Sunday, November 10, 2013

Travelling in the Dulce Nombre parish

This past week I probably put more than 300 kilometers on my pickup as I traveled throughout the Dulce Nombre parish. the last two days I have been grateful for the pickup since it has been rainy and foggy and the dirt roads have been slick.

A foggy day in Agua Buena, Concepción
Saturday, November 2, I visited several of the sites of Maestro en Casa in order to give them the forms to apply for partial scholarships for next year that St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames will provide.

Maestro en Casa is an alternative for people unable to get basic education in the system. The students listen to radio programs, do tasks in their workbooks, and meet with teachers once a week.

In the Dulce Nombre parish there are 8 centers and this year 105 received scholarships. About two hundred will be available for next year. Most of the students are in the Honduras equivalent of middle school (since there are only five middle schools in the parish). A few are doing an accelerated primary school program and there are a few doing high school studies.

I didn’t get to see all the coordinators but all of them now have the forms.

November 2 is the Day of the Dead, the feast of All Souls in the Catholic calendar. Here there are not the grand traditions of Mexico with their altars for the dead, but people do visit the cemeteries to decorate graves.

A large ayote
As I mentioned in a previous post, I stopped in one village at the house of a woman whose husband had been killed earlier this year for refusing to back down from testifying about a murder. It was especially sad since she is planning on leaving the community.

As usual, she asked me if I had eaten lunch. I don’t need anything, I told her. But she insisted on giving me coffee and ayote con dulce, squash with sugar. I later realized that this is a special treat that many make for the Day of the Dead.

What a privilege to share it with a grieving widow – who has been a major force within the village faith community.

Tuesday and Thursday I went out to two different areas of the parish to lead workshops for catechists.

We went over the rite of acceptance into the catechumenate (part of the Christian initiation process for adults.) I found that many of the catechists were moved by the rite – especially by the signing of the catechumens with the cross on their foreheads, ears, eyes, mouth, chest, shoulders, and feet. The actual rite will be celebrated on December 1, but the catechists will prepare the candidates and their sponsors for the rite. It is marvelous how the rites of the church speak to people.

I also shared with them more material for the initiation of adults (14 and older) as well as new material to prepare children from 7 to 14 for baptism. I have been working on the new material so that it is simple, straightforward, and participative.

But I came across a new challenge. About five of the young people who are preparing for baptism are illiterate. I talked with the two catechists who raised this concern and I’ll be talking with Padre German about ways to work with those who cannot read or write.

Another reminder of the poverty of the parish!

On Friday I passed by the parish before going out to a meeting of one of the zones of the parish. Padre had alerted me the day before that the bishop had just confirmed that there would be confirmations on Sunday, November 10. So they had to work really fast on getting things ready. Padre would have to be hearing lots of confessions (since there will probably be close to 100 confirmations.)

He asked me to do an evaluation with three of the four zones of the parish in preparation for the parish assembly in December (for planning next year). And so Friday and Saturday I helped them do a simple evaluation (which we did in a little more than an hour in each site.) I gave the groups three questions which they first worked on in small groups and then shared: What are the successes in your pastoral work which you have had this year? What are the difficulties you’ve experienced? What can we do – or what do we need – to improve the pastoral work in your zone and in the parish?

It was good to hear that the new sacramental policy has been generally well-received – as the number of baptisms being celebrated attests. There was a real sense of gratitude for the effort that Padre German makes to visit and celebrate the Eucharist with each of the 47 villages once every two months. Another success was the re-organization of the parish.

Today there are confirmations.

This coming week I have two more workshops with catechists as well as the parish council meeting on Friday.

So life continues – and Life seems to abound, even in the midst of the poverty and the insecurity.

In two weeks Honduras will have its elections – of the president, the National Congress, and municipal authorities.

But the choices that I see people making in the parish offer me more hope than any politician.

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