cemetery were moving, as people paid tribute to Orbelinda Pacheco as a woman of faith and a hard worker.

This is probably the first time I’ve had the chance to see a funeral in the countryside. The simple faith of the people, the quiet grief, the muyriad flowers, and the solidarity of friends and neighbors impressed me, as they accompanied Orbe’s parents and daughter.

People were there – from old women to babies at the breast. Death was a part of their life – but the death of a younger woman is not easy.

But somehow faith sustains them and they hope to live the resurrection – not as pie in the sky, but as a reality here in their daily lives.

And so my life and ministry continue, sustained by God and the witness of so many poor people whose deep faith continues to challenge me.


Other photos of the funeral can be seen here.

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