Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Two weeks in July

Two weeks have gone by since I wrote about my life here in the parish. Tuesday night I decided to write something. The electric went off and so I wrote with battery power and decided to revise and post when the electricity and the internet return. The internet didn’t return, but I’m sending this from Dulce Nombre.

“What do you do each day?” some people continue to ask me. But there is no regular day in this ministry. There are planned events but there much depends on the needs of the people.

It is still raining often, but the days are usually hot and sunny and so the roads are passable – though I came across a landslide this morning.

I have had training for catechists in the zones of the parish. This is a lot of fun and it challenges me – to find ways to help them reach the young people.

But one of the joys have been teaching them how to read the scriptures using different methods. One is a form of Ignatian contemplation in which they place themselves in the situation and pay attention to their senses and feelings; the other is a form of lectio divina in which I have them listen silently and attentively to a reading and, when a word or a phrase strikes them, to stay with the word and pray with it.

I also have been teaching them a few new icebreakers. Some of the groups are more open to these and really get into them. There’s one I have been using at the beginning of the workshops that has them laughing and smiling – a real icebreaker.

I’ll have two more sets of meeting with catechists this year. Next year I’m thinking of trying to have a more systematic approach to the workshops.

I’ve met with youth leaders once last month and hope to meet with several of the groups that are meeting in about nine places in the parish. One of the difficulties I see them having is retention. I really have to get some help. Also, finding times to get the leaders together has been difficult. Many of the young people either work or study on the weekends.

I have continued to accompany our pastor, Padre German, for at least one Sunday Mass and, when I can, to a few Masses during the week. Most of the time he has me preach – to give him a break from his four or five Masses every Sunday.

I got a taste of his Sunday workout a few weeks ago. He was gone for a national congress on the family and he asked me to lead Celebrations of the Word with Communion in three municipal centers. It was a workout – not just preaching but also presiding and distributing Communion. I was exhausted after three Celebrations. He called me late in the afternoon and told me that he would get back in time for the seven o’clock Mass in Dulce Nombre. Thank God.

I’ve had one funeral, which we celebrated in the home – partly because the church was being painted. The house was right beside the church. The people had asked for the service in the house. I was a little reluctant at first but changed my mind when I was the church. My concern is that it is important to see that the service is a commendation of the deceased on the part of the church. As he or she was received in the church at Baptism, we want to send the body of the deceased from the church. I decided that a way to show this would be to bring the Paschal Candle to the house and put it by the coffin.

This past Sunday I baptized a young woman at Mass after a few hours of intense discussion with people over a delicate situation. Ministry can be quite complicated.

After Mass I went with Padre German as he anointed and gave Communion to a 92 year-old man who is probably near death. One of his sons held his father in his arms, so that he could sit up in bed. I marveled at the gentleness of the son who was visibly moved during our time there. It was also very apparent that the old man felt cared for – especially as his son held him.

Last Saturday I had my introduction to another aspect of my diaconal ministry – interviewing witnesses and couples before marriage. Padre German had me sit in as he did the interview. It is daunting but I think I know what to do. Already I have three couples whom I’ll be interviewing with their witnesses.

For many years I have been preparing materials for the parish – and beyond. I am working with two young priests to prepare materials for next year for the base communities, based on the Sunday readings. We met at my house to begin the process. It was great to be able to work with two fine young priests – who enjoyed my lentil soup.

After Padre German got back from the Conference on the Family, he was intent on doing something more on the family. So he called a meeting for the missionaries in the parish, whose who had gone on mission to other villages in the past year, to have them organize pastoral outreach to families in their own villages for the month of August, which here is celebrated as the month of the family. And he asked me – on Monday – to prepare a presentation on Pope Francis’ exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, for Friday. After two days of prayer, study, and reading, I pulled together something. It wasn’t as participative as I like, but I tried to capture the spirit and the spirituality of Pope Francis on the family.

Last Monday, I went to La Entrada for a meeting of some clergy who will be forming a Reflection Group to meet and look at the situation of the diocese and the country – partly on the social, political, and economic situation.

I took advantage of my trip to spend a few hours with the Franciscan sisters in La Entrada. It was great to have a long talk with Sister Nancy, especially sharing some of the challenges I see with some of the people here. It is so good to have good friends to help me work through ministry questions and challenges. It also helps that we speak in English.

I continue to find life here in Plan Grande to be a blessing. The community is open and I enjoy talking with people – and kidding around with the kids and young people – often greeting them as I drive to a meeting. Here are some children dressed for the celebration of Lempira, the indigenous leader killed by the Spaniards.

My little prayer space is a real sanctuary of quiet – a place to gather strength, especially in the quiet of the morning.

And the views from the house continue to amaze me – God’s creation is a real blessing and refreshes my heart - even as I watch the rain clouds approaching.

There is much more that I could write, but I’ll stop here.

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