Saturday, November 06, 2010

Returning home - after nearly a month away

I left Honduras on October 11 for three weeks in the United States. I first spent some time in Pennsylvania with relatives and giving a talk at the University of Scranton, my alma mater.

It was especially good to see my aunt Mary who turned 93 a few days before my arrival as well as my cousin Mary, a Sister of St. Joseph. My cousin invited me to their congregation’s founder’s day Mass, a beautiful liturgy in their Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, motherhouse. The only males present were the priest and I! After Mass I joined Mary and the sisters she lives with for dinner. A delightful time. It looks as if I’ll get a chance to do some speaking at their parish when I get back to the US next year.

Mary and Aunt Mary

I also took time to visit two Iowa State University people who now live in the Philadelphia area.

The visit to Scranton was very important for me. I got to see Rosellen Garrett, the widow of my favorite undergraduate professor, Tom Garrett, who was a mentor and a friend. The world was blessed by his presence.

I was asked to give a public lecture at the university. I offered several possible topics but they chose “From Scranton to Iowa to Honduras, via New Orleans.” It was the story of my journey of faith and commitment to the poor. I have thought much about this and shared it with friends, but it was the first time I’d publicly shared it. I should probably write it out.

This helped me to put my Honduras ministry in perspective and decide to make some changes in where and how I serve those in need there.

After Pennsylvania, I spent two weeks in Iowa. This time I stayed around Ames, with just a short trip to Des Moines. Most of my time was visiting with small groups of friends and St. Thomas Aquinas parishioners, as well as talking to religious education classes and some young people from the youth group.

It was good to be there, to catch up on relationships with friends. I ate out so much that I think I gained about ten pounds!

Liturgy is always a blessing at St. Thomas. But the last Saturday night I felt very blessed. The presider was a priest from Ghana who is a grad student at Iowa State. The first reading was read by an undergraduate student from Ecuador. The psalm was sung by a woman who was Asian. We truly are an international church.

There were many fruitful meetings in Ames, but amid all my meetings and meals I did have some time for reflection on Honduras from a distance. During the coming year I hope that I can get out to the rural areas of the parish of Dulce Nombre more often and help in some faith formation. The pastor had briefly spoken about the possibility of going out to the three rural zone meetings each month to provide a short period of faith formation. I’m definitely going to take him up on this.

After Ames, I was supposed to go to Colombia through San Pedro Sula, Honduras, spending a night there. Well, delays of the flight from Des Moines changed that and provided a challenge – how to leave my bags with a friend who owns Hotel Maya Copan in San Pedro and make the flight to Colombia in two hours. And then the flight arrived about thirty minutes late in Honduras. But customs went smoothly and the taxi driver was there to take my bags.

Monseñor Artemio Flores, from Mexico, presiding at one of the liturgies in Bogotá.

In Bogotá, Colombia, I was part of the team which was mostly World Vision employees giving a short workshop on World Vision’s program for awareness of HIV and AIDS in the churches. All went well, except that I flubbed my first presentation. There were so many medical personnel and people with experience in this area that I felt intimidated and was really nervous.

The workshop was held under the auspices of CELAM, the Latin American Bishops Conference. There were 30 participants from about 15 countries, including two bishops, six priests, two deacons, at least five men and women members of religious orders, and a number of lay people (at least five doctors). What surprised me was the openness to the topic and the methodology which is very participative. The bishops especially impressed me by their willingness to participate – even in some skits.

It was a very good experience and I think the Catholic Church in Latin America will be working more on this area.

The workshop ended early on Friday and most went out into the city. I wrote about this is the previous blog,

Saturday morning as a group of the participants sat around a table for breakfast, an evangelical pastor who works for World Vision shared his reflections on the situation in Columbia and the suffering the people have suffered and the wounds that will take decades to heal. Participants from El Salvador and Perú shared a little of their experience and the need fro healing. I was filled with a deep sadness – not a sadness of depression, but of solidarity. What a blessing to be able to share in the sufferings – as well as in the joys.

Two nights we sat around the rec room of the center where we were staying and Brazilian Franciscans prepared drinks from the Brazilian sugar cane liquor Cachaça. Laughter and jokes abounded. But we could also share a bit of the suffering of Latin America during the workshop and at the last breakfast.

What a way to live the first lines of Vatican Council II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men [and women] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.

No comments: