Saturday, May 31, 2014

Viejito - old guy

The other day in the market here in Santa Rosa I passed by a booth and a kid called out “Viejito.” I pretended to be offended. When the kid saw me a few minutes later, he apologized.

Viejito” – old man; “abuelito” – granpops; and even “viejito rancio” – rancid old man: there are all often affectionate ways people address older men. It takes a little bit getting used to.

But now that I turn 67 tomorrow, I guess I do qualify as an “old guy.”

I also find that as I get older I get more like my father.

Today, I started joking with the workers on my house in Plan Grande. One of the guys was singing and I told he that his singing would scare the roosters. (Where I got that phrase I don’t know.)

The guys thought it was hilarious.

I then told them that I am getting more like my father who was incredible joker and could tell puns like no other person I know.

One of the guys noted that it’s better to be laughing that getting angry.

That's a good thing to remember at my age!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Antisemitism or ignorance

I was disturbed very recently by the remarks of a Honduran priest, someone who is fairly politically radical.

In trying to explain the Good Samaritan story he made a few remarks about Jews that upset me. I am oversimplifying what he said, but I think this is the gist of what he said.

He suggested that in the time of Jesus some Jewish leaders used the laws of the Torah to enrich themselves. He then proceeded to note that Jews have really succeeded in business throughout history. But then he started to make a jump to talk about Jews in Honduras. I objected strongly and vocally.

I felt that he was making several jumps and generalizing about Jews. In the process, what he said could be used as a caricature of Jews. I fear that he is naïve about Judaism and Jews, as are all too many people – even educated people – who have never met a Jewish person and rely on broad generalizations. This is also complicated by the history of anti-Judaism in Christianity and the misuse of the reference to the Judeans in the Gospels.

Of course, his response was that he was opposed to what Hitler did and was only talking about what happened in the time of Jesus. But that’s not what I heard. He responded that maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying.

I responded by saying that we must be very careful about how we speak, avoiding generalizations that can lead to racism. I didn’t use the word “anti-semitism” for a number of reasons, including that he might not understand what I meant by that.

He later talked about the “Arabs” in Honduras. I interjected that the so-called Arabs or Turks (turcos) are mostly from Lebanon and Palestine. They came here and to other parts of Latin American largely to escape the Turkish Empire.

A little later he began to speak about the Israel-Palestine conflict, speaking of it in terms of the children of Sarah and the children of Haggar. I objected again and reminded him that there are Christian Palestinians.

There were other remarks he made, including one wondering whether Facussé was a Jew. Facussé is the son of Catholic Palestinian immigrants.

All this leads me to believe that, in large part, he was acting in ignorance, talking off the cuff, not really careful in his facts.  All too common here.

How sad.

--- A few years ago I wrote a blog entry about anti-semitism in Honduras which can be found here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sacraments galore in Dulce Nombre

Today we had a meeting of the parish council. I shared with them that there are about 600 young people preparing for confirmation. We’ll have the confirmations in five locations October 1 to 3.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg in the ministry of the parish of Dulce Nombre.

As I noted earlier this year, we had about 80 young people baptized at Easter.

What I didn’t know until I happened to look at the parish book of baptisms is that, between August 2013 and this month, there have been over 2,000 baptisms. Yes, that’s two thousand – and a lot of water.

I just finished the second series of workshops for catechists this week. There were 97 catechists in the four locations where we had the workshops.

Padre German continues to celebrate the Eucharist in the 47 villages at least once every two months. Last week he went to the village of Barbascales, a very remote village that had not had a Mass for 17 years.

So goes the ministry.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Plan Grande house drama - continued

Last week Padre German suggested that I consider building my house in a different location in Plan Grande. The location is beautiful, spacious, near coffee fields, and would allow a slightly larger house and a garage.

My first reaction was positive. But I began to think and pray about it a bit more. I also called someone in Plan Grande whom I trust. She didn’t want to say anything – but it was obvious that she would prefer me to continue to build on the church grounds.

I prayed over this a lot on Sunday.

At a certain moment things became much clearer for me.

The place near the coffee fields is beautiful but it is a short distance down the hill from the central road through the village. There are a few houses nearby by, but it is in a rather deserted place. It is a great place for a retreat house. But to get to the church I would have to climb the hill and then walk a few blocks to get there.

In contrast, the current site is very close to the church, as well as to the school and several houses. I would be more available to the community.

As I consider my mission here I see it as accompanying the people, being with them. The house down the hill would be great and could be used for workshops, etc. But to me it feels like a distancing from the community.

Where am I to be?

I think I’m called to be in the midst of all this. Maybe later I’ll need a retreat spot, but for now, I see myself being called to be in the midst of the people.

digging the foundations

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Moving out to the countryside

If I doubted whether I should move out to a village in the Dulce Nombre parish, this week should put most of my doubts to rest.

I’ve been out in the parish six times in the last seven days.

Sunday, I went out for Mass in the San Antonio church in Dulce Nombre and then spoke with Padre German for about an hour. There was a lot to catch up on – since he’d been gone for a week of much-needed rest.

Tuesday began the series of four workshops for catechists in these first two weeks of May.

The first was in El Limon. It was a good group with several new faces. We’re still working on catechesis preparing for sacraments. I also asked them to help me with ideas for a retreat for godparents of candidates for baptism and confirmation. I asked them to list responsibilities of godparents. The responses were an interesting mix – among them: counsel the godchildren, pray for them, and – to my surprise – respond to their spiritual and material needs. I was delighted to see that they see it as more than a merely spiritual relationship.

Wednesday I went out with two Caritas workers to El Zapote de Santa Rosa to take samples from their source of water for tests. It was great to go out with about six of the members of the town’s water board (Junta de Agua) and walk down to the source – which provides abundant water to several villages.

At the source

Members of the EL Zapote Junta de Agua with a Caritas worker (second from the left)
 It was good to see a water board at work, especially since I know most of the members.

On the way back we passed several coffee fields in bloom – a sign of hope. Also, I was refreshed by the incredible smell of coffee blossoms. The closet US smell is that of honeysuckle.

Thursday I was back in El Zapote for a workshop with catechists. On the way back I stopped in Plan Grande to see how the construction was going on the house.

Friday afternoon I was back in El Zapote, this time for a meeting of a group that is forming to work on a possible direct marketing of coffee from small coffee farmers with people connected with St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames. Ten guys showed up as I explained what the people in the US were looking for and how the US people could help. It was a fruitful meeting. They formed a board and will be meeting again at the beginning of July. In the meantime they will be looking at issues connected with the project and seeing what other sources of help they might find. I hope they can work this through.

What's important is that most of these are small coffee farmers, with only one or two manzanas - only three have three manzanas or more.

The cafetaleros
Padre German had told me that he was going to Plan Grande in the afternoon to look at a parcel of land – one manzana  (1.68 acres) - that was being offered to the parish. He had asked me to join him and two other persons from the parish. I called and he told me to come. That was easy since Plan Grande is only about 10 minutes from Plan Grande, on the way back to Dulce Nombre de Copán.

As I arrived he told me he had a suggestion for me. He would like me to move the building site to the area being donated. All except about one tenth of an acre is planted in coffee. The free area is in a beautiful spot, with great views (only a little less spectacular than those by the other site.) But the site is more open, has a place for a small garage, and is in a less populated place. Padre German also would like to build a small building for parish meetings there. 

He, the two other parishioners, and the donor kept trying to persuade me to do this. Padre also wants me to have a small chapel with the Blessed Sacrament on site. The building will become more like a house of hospitality and place for retreat than I had originally thought. Padre also thinks it would be good to have a second floor so that I can have some privacy.

I am almost convinced – although this might stretch my budget. But it will be a quieter place and will also help the parish of Dulce Nombre, since we could have parish training sessions here and I’d only need to fall out of bed to help.

I have until Monday to decide. But I probably will go ahead. That means working on a new design. Watch for news.

Today I went out to two meetings of zones in the parish.

At one, I had an issue with the zone. The catechists’ meeting on Tuesday was in their zone but no lunch or snack was offered. I was a bit perturbed.  I told the people – to their laughter – that I was angry. These women and men have come a distance, often walking. Two of them women are nursing mothers. These catechists work at least once a week with children and youth. They need to be helped.

The question was how to bring up the issue. I first asked them if they would have lunch. Yes, they said. “And how is it paid for?” I asked. Each village gives 25 lempira ($1.25). “And what about the catechists?” They got the point and promised to figure out how to provide the catechists a lunch.

Now I’m back in Santa Rosa for an afternoon of rest and reading.

Next week I’ll be busy again – with two workshops for catechists and the parish council meeting. I’ll also have Wednesday off to go to nearby Gracias to meet with the Dubuque Franciscans there for a retreat day.

Life is good. God is gracious.

What I ask for now is patience – while the house is being built. I want to move out to Plan Grande yesterday!