Monday, August 08, 2011

Hosting seminarians

A few months ago, Jarrett Wendt, a Dubuque archdiocesan seminarian whom I’d known from his days at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, wrote and asked about the possibility of arranging a pastoral experience here in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.  I said I’d work on it.

A few weeks later another seminarian, Kevin Earleywine, a friend of Jarrett’s at Loras College’s St. John Vianney House, wrote and also asked me about coming.

Jarrett, Kevin, and Ivan at a Mass in Delicias, Concepción, Copán

After talking with Padre Efraín Romero, the pastor of the Dulce Nombre parish, I said yes and the process started.

Kevin arrived June 2 and Jarrett on June 27. They leave in two days, August 10.

I had decided that one of the best things for them, in order to see the pastoral work here and to improve their Spanish, was to leave them in a few different villages. I chose the places carefully, villages and towns where the pastoral work was fairly well developed and where I knew and trusted the people.

And so they stayed in Plan Grande, El Zapote de Santa Rosa, Delicias, San Agustín, and Dolores. In none of these places did they find people who spoke English – and so they had to speak Spanish – sink or swim. I’m glad to say they swam quite well. In El Zapote, Kevin had to live without electricity. They both were “troopers.”

Jarrett and Kevin got a chance to see the role that lay leaders have in the communities, leaders with little formal education who lead Celebrations of the Word on Sundays and other days, teach religious education, lead base communities, visit the sick. They also went out and worked with the people in the community – planting, weeding, building. Jarrett also spent a day with one of the women leaders and learned how to make tortillas.

They helped unload my truck full of fertilizer in a rural village.

They went to meetings (lots of them). They sang with people in the villages.

Roberto, Jarrett, Kevin, Marco Tulio

They even wrote and sang a song for the parish ecological celebration. Listen to it here on You Tube.

They  climbed an amate tree in Candelaria, Concepción, Copán.

Can you find them in the tree?

And Jarrett tried to cut grass with his machete.

What is the worth of this experience?

For them, it has helped them improve their Spanish, understand a bit of what life is like for the poor in Central America, experience a different way of being the Church, and experience being served by the people here who have welcomed them with great love.

For the people here, there was the chance to spend time with seminarians from the US, the chance to experience the presence of a wider church, the opportunity to share their lives and their pastoral ministry with people from another culture.

I think I could sum up what happened in two words – accompaniment and solidarity.

Thus the experience has not been of one group coming to do something for another – but an experience of mutuality, of sharing, of living as members of the same People of God.

Several times when I have visited the communities where Jarrett and Kevin have lived, I have told them that they have offered a service to the Church in the United States. They have been the teachers for these seminarians.

And I’m sure they’ve learned a few things from the seminarians, including the facts that there are fat people and poor people in the US.

Kevin with a boy in El Zapote

Jarrett told how some kids asked him if there were kids in the US. Yes, replied Jarrett. When they grow up, they become “gringos”? they asked. Yes, he replied.

Jarrett with kids in Agua Caliente, Vera Cruz.

The world becomes human – and more godly – because of these types of interactions.

The promotion of the sense of common humanity, of being all made in the image and likeness of God, of being members of the Body of Christ is what immersions should be. I’m glad I had a part in helping this happen.

Maybe there will be more opportunities of these types in the future .

1 comment:

Billie Greenwood said...

What a hopeful, hope-filled post! Thanks for helping to arrange this, Juan. The fruits of this activity will continue to bless many people, for a long time.