Saturday, December 05, 2009

WIth the people

Friday and Saturday morning I took part in the year end evaluation and planning of the parish of Dulce Nombre de María. This year the pastor, Padre Efraín Romero, was not there to lead it and so the associate pastor, Padre Julio César Galdámez, led it. And I had the role of writing the evaluations and then the planning on my computer as it was projected on the wall! A challenge but I think it went very well. (Luckily Word has spell check in Spanish and that Word only crashed once!)

It is always good to be with these people – most of whom have limited formal education but many of whom are quite sharp and articulate. Only two or three of us in the room had more than a high school education – the priest, a sister, and me. There were a few retired teachers (I argued very pleasantly with two of them, about the “coup”) but I would guess that the rest had no more than six years of schooling.

But what really struck me were two conversations I had after the meeting.

Standing around in the park before lunch, one man asked if there was anything I could do to help him. He is a devoted pastoral worker in his community. He talked about the poverty of many people in his area who work for the church. He mentioned how many people in his area get handouts from the Missionaries of Charity and then also go to get handouts from evangelical groups. he felt that pastoral workers (all volunteers) really weren’t getting anything.

He was concerned most of all about housing. He mentioned how his fourteen year son had talked to him about improving their house. They made adobe bricks and used what tin they could find for roofing. But he felt he needed more.

These are great needs – but what I told him is that he should try working through the church, talking with the pastor. I don’t want to get into the position of finding funds for individuals and undercutting the structures. What I think might be worth discussing is establishing a revolving fund or a micro-finance project for pastoral workers in the parish which would help them with small loans.

As I walked away I had a conversation with another pastoral worker, Ovidio. I visited his community last year and he asked me when I was coming back. He’s very astute and has an inquisitive mind. I think he gets this from his father, Salatiel. The first I met this man who is about 80, he asked me where I was from. When I told him I grew up in Pennsylvania, he asked me if the capital of Pennsylvania was Harrisburg .

Ovidio also places value on education. His daughter is studying in the Catholic girls school in Santa Rosa on a scholarship and his son is going (on bicycle) each day to the Honduran equivalent of junior high, in a town near his home.

He is also blessed with having land to use since his father has a nice plot (which I think he got after the land invasions and land reform of the 1960s and1970s.)

Ovidio proudly told me that this year he has gotten double the yield on his corn field than last year. Why? He claims it’s because he is not using chemical fertilizers and between he is using frijol de abono, the velvet bean, to fix the nitrogen in the soil. He has learned some of this through the agricultural education programs the parish has offered.

These are some of my encounters with Hondurans that, though different, shape my view of mission – being with the people, accompanying them as they seek to live in the light of the Kingdom of God, sharing their joys and their sorrows. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1, 3-7)

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