Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A personal update

Today is Labor Day – the Day of the Worker – here in Honduras, as it is in most of the world. I’ve got the day off from Caritas and I didn’t get around to arranging a visit to a rural village; so, I’m reading, writing, cleaning at home in Santa Rosa de Copán.

My days have been fairly busy – though I always wish I had more to do.

Thursday and Friday was the diocesan assembly of the Social Ministry, in Intibucá – a three hour drive from Santa Rosa. The assembly was mostly devoted to the Third Pastoral Plan of the diocese which was completed last year. The plan is quite ambitious though it reaffirms the ministry of the diocese in base communities with a strong option for the poor. I ended up taking notes for the whole meeting as well as giving a presentation on how to use the booklet for base communities on Catholic Social Teachings which I put together last year.

It was a fairly good experience though I found myself a little frustrated by the poor effort one person, a professional, made in leading a discussion on the current situation in Honduras. But some of the participants – coordinators of the social ministry in their parishes – were quite incisive in their responses to some of the issues we treated during the session, especially Rufino and Denys.

Saturday I went to Dulce Nombre to show my support for two events going on there. I had thought I wouldn’t be able to get there but the Social Ministry Assembly, which was supposed to end on Saturday, ended early on Friday afternoon.

Fr. Henry preaching at the Mass for youth.
The big event was a gathering of the youth in the parish. Young people from eight towns or villages came. They started out with a walk from outside Dulce Nombre to the church where Fr. Henry presided at a Mass. I arrived in time for Mass but missed the walk. After Mass there was a soccer tournament on the parish soccer field.

Futbol on the parish's futbol field.

Friday and Saturday morning a workshop had been scheduled for choirs. César, a seminarian in his pastoral year before ordination, led the workshop. Sadly only about eight people came. César gave the participants an understanding of the reason for the various songs in the liturgy and taught them a few new hymns and new melodies for the ordinary parts of the Mass. I was impressed by his competence as well as the interest of those involved.  I was also surprised that he was going to be ordained sometime in the next two years. He looks so young. (But then, I'll be 65 in one month!)

César (standing) at the music workshop

Sunday I went out with a commission of members of the parish council to a community where there have been problems. Only about 10 of the 16 base communities are functioning and some base communities have been reluctant to pay the monthly quota of 50 lempiras ($2.60) to the parish.

The commission included Sor Pedrina (one of the Oblates of the Love of God in the parish), Professor Arnaldo (a retired school teacher who is the parish council coordinator), Marcia (coordinator of the liturgical ministry), Efraín  Vásquez (an extraordinary minister of Communion) and me.

 There was concern from the people in the community that we were going to impose something on them.  But we had been sent by the Parish Council to listen and to appraise the situation.
It helped that Arnaldo started out by explaining why we were there. Then all were invited to introduce themselves and their ministry n their base communities.

Some problems emerged, including some people who were coordinating two or three communities.
After all had spoken several of the visiting team from the Parish Council spoke.

The most impressive was Efráin Vásquez, who is probably in his thirties. He revealed a profound analysis of the problems in the community and offered a reflection based on a scripture passage, Romans 12. He advised the people to find ways to involve in positions of responsibility even the most humble members of the community. I was overwhelmed by his wisdom and eloquence. My guess is that he does not have a lot of formal education, but he sure has wisdom. His measured speech undermined any fears of the people in the community, laid bare some of the problems, and opened the way for the community to find their own solutions to the problem. Amazing!

Fr. Jon Seda giving Efraín Vasquez a pyx in February 2012

I have been concerned recently by what I see as a lack of critical analytical skills among many – including some professionals. But the example of Efraín, Rufino, and Denys gives me hope.

Now, how to find ways to help others develop their capacities for critical analysis?

This week is mostly in Caritas, with a workshop Friday and Saturday for people from the parishes on writing grants. I’ll be attending part of it and perhaps talking about the different possible sources for funding.

Saturday I may go to the town of San Marcos Ocotepeque where Lyly who works in Caritas’ project on Participation will be leading a session for members of the social ministry in the villages of the parish on Catholic Social Teaching so that they can more easily use the booklet that I wrote.  We met briefly on Monday and I gave her some suggestions. But it might be good to go there – though I am not looking forward to the awful “international” highway (if you can call it that) south of Santa Rosa which is an absolute mess. Many dirt roads here are better than this major highway.

Cover of the booklet for base communities on Catholic Social Teaching

Next week I’ll be gone for a five day training session on Transformation of Conflicts, a follow up to the two sessions I attended last year. Caritas Honduras sponsored the training, led by facilitators from Caritas Colombia, using – for the most  part – the methodology of the US Mennonite John Paul Lederach, who teaches at the University of Notre Dame. 

I’ll leave Saturday for the meeting in Siguatepeque – about four hours from Santa Rosa. I’ve arranged to stop on Sunday noon to visit with Sisters Nancy and Brenda, the Dubuque Franciscans who minister in Gracias.Visiting with them always refreshes my soul and my body. Nancy is a great cook!

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