Today the parish of Dulce Nombre sent forth 74 parishioners for a week of mission, covering 53 towns, villages, and hamlets in the parish.
|Entering the church in procession before Mass|
The parishioners, most of whom participated in two training sessions of a day and a half each, went forth in twos and threes. Some have one mission site; others will visit two or three villages.
They left their cell phones at home and went without money, depending on the hospitality in the places where they will mission. If this sounds like something out of the Gospels, it is! If this sounds like Pope Francis asking for a church that goes out from the church building, it is!
The seventy four missionaries will, with guides in the villages, visit every household, listening and praying. This is not so much an evangelistic crusade as a mission of showing the mercy of God by their visits. After greeting people in their homes and listening to them, they will pray and share a scripture with them. I prepared a list of a few scriptures related to sitautions they might encounter.
As part of the mission,we are urging them to have special concern for the sick and the elderly. If they see serious needs, they will work with the people in the village to see what can be done. We have the hope that they can promote a work of mercy during their visit.
Padre German is making himself available when there are groups of the elderly or ill who want to be anointed or receive the sacrament of reconciliation. If there are elderly or sick who only want to receive Communion, I will go out and bring them Communion.
The missionaries will also promote other meetings and celebrations while in the villages. I expect they will meet with some base communities and youth groups as well as lead a few Celebrations of the Word, Holy Hours, or praying the Rosary. We are urging each place they visit to end with a celebratory get-together.
The Mass this morning was long since each missionary was giving a Cross and individually blessed by Padre German. Beginning about 10:45, we sent the last missionaries out about 1:15!
They will be in mission until next Sunday when we will have a Mass to end the Mission.
I was impressed especially by the large number of young men and women who are going on mission. Yes, there are many who have been involved in the church for more than a decade, but there are enthusiastic young people among them.
I pray that this is, for all of them, an experience of renewing their faith by sharing their faith and living with others. I also pray that it will help deepen the faith of many in the parish who are disheartened or who have not been practicing their faith.
I do have to admit that I was skeptical that this could happen, but God works miracles. Seventy-four people leaving their homes, their family, even their cell phones, dependent on the hospitality of strangers. What a beautiful way to live the faith.
As we were preparing for the mission, I heard Padre German speak of his experiences of mission, including spending forty days in one place where they served flor de izote every day. He spoke of the difficulties he had experienced and of the joy that accompanied these missions that were times of conversion and faith for him.
As I listened, I felt that I had not done this, but then I remembered my experience in the parish of Suchitoto, El Salvador, in 1992. I volunteered with the Salvadoran priest and five US women religious – two of whom are now here in Honduras.
They sent me to the furthest part of the parish – a four hour walk from Suchitoto. I visited and worked with several communities, but I stayed most of the time with the Clavel family, usually for several days each week. The family had recently returned from exile in Honduras, due to the civil war. The father, Esteban (God rest his soul), who had been a catechist and had fled El Salvador because of threats, had made a house out of a cattle stable. They had eight children, from 2 to about 18, living in the house, but they took me in. To avoid displacing a child from his cot, I brought a hammock for sleeping.
It was a great experience, even if there was not water in the community (until late in my stay), even if there was no real latrine, even if there was no electricity, even if this was before cell-phones and there were not fixed phones for miles, even if we had to go to the nearby river to bathe, even if the meals were mostly tortillas and salty beans.
Yet every morning I awoke with a deep sense of gratitude. “Gracias a Dios” were often the first words in my heart.
May the missionaries be safe – but even more may they experience the love and mercy of God and share it. And may they find joy in mission.