Friday, December 12, 2014

Negligence corrected

I’ve been negligent for the past two weeks.  But then it has been Advent and I’m waiting.

The coffee season has begun in earnest. That means there’s not a lot of pastoral work for me. Many people in the Dulce Nombre parish are out harvesting coffee – and getting a fairly decent pay for the coffee picked. But unless someone is a master picker, most gain less than $10 a day.

It’s been cold and rainy and so that makes it even worse for them. But it’s almost the only source of cash for the people in this area.

The rain has also made the roads muddy and, at times, treacherous. Yesterday I went with Padre German and a visitor to El Bálsamo – a really distant village I first visited in June 2007, a few weeks after getting here. It was my first time back.

We could reach the village in Father’s pickup and so we dropped the car in a nearby village and walked the 4 kilometers to El Bálsamo – through deep mud! It was a good visit, even though my shoes and pants were covered with mud. It was also good exercise.

We did have a two day evaluation and planning meeting for the parish on December 5 and 6.

The achievements of the year are rather amazing:

This year there were about 80 received into the church in the catechumenate, hundreds of baptisms of infants and children, and more than 500 confirmations.

More than 100 catechists took part in workshops, as well as more than 100 delegates of the Word (who lead Sunday celebrations in their villages). There were also training sessions for leaders of base communities. Assistance from St. Thomas helped meet the costs of these workshops.

More than 176 young people received partial scholarships for the Maestro en Casa alternative education program for study beyond grammar school.

There are now more than 100 preparing for baptism at the Eater Vigil plus more than 500 kids between 7 and 13 preparing for baptism.

A special gift enabled Padre German Navarro the possibility of make some improvements in the parish infrastructure.

A Dulce Nombre parishioner donated 1.68 acres of coffee land to the parish; a gift from St. Thomas enabled the parish to buy an adjoining other 1.68 acres. In about two years the yield from these fields will help the parish become a little self-sustaining.

The coming year will continue to be full.

There will be four training sessions for catechists, a two day training session for delegates of the word (who lead the Sunday celebrations of the Word in their villages), a two day workshop for those in liturgical ministry, base community leaders will have workshops of Catholic Social Teaching and Social ministry, new Communion ministers will be selected and go through a training process, base communities of youths will be formed and their leaders trained.

And Padre German will continue to visit the 50 some villages and towns about every two months – in rain, mud, dust, mud, heat, mud, and floods.

With the assistance of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, for the third year there will be scholarships for students in the alternative education program called Maestro en Casa. There is also the chance that a small coop of small coffee farmers will be able to send high quality coffee to Ames and a few other places. More on that later.

I will continue to be involved in the parish and in formation and other projects. Thanks be to God (and my retirement savings) I will be living in the countryside in the village of Plan Grande in a house which I had constructed.

The house is larger than I thought – but, since it will go to the church when I die or leave (whichever comes first), it should be an asset to the parish.

I’m also offering it to some friends here (as well as friends from abroad) as a place of retreat. There are two guest rooms which I hope to see filled at last once a month.

The move to the countryside will put me in the middle of the parish and so better able to serve. It will also cut down driving time from Santa Rosa (a half hour each way) and cut out rent.

It is a new phase for my ministry and though I have a few regrets – I wont’ be able to get to Weekend’s Pizza so easily – I feel that it is another step on the road to better serve God and the poor here.

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