Saturday, December 14, 2013

A change of pace

The last ten days have been quite a change of pace for me – much needed.

December 6 I headed out to Dulce Nombre. Since it was the feast of Saint Nicholas, I put on a red sweatshirt and my Santa Claus hat and armed myself with a bag of candy. As I drove out of Santa Rosa I kept passing out candy to those I passed in the street. Then, at the police road block, I made sure the police got a bit of candy. And, of course, in the parish meeting candy abounded.

I guess I’m returning to my childhood – or, better, getting more like my father who loved to do crazy things like this.

December 6 and 7, the Dulce Nombre Parish had its annual evaluation and planning meeting. It was very productive and we look forward to a new year, full of challenges, but also full of hope.
small group discussion at Dulce Nombre planning meeting 
I’ll have a lot of work since we will begin to form teams for formation and spirituality in the four zones of the parish. I’ll be part of the team helping in the formation of these teams.

One of our biggest challenges will be to form these leaders in a methodology that is participative and “popular,” that speaks to their situation and uses processes and language that they easily understand. They are so used to education, even religious education, that emphasizes intellectual concepts and memorizing – concentrated on information. As I see it we need a style of religious education (at all levels) that is not only information but also formation, so that God can work a transformation in us.

On Sunday, I headed to Suchitoto, El Salvador, where I have visited innumerable times and where I spent 7 months in 1992.

I was going to go straight to the town, where I would be staying at the Centro Arte para La Paz, Center of Art for Peace, which Sister Peggy O’Neill founded several years ago. (If you are looking for a place to give a donation this Christmas, consider helping them. Click here for info. They do great work, especially with young people.)

Centro Arte para La Paz 
But as I passed near the turn off to the village of Haciendita 2, I decided to drop by to let them know I was here. I saw Rosa Elbia, in whose house I had lived in 1992. Her husband, Esteban, had died almost three years ago and I had a photo of them I wanted to give her. We arranged to meet the next day.

As I headed to Suchitoto I was about to pass San Antonio, but decided to stop and see Lucía briefly and arrange a visit later this week. She too had lost her husband recently and I had a photo of them that I shared. We arranged a Thursday afternoon visit.

My visits to Rosa Elbia and Lucía and their families were delightful.

Rosa Elbia prepared a delicious lunch – with the large thick tortillas which are so common in the Salvadoran countryside.

I spent a lot of time talking with her children.

Two are teachers in nearby villages – with college degrees. Another daughter is beginning her final year at the university for a degree in accounting. One son had come in from Chalatenango and we talked at length. He was going to get married the next month (at the age of 38), but we talked of many things. I remember that he had liked to play chess – but he told me he hadn’t played for a while. And as he walked about the family property he sang, as was his custom. We ended up exchanging Facebook pages and are now officially “friends.” Yes; because his sister has a computer and an “internet modem,” he can connect from his family’s home!

I spent about 45 minutes talking to the youngest son, Tebito – now 24 years old. When I had arrived in the house in 1992 he was a timid three year old who cried whenever he saw me. Now he was a tall young man who had recently finished high school. He had lots of questions, which I thoroughly enjoyed discussing with him.

Tebito and his mother, Rosa Elbia
At Lucía’s, I had lunch and then took a welcome nap in a hammock. As we left to visit, I noticed that her granddaughter was working on a computer. One of Lucía’s daughters, who has been a teacher for many years, was away for a meeting. she had been a teacher as a teenager during the Salvadoran civil war. Her daughter is now studying in the university.

I spent a bit of time with some of her children, grandchildren, and even a great-grand child.

Lucía and some children, grandchildren, and a great grand-son (and me)
It was good to see them but it was sad to see that one of her sons-in-law is seriously disabled, perhaps by a stroke that has left him unable to move or walk and with constant trembling. One of her daughters is also disabled, but is loved and accepted by her cousins.

What impressed me is how seriously these families value education. The parents had few opportunities but have encouraged their children. Now there is a generation that has had the opportunity to study – and many of them are now helping others.

I had time to visit in San Salvador as well as in the city of Suchitoto. I also got to know a bit more about the work of the Centro Arte para la Paz. I’ll write more about these later, as well as on the celebrations in Suchitoto for the feast of Santa Lucía on December 13.

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