Saturday, June 30, 2012

Workshops, a youth assembly, and more

I haven't really written much about the parish in the last two weeks and so I want to share a few thoughts on events here.
Friday, June 22, the parish of Dulce Nombre had a dinner with a guest speaker, a priest who is also a singer from Choluteca. They raised money for the parish’s kitchen/dining room and meeting hall, which is rapidly being constructed – despite financial restraints.

Walls of the second floor are almost finished

The priest was  a good singer and an animated speaker. I didn’t quite like his style and found his message a little simplistic. But the people enjoyed it and the meal was good.

The mornings of June 22 and 23, I spent with leaders of the base community’s going over the new Catholic Social Teaching booklet they are using (and that I wrote); I used the meetings to help them improve their meetings, making them more participative. The leaders were receptive and, in fact, some mentioned that their style is to promote as much participation as possible. How encouraging in a culture where people in authority are accustomed to speak AT people for long periods of time. It was good to be with them.

At the meetings I also spent time doing a little reflection with them on the parable of the mustard seed, trying to help them relate it to their lives as campesinos. Perhaps I was reading more into the parable than is there but I asked them about seeds and how much time is needed for them to sprout – four days for a mustard seed, five for corn, four for beans, months for coffee, about a year for noni, and quite some time for trees. We talked about the need for patience and how people grow in their faith at different rates. This may help them in dealing with people who don’t seem to respond to their efforts to evangelize the people.

Sunday I went to Joyas Galanas. The road there was terrible and I thought I’d get stuck a few times – but new tires and four wheel drive low got me through. (I returned by a different route – with a much better road.) The crowd at the Celebration of the Word was small, but many came to Communion. 

The Joyas Galanas valley

Friday and Saturday of this week was the training session for new catechists. Forty-eight showed up – most of them young and most from a zone of the parish that needs a lot more youth in their ministries. Since it was a young crowd they were a lot less participative than I’d hope. We treated the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.

Catechists during a small group session

On Friday I did a session on examination of conscience. I went through a few ideas but we then spent about half an hour using the Jesuit examen. It was absolutely amazing the silence in the hall while we went through five steps. I was very glad to see even the young people taking advantage of silence.

Saturday morning I did a session on the parts of the Mass, using a sort of jigsaw puzzle approach that I’ve used before. In groups, they had to arrange the parts of the Mass in order.

I’ve done this before, but this time it was harder for the groups to do it. I ended up running between the four groups, helping them in the process. (And so, no pictures.)

Afterwards we reflected on how hard it was for them. They actually did very well with the Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Word but the Liturgy of the Eucharist was really hard for them. I think this was partly because I included the official Greek terms (epiklesis, anamnesis). But I think it was so hard because most of them don’t experience Mass in their villages very often. They might get to a Mass in their sector or a special parish Mass but many had Mass in their village only once a year! They are very familiar with the weekly Sunday Celebrations of the Word and so could identify the parts of the Introductory Rites and Liturgy of the Word. But lack of access to Mass made the other parts of the exercise difficult.

I left the catechists with a little booklet with the parts of the Mass. They were glad to have it and some talked about sharing it with other ministries in their villages. I urged them to study it with the village church council, especially before a Mass in their village.

Sor Pedrina at the Youth Assembly

After my presentation I hurried back to Santa Rosa with Sor Pedrina and six young people for the diocesan Youth Encounter. Over a thousand young people (and some older folks) showed up for the walk from the Catholic University to the City Gymnasium where Mass was celebrated, followed by a concert that ended with Benediction. We got there in time for Mass.

Bishop Romulo Emiliani preaching

Three bishops and about 8 priests concelebrated. Bishop Romulo Emiliani, the auxiliary bishop of SanPedro Sula, preached on the problem of violence and the need to turn to Christ. He’s quite the orator and the message was quite good – talking about the roots of violence in consumption, materialism, and more. He did speak a bit about corruption and other social problems of the country, including the 42% of infants with chronic malnutrition. I wish he had been more specific in his homily about the social and political roots of the violence here, since this was a Mass for Peace in the face of violence. But it was good.

After a lunch break there were warm up acts for the main event “Son by 4,” a Puerto Rican music group. Their singing was quite good, but I was left hungering for something more.

Son by 4 in concert; note all the cellphone cameras
The music was spirited. But at one point I felt that I was at a rock concert, with phone cameras going wild and people clapping and singing.

The lyrics, as far as I could understand, were very individualistic. They shared stories of their group and of a conversion they’d witnessed.

The lack of a social context left me wondering. The event cost 100 lempiras - $5.00, which is a lot for people from the countryside. About a third of  the group were Catholic University students, who are mostly middle class and upwardly mobile.

But I didn’t hear anything in the group’s songs about the poor. Love of God, yes – but love of the neighbor and a commitment to the poor didn’t come through to me. (Maybe I missed it, since sung lyrics are often hard to understand.)

I know some of the young people from other parishes were poor and others, including a group of five friends, do have a sense of care for the poor. 

Bishop Andino carrying the Eucharist in procession

I left at the end of Benediction. Bishop Darwin came back and carried the monstrance with the consecrated Host through the crowd and placed it in front of a statue of Mary. 

Monstrance with consecrated host before statue of Mary

The group sang several of its songs but what struck me was the image of the monstrance in front of Mary. It was, as a friend noted of the photo, “iconic.” The monstrance was placed in front  of the statue in such a way that it appeared to be just in front of Mary’s womb – where some icons place Jesus.

I was struck by this image as we knelt in adoration of Christ in the Eucharist.

I left and went  home – to a noisy neighbor playing music at an incredible volume. I went and asked them to turn it down and they did!

Reflecting back on the last week, I find again that I feel myself most at home with the poor – even at their celebrations with poor music. Their wisdom and piety nurture my soul.

The hype of the concert and its individualistic message left me cold – though the piety of young people kneeling in prayer continues to inspire me (as it inspired me during my 24 years in campus ministry at St. Thomas in Ames.)

There is hope – though it is a long struggle to lessen violence here.  I don’t think it will come through concerts or a lot of large meetings. It may come with the work of people in their communities, with small groups working and praying together.

Also, work on alternatives is important. And the parish of Dulce Nombre de María is planning to host a workshop in late July.


More photos of the Diocesan Youth Encounter can be found here.

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