Wednesday, February 22, 2012

St. Thomas Aquinas pastor visits Honduras

My mission here has been supported – financially and in many other ways – by the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, where I had served as a campus minister for 24 years.

I have had many visitors from the parish but this month was the first visit from a pastor of St. Thomas. Fr. Jon Seda arrived on Wednesday, February 15, and stayed until March 22.

The first few days he was accompanied by an ISU grad, Wes Meier, who with other ISU grads – at three of whom had been active at St. Thomas – had formed a small organization to help provide low cost appropriate technology for the poor. We were joined for two days by Álvaro Rodríguez who directs the program in Nicaragua. We saw one Caritas project in the caserío San Miguel, in the village El Pelón [Baldy], in the municipality of Yaramanguila in Intibucá. There, Jacinto works with his four sons and grandsons. They showed us their fields and we ate some of their carrots.

On Friday we went to the parish council meeting at some land the parish has bought on Cerro Negro where the diocesan radio station is setting up a new transmitter and where the parish hopes to plant a small plot of coffee.  It was a long hard journey – up and down mountainous roads.

The tower and the house for the transmitter and a watchman are impressive. This new transmitter will help the diocesan radio amplify its outreach and help further in the evangelization efforts of the parishes and the diocese. The finca of coffee will help generate funds for the parish and help it become a little more sustainable.

Father  Jon had a chance to meet the parish council members and also hear about the parish’s agricultural project which aids families in about 18 villages and also offers support for the agricultural efforts of the pastoral workers in the parish.

Fr. Jon (and Wes)  with the parish council

Early Saturday morning Wes and Álvaro headed off to Nicaragua while Fr. Jon and I left to stay three days in the parish of Dulce Nombre.

We first went to a bit of a follow up meeting for the Extraordinary Ministers of Communion in the parish. A psychology professor from the Catholic University campus in Santa Rosa brought four students to do a workshop on  self-esteem.

After a while we left to see the classes of Maestro en Casa, a distance learning program for students which includes listening to radio programs during the week, homework in workbooks, and classes for the most difficult subjects in centers scattered throughout the countryside. This year the parish has at least five of these programs.

The program here in the town of Dulce Nombre is coordinated by the sisters who help in the parish. The Saturday sessions are mostly primary and middle school classes. I was quite heartened to see two people in the late twenties who were beginning in the accelerated primary school program.

After we got back from seeing the classes, Father Henry Rodríguez, the associate pastor, and Fr. Jon concelebrated a Mass. As is often the case here the Mass was for the Communion ministers as well as for two couples getting married.

Fr. Jon giving a pyx to Efraín Vásquez, an extraordinary minister of Communion

The weddings were simple. However, one thing rather surprised Fr. Jon. In the middle of the ceremony one of the brides proceeded to breast feed her small baby. That’s not something you’ll see in Ames.

At the end of the Mass, Fr. Jon blessed pyxes for the Communion ministers and distributed them personally to each one.

In November, Diane Lyon, a resident parishioner of St. Thomas visited with a group of others from the parish. She brings Communion to the hospital and after talking we decided it might be a nice sign of solidarity to give the ministers pyxes for when they visit the sick in their villages. The Honduras Ministry Committee bought the pyxes and Diane sewed small cloth bags for them. It is a marvelous sign of the solidarity which the Eucharist calls us to live.

Father Jon concelebrated another Mass on Saturday (with a wedding), two Masses on Sunday (one with two baptisms), and one on Monday night in Plan Grande.  He also had the chance to visit with people in a few villages, entertain some kids in Plan Grande with his silly tricks,  and spend a few hours talking with Fr. Efraín Romero, the Dulce Nombre pastor, about ways to deepen the relationship between the two parishes.

Fr. Efraín and Fr. Jon blessing a child in Delicias, Concepción

What I found refreshing about Fr. Jon’s visit was his message to the people. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We at St. Thomas in Ames can learn from you and we can work together to learn how to live as disciples of Christ.

This is solidarity – not mere charity. We are called to be co-workers, accompanying each other in our work for the Reign of God.

More photos of Fr. Jon in Honduras can be found in a Flickr set here. I will be posting more photos of events during his visit in the next few days.

1 comment:

shari said...

First photos I've seen of the interior of the church in Plan Grande - lovely! Also, you got Fr. Jon to eat a carrot?? Way to go! But seriously, it was really nice to see him concelebrating the masses with Padres Efrain and Henry. Really pulls together the idea of solidarity. Thanks, John.