Monday, September 13, 2010

The Holy Spirit has become Honduran

“The Holy Spirit has become Honduran,” said Pablo Richard, a Chilean theologian, at the end of a workshop on the Acts of the Apostles for laity in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán this past weekend in the study center in El Pinalejo, Santa Bárbara.

Padre Pablo, who has worked for many years for the Costa Rican-based theological center, DEI, Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones, had given a week-long workshop to the priests of the diocese and spent two days with laity.

I got to part of the workshop since I had a workshop to give in the parish of Macuelizo on Ecology.

Padre Marco Aurelio had asked me to give the workshop, from 9 am to 3 pm, and said there would be about 70 participants. I arrived and found more than 125 waiting in the church.

It was a good day, though very hot. (I sweat more than I have in three years!)

The challenge is always to help the people recognize and name the reality of their lives and, from the perspective of faith, be able to see the moral and political implications of these realities, and then act on them. (This is nothing more than the traditional Catholic social method – See, Judge, Act.)

I decided to start with the reality of the connectedness of all creation and then look at the way these relations have been broken. And so we talked about land ownership, the pollution of the earth and water.

I was surprised at the level of political savvy of these people. They work on small parcels of land, in small corner stores (pulperías), or in the house. There were a few teachers and few with a few cattle. (The richest cattle owner has about 20 milk-cows.) There were a very few who had studied or were studying at the university level (mostly related to education) and a number of others who had a high school education.

I spoke a little with a very interesting group of three guys in their early thirties – all bachelors! Two worked in agriculture, one was a bank teller. Two had finished high school, one tenth grade. But all were involved in the church and that Saturday night were responsible for a Celebration of the Word in their zone in the parish.

My overall impression that the people in this parish have a little higher educational level than I’ve seen in other parts of the diocese. Also, there seems to be a lot of leadership - something I have seen throughout the diocese.

I was very pleased to see a large representation of women, as well as young people in their late teens and twenties. I found out later that ERIC-SJ, the Jesuit think tank and training center, comes once Saturday each month to work with the young people.

I had read beforehand that one group of young people had made a study on the question of ownership of rivers in the area. One young woman who is coordinator of the social ministry in one zone of the parish shared their work with the group.

A very good day. As part of the evaluation they hoped I’d come back for another workshop. Before I left I talked with Padre Marco Aurelio. First, he introduced me to the group of leaders he was working with. Then, speaking privately, he hoped I’d be able to come back.

This was good to hear, since it is hard to break through some of the structures of institutions here, including in the church.

Then, I went to the workshop with Pablo Richard, about 30 minutes away.

I entered the conference center while they were working in small groups. Pablo, seeing me, came up and introduced himself, asking about me. How very inviting.

The groups then shared their reflections about how their parishes measured up against the early church as recorded in Acts of the Apostles. I was surprised how negative they judged their parishes. Pablo Richard also noted this exaggerated pessimism.

I know that many of these parishes are doing very well and are witnesses to the world of the Kingdom of God.

On the way back to Santa Rosa I gave a ride to folks from the Dulce Nombre parish. Sor Pedrina and I had a very good discussion about this very matter.

We noted some problems in the church here were low self- esteem, an exaggerated sense of sinfulness and inadequacy, as well as a desire to have everyone committed to the work of the church. Thus some pastoral workers are disheartened. They fail, I think, to see all the good that is being done.

Dom Helder Câmara wrote about the Abrahamic minorities, the small groups that have recognized the Gospel and strive to make it real in the world. Dom Helder speaks more of this group in terms of social ministry. In The Spiral of Violence, page 69, he wrote,
“…everywhere there are minorities capable of understanding Action for Justice and adopting it as a workshop for study and action. Let us call these minorities the Abrahamic minorities, because, like Abraham, we are hoping against all hope.”
I’d suggest that we use this term to understand the work of the base communities in our diocese. That way people can see the work of God in the diocese and, perhaps, be less disheartened when they face obstacles or indifference in their parishes and base communities.

It was therefore fascinating to recall the final remarks of Pablo Richard where he recalled how the world is looking at Honduras. He was very impressed by what he saw in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán – its commitment to the poor, its rejection of the coup d’état the commitment of so many pastoral workers in the parishes.

Monseñor Luís Alfonso Santos (bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán),
Padre Pablo Richard, and me

These are signs of hope.

Pablo Richard also recalled how in Daniel 7, the great statue of imperial power has feet of clay, which are broken, and then the statue falls.

Oppression is not the final word. There is always the resurrection. Christ Jesus shows us the way. And the Acts of the Apostles shows us how the first communities sought to live the Way.

There’s much more to think about – but almost enough for today.

One last note: the singing.

These two days I heard so many strong justice-oriented songs and hymns. I knew some of them but almost everyone there knew all the words by heart. In a few cases, our bishop, Monseñor Santos, could be seen singing loudly and trying to direct the singing. He dedicated one strong song - "Yo no puedo callar" to Pablo Richard.

In this song there is a line about "Yanquis poderosos - the powerful Yankees" Throughout the workshop when there was a remark about the US people had turned to me, mischievously - but in good fun, to see my reaction. In this case when people turned, the bishop said, "He's not a Yankee." I replied, "And I'm not powerful."


1 comment:

Brad said...

There is always the resurrection! Thanks for sharing John.