Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hope and inspiration

From Monday September 19 to Tuesday September 27 I was in Perú as part of the training team for World Vision’s process for religious communities to work on HIV and AIDS. Fourteen countries from Latin America sent 28 representatives to this training, all of them connected with the Church, some working in diocesan or national offices on health issues. The program was cosponsored by CELAM, the Latin American Bishops’ Conference.

It was a lot of work, but it was a joy to meet so many deeply committed to responding to HIV and AIDs. It was humbling to be in their presence for some of them have worked for years, often opening homes for people with HIV.

World Vision started working with evangelical groups, trying to sensitize them to what HIV and AIDS are and providing training for educating people and motivating them to respond as churches. In some parts of the world, especially in Africa, they are also working with Muslims. In the last few years they have begun to work with the Catholic Church in Latin America and soon hope to have an agreement with CELAM.

I was trained here in Honduras in January 20010 and have been involved in a few training and sensitizing sessions.

I am especially interested in their process of education. It’s definitely not academic, which is good; rather it uses adult education methods to help the learning process. I have learned a lot from the training I attended and from being involved in workshops – all, by the way, in Spanish! I have also profited by learning the methodology and trying to apply it to my work here in Honduras, especially in the formation program of the parish of Dulce Nombre.

I brought with me a copy of an icon Father William Hart McNichols, SJ,  Mary, Mother of God, Light in the Darkness. It became part of our prayer and was placed next to the candle which we lighted each morning, reminding ourselves of our call to be salt and light. 

In one exercise, used after the presentation of statistics on HIV and AIDS, we were asked to find stones representing those we knew who were infected with HIV, both the living and the dead, and place them by the candle and icon. I was amazed as some brought hands filled with stones. These are very committed people.

 I am very glad I had the chance to be a part of their training session. They do provide Channels for Hope – or, Canales de Esperanza, as the program is called in Spanish.

But God is very good since the training was book-ended between meeting two extraordinary missionary priests.

During the retreat I facilitated with volunteers of La Finca del Niño in Trujillo, I met a Jesuit priest who has been in Honduras for 34 years. He came in the late 1970s because he saw the incredible work the Jesuits were doing with cooperatives and other empowering programs. He worked with Father Guadalupe Carney, who was later thrown out of Honduras; Father Carney, later went to Nicaragua and returned clandestinely to Honduras as chaplain with a group of Honduran guerrillas. He was captured and killed by the Honduran military.

The priest I met had his run-in with the local authorities for his solidarity with the people and their organizing efforts. He was once picked up by the Honduran military and held several days. The US authorities were not helping in getting him released.

He worked in some of the most remote parts of northeastern Honduras, and now works in a large parish where he spends several days each week in the countryside.

It was a delight to meet him and I’m hoping to keep in contact.

On my last night in Perú I visited an Irish priest who serves with the Society of St. James. Friends of mine had lived in Lima for a year and had found his parish.

Part of a mosaic of Jesus the artisan in the parish church.

He has been in Perú for 44 years and is also a long term missionary who got it – the pastoral ministry which forms the poor to be followers of Christ in service of the Kingdom of God. He was among one of the groups that met with Gustavo Gutiérrez, the father of liberation theology, in the late 1960s and has continued to use a liberating pastoral practice with his parish. He has

We talked long about his experience and the trials and joys of his ministry. I had a chance to see him at work with a small group that prepared the readings for next Sundays liturgy. The group, all women – though a man or two occasionally comes, provided a very insightful conversation, spurred on by the pastor’s questions. I found out that a few of the women are in a group he formed that is reading Barbara Reid’s Taking Up the Cross: New Testament Interpretation Through Latina and Feminist Eyes, in Spanish, of course.

We shared our great love for the people and our appreciation of the wisdom they share, especially when reading the Bible.

Again it was a blessing to be with him and I plan to stay in contact.

What a blessing it was to meet these two long-term missionaries who have lived through difficult times and still struggle to live the Word of God in a liberating mode. I pray that I may be like them.

No comments: