A new year has begun.
The prospects for Honduras are not good.
A new president will be inaugurated in the shadow of serious charges of fraud in the election. He is a president connected with the ruling political and economic elites. As president of Congress he railroaded through legislation and packed the Supreme Court with supporters. In the midst of the violence he promises to do whatever needs to be done. What this means can be seen by his pushing through the establishment of a military police force.
The economy is a disaster. The coffee harvest is not good, because of the roya fungus which affected much of the coffee raised by the small coffee farmers. The Congress passed new tax laws which will raise the value-added-tax (a hidden sales tax) from 12% to 15%. The cost of the basic food basket will rise.
Violence continues, especially in the large cities and the north coast. The lack of a functional judicial system – only about 5% of crimes come to justice – lead many people to take the law into their own hands. The lack of a culture of dialogue in some areas leads to vengeance killings.
The drug-traffickers maintain and may even be increasing their control of some political leaders.
I could go on; in fact, I’m trying to write something on why there is so much poverty here.
But can one hope?
Pope Francis has written: "Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!"
Last November’s elections saw the emergence of new political parties. I hope that this means a breaking of the “bi-opoly” [a two-party monopoly] by the two traditional parties. The strong sowing for LIBRE, the new party that is an offshoot of the Resistance to the 2009 coup, showed that there are many who want a radical change in Honduras.
Now that the elections are over, I hope that there is renewed interest in real grass-roots democracy – not just the politics of power-seeking political parties.
Those are “hopes” I have, but they are not signs of hope. For those, I have to look at what I see around me. And since I am most rooted in the rural parish of Dulce Nombre de Maria, that’s where I find signs of hope.
Small signs of hope in the Dulce Nombre parish.
Padre German changed the rules for baptism of infants and children under seven. As a result of the changes and the new manner of preparing parents and god-parents, he baptized hundreds of small children and infants.
|Baptism in El Zapote on December 29 (one of almost 50)|
The catechists tell me that this openness has provoked another reaction from the people. Some of their communities are seeing more attendance at the Sunday Celebrations of the Word and even some people returning to base communities.
I have also seen a number of young people getting involved in leadership roles in the parish. Some of them experience discrimination from some who have been leaders for decades. But the presence of young people is something that is encouraging – and that I hope to encourage this coming year.
|A new young catechist at a training session|
There are also about 90 catechumens, mostly young people in their late teens and early twenties, who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil this coming April.
|Catechumens at the rite of entrance into the catechumenate|
Another hope I have is based in the parish planning.
There will be continued formation of catechists, so that they can better lead their communities to a living participative faith.
There will some formation of choirs and music groups, leaders of Celebrations of the Word, and base communities.
The Triple Ministry – liturgical, prophetic, and social – needs to be renewed in the base communities. These communities also need to become more participative and imbued with a sense of real solidarity which responds in faith to the social challenges the people face.
This year there will also be more retreats to help provide a spiritual base for faithful living.
All too often some people here have reduced their faith to knowing about the faith and adherence to doctrine and rules. Padre German is trying to move from preaching and religious education based mostly on “information” to processes that lead to real “formation,” so that, with the grace of God, we may be “transformed.”
One way we hope to do this is forming teams for faith formation and spirituality in each of the four zones of the parish. A small team will be entrusted with helping these teams grow in their faith and in understanding of participative religious formation.
That’s what is inspiring me with hope for this coming year.
But that means work – for hope is not something that just happens. As Pope Francis has written: “True Christian hope, which seeks the eschatological kingdom, always generates history.”
Hope is God calling us forward.
In this I share what Pope Francis wrote in his extraordinary apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel, ¶ 25:
I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are.
There are many things that are not good here. But, as Pope Francis also wrote (¶109):
Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor!
In this spirit, I look forward in hope to a new year of challenges, of possibilities, and of the opportunity to accompany the poor of the parish in our efforts to be signs of God’s Reign – on earth as in heaven.
|Dawn in Dulce Nombre, December 7, 2013|