Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Busy weeks

These next few weeks I will be busy outside of Santa Rosa de Copán. I now am leading a retreat for the volunteers at La Finca del Niño en Trujillo, on the north east coast of Honduras. Then I will be in Lima, Perú, as part of the training team for World Vision’s Canales de Esperanza program which is oriented to involving the churches in responses to HIV and AIDS. Almost 30 people sent by Latin American  bishops’ conferences will be trained to lead activities in their countries. Then, after two days back in Santa Rosa de Copán, I’ll be off to the US to visit friends and family, give a few talks at the University of Detroit-Mercy, and spend time in Ames, mostly with St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center which has been sponsoring me here and is developing a relationship with the parish of Dulce Nombre de María here in Copán. (If anyone has a place for me to speak, let me know.) Thus the past week has been full, trying to put everything together before I leave.

The Sunday before last I took the Eucharist out to the village of Piedras Colorados for their Sunday Celebration of the Word.

Luis Alonso leading the celebration in Piedras Coloradas

After the celebration I spent some time with them talking about what they had been doing. They proudly showed me the poles which will bring electricity to the village and told me that the government electric company and the municipal authorities will help with the cost of getting the power lines to the houses. However, each family will have to pay about 3,500 lempiras ($160) for the installation of electricity inside the houses and for setting up outlets, light fixtures, and so on. The price sounds high to me, since most of the houses are fairly small. But most of the people don’t have that kind of money and, since the installation of the lines to the houses won’t happen until after the houses are wired, there is some urgency. What to do? Some mentioned that they might have to take out loans at 5% interest. That didn’t sound too bad until I realized that 5% per month – a whopping 60% per year. This makes it really clear how people take advantage of the poor and they have so few options.

Tuesday I led a presentation for the retreat for confirmation candidates on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have taken the list for granted and actually found it quite challenging to try to make them understandable.

Several of the gifts are knowledge related – wisdom, understanding, knowledge (ciencia, in Spanish). But I wanted to avoid explaining them in merely intellectual terms. And so I thought awhile about ciencia (knowledge, learning). One explanation of this gift is that it what helps understand and distinguish the true and the false in regard to worldly things. So I compared it with the knowledge people have in terms of how to plant well and how to make tortillas well. (It’s important to affirm the dignity of the work most of these people do.) I think they grasped it because when I had them connect up saints with the gifts they immediately connected Saint Isidore the Farmer with ciencia.

Bishop Santos and Padre Efraín at the confirmation

Thursday was the feast day of the parish of Dulce Nombre de María, the Sweet Name of Mary. I went for the confirmation Mass, with Bishop Santos, Padre Efráin, and the former associate Padre Julio César. The Mass was a little more subdued than some other confirmations but it was moving. What really struck me though is that after the normal petitions during the Prayer of the Faith, Bishop Santos said a long prayer for peace. He has obviously been concerned about the growing violence here. But I was struck by the emotion he put into the prayer.

Friday and Saturday, I went to the Zone 2 and Zone 3 meetings in the parish. Nothing special, except for a few conflicts that need to be dealt with but still a good chance to see folks.

Sunday I took the Eucharist to the community of Cerro Negro for their Sunday Celebration of the Word. The village is quite poor – with many people who have to rent land for raising corn or beans. But I’m always touched by the devotion of the people. 

Musicians in Cerro Negro

The choir at the celebration was not the best – in fact, they seem to have devised different melodies for two songs I know well. I did remind them of the training for choirs at the beginning of November. I hope some of them can go.

After twelve hours on a bus, I arrived in Trujillo, Colón, Honduras – almost the furthest that one can get from Santa Rosa. I passed acres and acres of African palm raised for the oil to cook snack food and to make biofuels, and most of it owned by Miguel Facussé, one of the richest men in Honduras.

This is also a very conflictive area since many campesinos claim that Facussé has taken over land underhandedly or illegally. Over the last few years, here have been over 40 deaths in this area related to the conflict. But, except for one truckload of soldiers it is not apparent on the main road, though there was at least one sign with graffiti right outside of Trujillo.

Military, get out of the Aguan!
But I also saw a Dole plant, since they export bananas from here, as well as other fruit.

I spent the night at La Finca del Niño and hope write more on the retreat and the Finca later.

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