Saturday, April 23, 2016

Complex - yet simple

On the surface, life is not simple. So far, April has included a visit to El Salvador, working with workshop leaders in the prison in Gracias, training sessions for catechists and base community leaders, a meeting of the diocesan social ministry council, visits to communities, reading, planning, and more.

I have been reading a lot, partly in relation to preparing for the permanent diaconate. I finished a good yet large book of Servais Pinckaers,  The Sources of Christian Ethics. A day later I finished Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation  Amoris Laetitia. Both are significant works that offer a vision of morality rooted in the Beatitudes and the virtues, a vision that goes back to the early Fathers of the Church and St. Thomas. It's a vision that goes beyond a morality of commandments and obligation. That’s another post.

Preparation for the permanent diaconate includes getting the bishop to set a date – tentatively Saturday, June 25. It also means getting the vestments which has not been easy. Some folks at St. Thomas in Ames are having a green dalmatic and stole made. I had hoped to have a dalmatic and stole made by the Poor Clares in San Salvador but that is not possible. So I’m looking at all sorts of other possibilities. I also have to have a five day retreat which I’m consulting the bishop and looking at several options.

But pastoral ministry goes on in the parish and the diocese.

This month we had our first catechists’ workshops of the year. This year we will be working on formation, rather than just helping them work through materials for preparing children and youth for the sacraments. The first session I decided to work on faith as confidence, trust in God. Later this year, at their suggestion, we will treat the Bible and the Eucharist.

Catechists' training
This month we also had our first workshops for base community leaders. Padre German is taking the lead in this and I’m assisting with opening and closing prayers. The theme is ecclesiology: what is the church? Padre is very creative and we ended with a very interesting exercise related to rocks. We have had one; two more this coming week and one the next week.

base community leaders' training
I have been working with Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell with men in the Gracias, Lempira, prison, helping prepare for a workshop on Alternatives to Violence we hope to do jointly in May. It has been a good experience and I really appreciate the three men involved. I’m also learning how much this culture is a culture where shame is a clear concern.

I’ve been invited to be on the diocesan council of social ministry and went to the first meeting. What I found most interesting is that I was not as laid back as I sometimes am (afraid to offend) nor was I as bull-headed as I can be when I find myself in opposition. Maybe I am beginning to grow in these areas – after all I am 68 years old.

I also have gone to some communities with Padre German as well as going to two Sunday Celebrations of the Word with Communion. It is good to get to Mass when I can, even though long sermons often put me to sleep!

This year I have begun to work a little more with helping young people form youth base communities or youth groups. On Saturday, May 30, the diocese is having a meeting of youth of the whole diocese. I invited the youth to plan this. One young man took the initiative and has worked to contract a bus.

My concern was that we wouldn’t have enough people to fill the bus – which is what happened last year. But this year, because the youth are more involved in leadership we have had to turn away people. About 70 of us will be going – probably about 6 to 8 adults and more than 70 young people. I hope it’s a good experience.

Then there are the casual discussions with people whom I pass on the road. And there was the road trip to San Pedro Sula to pick up Sister Nancy, one of the Franciscan sisters, who was coming back from the US. I got a chance to make some purchases and she “paid” me with some Ghirardelli dark chocolate –always a treat.

The next two weeks are busy. Two workshops with base community leaders on Tuesday and Thursday, a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, training for the candidates for Communion ministers, and the trip to the youth gathering. I’ll also be leaving my car at the mechanics for three or four day for a major overhaul – checking the rings.

Life is complicated – but that’s the reality.

Yet underneath there’s something simple – How can I serve God, the Reign of God, and God’s people? How can I love?

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