Saturday, September 17, 2011

A retreat, in more ways than one

Last Monday, I left Santa Rosa de Copán on the 4:00 am bus to San Pedro Sula and arrived in Trujillo on the north coast at 2:30 pm. It was three long bus rides to facilitate a retreat for the volunteers at La Finca del Niño.

A few months ago I got a message from one of the volunteers there, Sheena Jacobi,  the sister of one of the peer ministers I worked with at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames. She asked me if I’d be interested in leading their annual spiritual retreat.  Although I had never led a retreat myself, I said yes.

Later I had a series of contacts, including a visit in Santa Rosa, with Jacob Hurst, the director of volunteers, himself a volunteer at La Finca with his family. His insights helped me structure the retreat.

The participants – from the US and Nicaragua – are working with Honduran children in La Finca del Niño, The Farm of the Child, a Catholic program that provides a home, education, and Catholic faith formation for more than 36 children.

I arrived a day before – and was immediately identified by one of the kids as Mister Miyagi (from the movie Karate Kid.) This is not the first time this has happened.

The retreat went well. Looking back it ended up being structured in part on the progression of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, but I also tried to situate the retreat within the framework of the two major feasts we celebrated this week – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Mary, Our Mother of Sorrows.

The retreat was held in a beautiful center for the parish of Los Santos Martires de Centroamerica - The Holy Martyrs of Central America, in Bonito Oriental. One of the real joys for me was meeting the pastor, Jesuit Father John Donald, who came out for confessions and Mass. Padre Juan has been in Honduras since the late 1970s. He came here and took the church’s commitment to the poor seriously, so much so that he got into trouble with the government authorities. He’s written a short book on his experiences which I had a chance to read. He’s a real sign of God’s love in action, still going strong at 72 years old.

The other joy was to see how seriously these young men and women take their faith and how they are living this out through a two year commitment to La Finca.   The life is not easy. Except for a few who live in La Ceiba with those attending high school there, they live and work together on the grounds of La Finca, where the children also live. I was very glad to be able to meet them and talk at length with a few of them.

After the retreat I stayed Friday and Saturday at La Finca, mostly just resting, but seeing a little of the volunteers' interactions with the children.

An added attraction to my stay at La Finca was the chance on the beach. This is my first time on the Caribbean.  The water was warm and the view was gorgeous. I took loads of pictures, marveling at the glory of God’s creation. (Some of them are in a set, here, at my Flickr site.)

A Caribbean beach outside Trujillo

Twilight at the each outside La Finca del Niño.

An Iowa connection with the Finca. Two of the volunteers are from Iowa. Sheena Jacobi is ending her two year commitment in a few months and Scott Satterlee and his family are beginning a several year commitment with La Finca in their La Ceiba work. Sheena is from Cedar Falls and Scott from Cedar Rapids.

Scott, Sheena and me

A note on my travels: Sunday it is off to San Pedro Sula, though this time in a pickup. Monday, I’m off to Lima, Perú, as part of a training team for a workshop.

Though it is good to travel, I am missing Santa Rosa de Copán. I also feel as if I am out of the circuit in terms of what’s happening in Honduras. Even though I am near the Lower Aguan valley where there is a lot of conflict over land and a number of deaths, it feels so far away. It’s so easy to be insulated from the violence and injustice around us.

A final note. On the way back to Trujillo from the retreat center in Bonito Oriental a bridge was closed and so we had to cross the river by ferry. A very interesting experience, especially since the ferry carried two cars and two motorcycles.

And they added our car - a Land Rover



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