Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Connecting at the end of the year

The last Sunday of Advent I went to Debijiado. It is a village that used to belong to another parish but is now part of the Dulce Nombre parish. In October the church was reopened after being closed for two years.

It is a remote village. It took more than an hour in pickup from Dulce Nombre to get to the turn-off, and then it was a 35 minute walk down hill on a muddy “road.” I, though, got to ride a donkey – named Macho.

On the road to Debijiado

I now have more sympathy with Mary who walked or rode to her cousin Elizabeth’s house (about 150 kilometers from Nazareth) and then walked or rode with Joseph to Bethlehem (even farther away) and then to Egypt (even farther.)

The village was very poor. They have water, thanks to a project with the municipality of San Agustín, but no electricity and a terrible road. But the newly opened church seems to have given new life to the faith there.

The church in Debijiado

While I was talking with a couple about a recent series of events there that I can’t go into here, a young man who is new to pastoral work in the village asked me an interesting question. “When we fast, whom should we tell?”  “No one,” I answered, referring him to the text in Matthew’s Gospel. I talked a bit about some communal fasts which would include letting people know. But I decided to ask him a serious question. “How many times a month do you eat meat?” He smiled and answered, “Maybe once.” You are on a perpetual fast, I noted. But respecting the poor’s desire to fast I noted that fasts should be accompanied with helping the poor.

I was humbled. Here are people whose lives are perpetual fasts, willing to fast to open themselves more to God’s grace.

The next day was Christmas Eve and so, as has been my custom, I headed to Gracias where I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I stayed with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters there and had great conversations and great meals – and two games of dominos. 

San Marcos church in Gracias, Lempira, Christmas Eve

As I went to leave after a great lunch, my car wouldn’t start. Nancy came to the rescue and gave me a ride home!

I had to get to Santa Rosa on Christmas afternoon since I was leaving the next morning to get to the funeral Mass and burial of my last living aunt, Mary Barrar. A tribute to her can be found in a previous post, here.

I got up and left the house a little before 6 am. I couldn’t find a taxi and so walked more than half the way until a stranger, taking someone else to the bus terminal, gave me a ride.

I left Santa Rosa on the 6:30 am bus and got to the airport in plenty of time. But because of bad weather the plane left late and I had to reschedule my second flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia. More delays meant that I arrived in Philadelphia about 2:30 am. My cousin George was there at the airport to pick me up.

We got up on Thursday for the 10:00 am wake and funeral Mass.

Aunt Mary was one of my favorite aunts and I’m glad I got to the funeral.

I saw a number of cousins I have not seen for ages. But even more important were the stories I heard of Aunt Mary.

She was a take-charge woman, as her grandsons noted in the tribute they read for her at the end of the Mass.

In the retirement village where she lived for almost two years, she took charge at some of the activities; even more impressive, though not unexpected, was the love the staff had for her, perhaps partly because she never complained, unlike some other people. She also took interest in the lives of the aides.

She became the favorite of one aide – who became like a daughter to Aunt Mary. This aide helped give new life to Aunt Mary and actually helped her begin walking again. Aunt Mary in turn provided some counseling to the aide who later said Aunt Mary saved her marriage. What an incredible example of mutuality – sharing one’s gifts in order to help another who has a need grow and live a fuller life.
We buried her on a cold afternoon, but the warmth of her love lives on in her children, her daughter-in-law, grandsons, grand-daughter-in-law, and great-granddaughters. It was a blessing to be there.

I ended up staying two more days, thanks to the hospitality of George, Aunt Mary’s son, and his wife Kathy. And so I had the chance on Friday to see my cousin Leslie Donaghy. She’s had some health problems and so I was glad we could talk over lunch. She and one other cousin are the only living cousins on my father’s side of the family.

Leslie and I met in a mall. I got there early and walked around. It was a smaller mall and there were not many people. My reaction was very unusual – the mall seem pervaded by a deep sadness – even with the bright lights of Christmas still up.

The next day I had the chance to visit with more cousins. First with Judy and her husband and then with Mary, Aunt Mary’s daughter who is 29 days younger than I am. Mary is a Sister of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill and we talked at length. 

Cousin Judy (left), her husband Richard, and cousin Mary

We ended the day with a dinner out with Mary, George and his wife Kathy.

But an extra delight of the day was a two-inch snowfall. This is the first snowfall I’ve experienced since January 2008. It doesn’t snow here in Honduras. 

This is not photo-shopped. This is NOT Honduras.

Sunday, December 30, I headed back home. It was a long trip back – a 4 am car ride to the airport with George, two planes, a taxi, and a bus brought me to Santa Rosa at about 6:00 pm.

All had gone well until Santa Rosa. There two taxi drivers tried to charge me 20 lempiras instead of the normal 16. That’s only 20¢, but it was the principle. So I got out of the first taxi, refused the second, and found a taxi that only charged me 16 (but I gave him a one lempira tip).

The last day of the year was mostly dealing with my car. In the morning I went in bus to Gracias where I had left my car. A mechanic couldn’t get it started and asked two friends to come and see. They looked at it and got it started, telling me that the problem was the ignition switch (which was my thought). They charged me nothing! What a difference from the taxi drivers.

I made it back to Santa Rosa and fortunately the workshop of my mechanic who does electrical work was still open. He changed a part of the ignition switch and I was on my way.

I went to bed early and managed to sleep despite all the firecrackers.

I woke up rested to begin a new year.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cheap ass American not willing to tip a little better to the poor he is trying to minister to. L.20 would not have broken your bank, considering your vacation to Italy and all.

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

I should have given 20 lempiras to the guy who charged the correct price. A tip is one thing; someone trying to take advantage of others is a bit different.

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Thanks, anonymous, for the reality check.