Sunday, May 27, 2012

When the Spirit stirs

Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the outpouring of the Spirit on the followers of Jesus who were gathered, anxious and perhaps fearful.

The last two days I have been moved by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the parish of Dulce Nombre.

Friday: communion ministers and social ministry

Friday the parish had scheduled two events – a meeting of the representatives of the Social Ministry from the villages of the parish and a meeting of the extraordinary ministers of Communion.

I went to Dulce Nombre, planning to help where needed.

At first I went to the Social Ministry Assembly and was amazed at the number of new young participants in the ministry, especially from Zone 3 of the parish, which has some of the remotest villages. 

Social Ministry lunch break included a game of "futbol" (aka soccer)
I spoke with a young man from San Marcos Pavas, who left home about 4:30 am to walk to the village of Delicias to catch a bus to Dulce Nombre. We talked about his village that has had some real problems – a pastoral worker left because of threats due to inter-family quarrels. But they have reorganized the ministry in the village and he is the representative of the social ministry.

Padre Efraín worked with the Social Ministry representatives and, since the other priest hadn’t shown up, I went with the Communion ministers to meet.

Since I hadn’t known I’d be working with them, I had to improvise. We reflected on the Pentecost reading from the Acts of the Apostles and then I had them share their experiences in their ministry.

In many of the villages, but not all,  the presence of the Eucharist has actually renewed the life of the church. People come out, usually on Thursdays, for a Holy Hour.  In their visits to the sick, the ministers have seen some people recover their  spirits – if not, at least in some cases, their health.

We talked about what they might need for their ministry. A retreat was a top priority, though a visit to the Aguas Termales – the hot springs – in Gracias was also mentioned.

But they also talked of needing good written materials to help with planning Holy Hours and to help their visits to the sick.

We had to cut off the discussion for lunch, but they and I were glad that they had a chance to share, something they had not yet done as a group.

After lunch I gave a short introduction to the methodology of the Social Teaching booklet they are using in the base communities, emphasizing the participative nature that the booklet hopes to nurture.

I was about to end when Fernando spoke up. It’s time to let us go home, he said, since there’s a storm coming. We ended with a prayer and they went on their way, though I’m sure that some of them got soaked.

Saturday – to three corners of the parish - and five sacraments

Saturday, in El Zapote de Santa Rosa, one sector of the parish was having a gathering for the children and youth in religious education. More than 100 young people – with some catechists and parents squeezed into the meeting hall for songs, talks, and skits – one for each of the four villages on the zone.

Several of the skits were quite entertaining. Sadly, I missed what some of them were about since they went so fast and the amplification was poor. One was a marriage skit. 

Marriage skit in El Zapote

But the wildest skit featured a religious ed meeting that encountered six young people into “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” Well, not exactly that, but it was drugs (marijuana and cocaine), alcohol, smoking, rap music, and dancing hip to hip. The young people played their parts well and, in the skit,  the religious ed class ended up converting the druggies. It was, of course, a little too facile, but entertaining. The real surprise was that the religious ed teachers – actually one of their real teachers, was a guy dressed up in a skirt with  a bra under the blouse.I never expected to see this here - especially since it was not done in a mocking way.

It was good to be there, but I had to leave before Mass started (an hour late) since I had to do a presentation on the Social Teaching booklet for the sector meeting in Dolores.

After that I went to Dulce Nombre to meet Padre Efraín to go with him to San Agustín.

I had not been there for some time and was surprised, first of all, at the good state of the dirt road. Later I found out that the mayor has also been doing a lot to try to improve the lot of the people, including taking over the costs of the Maestro en Casa, an alternative education program.

We met with Agüeda, an older woman who with her husband Horacio had moved to San Agustín a few ears ago after living in San Pedro Sula. These two Communion ministers have been active in preparing couples for matrimony, as well as encouraging couples living together to get married in the church. They also have an extensive ministry of bringing Communion to he sick – about 19 houses in San Agustín.

We met Agüeda near her house and visited five houses. The first three had women confined to their beds. The first was very poor. As we entered a granddaughter was mopping the floor because of the rain that had entered the house. Padre Efraín heard the woman’s confession and then, with us present, he anointed the old woman. Agüeda will later bring her communion.

The second house was even poorer – with an unconscious older woman, confined to bed. When we arrived there were at least six people gathered and several more joined us as the woman was anointed. As we prayed I noted that even the small children knew their prayers.

Seeing the poverty, I was near tears.

At the fourth house we expected to find a couple in their eighties confined to their beds. But they were up, even though very frail. Padre Efraín learned that they had not been married in the church! What to do? He asked them if they wanted to be married. It took quite a while for him to get through to them, but finally they agreed. Padre Efraín heard their confessions and then married them in a very simple ceremony, before anointing them with the anointing of the sick.

The marriage ceremony was touching. The old man sort of made up his own version of the marriage vows. “Yeah, I want to marry you.” Padre proceeded with the official marriage vows. A grandson present looked on, with a big smile.

Padre Efráin with the newly weds, with Agüeda looking on.

These signs of God’s love and grace touched my heart.

I was also moved by Agüeda’s ministry. As we drove and walked to the various houses, she mentioned how she had ministered in San Pedro Sula,  even going to ministering to a dying gang member, going where a priest was reluctant to go, out of fear.

After our visits, we had dinner with Horacio and Agüeda and the family of one of their sons who had come from San Pedro Sula for the Vigil. We ate in the fairly nice home of a coffee farmer whose three sons would be baptized that night.

The vigil was supposed to start at 7:00 pm and we started just a little bit late, mostly because the people were slow in arriving at the church, perhaps due to the rain.

The Mass was good – though the singing could have been better. The two women leading the songs at times started the songs without waiting for the musicians and so they sang in one key and the musicians played in another.

For me, the highlight was the baptismal ceremony, especially the reaction of the youngest boy, probably no more than five years old. He was so full of joy. It was a delight to see his enthusiasm at the prospect of being baptized. After he was baptized he was beaming. It’s amazing what the sacraments can do with people, including children, who are open to the Spirit. 

What joy - after being baptized.

After Mass ended about 9:15 pm, Padre Efraín and I returned to Dulce Nombre in rain and fog.

I tried to sleep but there were lots of mosquitoes and bugs. So, when I woke up about 5:30 I decided to head back to Santa Rosa early.

The Spirit stirred among these people and touched even me. 

No comments: