Thursday, June 14, 2012

San Antonio - agriculture and baptisms

This week I went out twice to the village of San Antonio, Dolores, Copán.
On Tuesday I accompanied Mauro who is one of the workers in the Dulce Nombre agricultural project. The project, in its last year of financing by Manos Unidas. is working in 18 villages in promoting better agricultural practices in growing basic grains (corn and beans) as well as promoting family gardens and reforestation.

Mauro distributing vegetable seeds.

In the first two years the project made fertilizer available on credit, but because of the cut backs in funding, the time schedule for this last year of the project, and the failure of some to repay the loans, they decided not to do that this year.

In one community, most of the men withdrew from the project because of this. However, in the same community, ten women are enthused about the garden projects.


In San Antonio, 18 families are working in the project. For two years they have worked on a joint project growing yucca.

I visited a few houses with Mauro. In one the woman told Mauro how proud she was of the mustard greens she was growing. She lamented that the rains had washed away another crop. As we sat and talked Mauro began to recite the numbers 1 to 10 in English to the three year old who echoed them back – for the most part – with an unexpected precision.

Precocious three year old.

Later, before the meeting of the group on Tuesday, Mauro showed them how to use small planting trays for growing sweet pepper seedlings. 

Seed trays

At the end of the meeting he distributed small packets of cucumber, cilantro, and radish seeds. (I'm going to talk with Padre Efraín to see if there might be some way to continue providing the seeds for vegetable gardens after the project funding runs out.)

The project has enabled several communities to build up a small amount of capital to use for loans to those involved in the project. In San Antonio is about $250.

Mauro was particularly happy to share how some groups have not only built up capital but are changing their ways of thinking – especially in terms of raising their own vegetables for consumption and sale.

Wednesday was the feast of St. Anthony, the village patron.

A Mass was scheduled for 9 am (but started at 10:30) with 43 baptisms and 5 first communions.

Early Wednesday I received a text message from Scott Satterlee, who is with La Finca del Niño in La Ceiba. I met him last September at the retreat I led for the Finca del Niño volunteers. He was in Santa Rosa for a few days. I invited him to come with me to the Mass in San Antonio.

We got there -  a little late due to getting the car stuck in a driveway where people had told me to park.  But we had time to talk with the people who had come from San Antonio and nearby villages for the Mass. There must have been more than 500 people there.

The music was very good at the Mass but, of course, the baptisms were the highlight. Father Henry, the associate pastor, is not a minimalist in terms of sacramental signs and so the baptized were well-soaked, especially the last young man, Pedro, who was baptized with loads of water.

Pedro's baptism

It was great to see the baptisms and all the people there. Several faces were particularly striking including , an old woman, an little boy about to be baptized, and the above-mentioned Pedro.

To be baptized

Doña Maria

Pedro in the front row, pastoral worker Efraín in the second row

After the 180 minute Mass there was food for everyone. Scott and I, though, left and ate Pizza in Santa Rosa at Weekend’s Pizza. (I claim it has the best pizza in Central America.)

Accompanying the people is really what my life is about here. I do help in formation of catechists and other pastoral workers and I hope to be able to help develop some programs for agricultural and community transformation in the future. But the heart of the work is being with the people.

In one sense, that’s what Jesus did – accompanying the people in their joys and sorrows. Jesus is a God who does not look on the people from afar but involved himself in the nitty-gritty of people’s lives.

Can missionaries do less?


More photos can be found here.

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