Monday, December 21, 2015

Harvesting coffee

Today about 100 Dulce Nombre parishioners came out to harvest coffee on the parish finca. The  finca - coffee field - is two manzanas,  about 3 acres.

The harvest was abundant and the laborers were many.

The harvest was abundant and the laborers were many.

I was among then but I have no picture of me at work. I only picked about what they call a gallon - actually five gallons. Here's my bucket with picked coffee berries.

But you can see my truck full of coffee that we took to be de-pulped.

The workers were not paid but did receive a hearty lunch.

The morning yielded 305 "gallons" - about 1525 real gallons. I had to take someone to a doctor in the afternoon and don't yet know how much was harvested.

Despite all this, we didn't finish. More harvesting tomorrow. I won't be with them since I have to go to a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment in Santa Rosa - including early morning blood tests. I also have to get stuff ready for visitors on Wednesday.

It was great to be among the people. Coffee picking is hard work and some people are really good, Two guys I know picked four gallons in the morning. A few kids picked two gallons. But it was a community effort - which is a great way to prepare for Christmas.

More photos here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Burying the dead

This afternoon, returning from an afternoon and evening in Gracias with the Franciscan sisters, I almost ran into a funeral procession, at a curve in front of the church in Candelaria.

I stopped and asked a person I know what had happened. A twenty-four year old man had been brutally killed two nights ago and his body had been mutilated.

I noticed the parish car on the lawn outside the church and decided to stay for the funeral. 

The church was full and Padre German, who had three other funerals today, delivered a strong homily, beginning by saying that a machete is meant to bring life, not death. Very interestingly he chose the Genesis 11 account of the Tower of Babel and the Gospel account of the beheading of John the Baptist for the readings.

He called for an end to the violence and noted how one remote village is almost empty because of the spiral of violence that took so many lives.

After the Mass, Padre had to go to another funeral in Dulce Nombre. I decided to accompany them to the burial; the cemetery is just down the hill from the church.

As the casket was being prepared to be put in the concrete vault, a women cried – no, lamented – leaning on the glass where she could see his face. 

She finally left with many of the family members. The concrete top of the vault was poured and flowers here put on the grave.

I had been looking around to see if any of the Delegates of the Word were present to say a final word. I was surprised that no one was there. (A delegate from Plan Grande had been there but left.)

So I asked a sister of the young man if it would be okay to say a prayer.

It was a short prayer with an Our Father and a Hail Mary, recalling how Mary had suffered the violent death of her son. I called on the people to see that the violence stops here and that no one gives in to vengeance or vendettas.

Several times this afternoon I was near tears, tears of compassion for the suffering of the people here and for the terrible loss of another young life.

I was privileged to be there, privileged to be able to do one of the spiritual works of mercy, burying the dead.

As I was walking to the cemetery I came across one young man I know. I asked him if he was going to the gravesite. He said no because it was evil. I’m not sure what he meant, but I think he might have a fear of funerals and the dead. I told him that no matter what we may think of the person who was killed it is a work of mercy to offer consolation to the family by being there.

But I feel a strong calling tonight to try to help people to face, with faith and courage, the violence around us. I hope to meet with some of the youth this coming weekend and I’ve offered others to come and reflect with them over the death and the violence.

Footnote: this death does not change the security situation for me or for other visitors, but it does reveal the increasing vulnerability of Hondurans, especially the young.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Joys and griefs

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people 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.Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, ¶1

The first days of December have been filled with joys and griefs.


The coffee harvest is beginning and people are glad that there is work in the fields, even though the pay is low – 30 lempiras (about $1.40) for every five-gallon bucket of coffee berries. Yet the price for coffee is low. Producers may get as little as 65¢ per pound of coffee that is dried but not completely processed.

The coffee sent by an association of small coffee producers in El Zapote de Santa Rosa is being sold at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, this coming weekend and some has been sold to several cafés. The fifteen members of the association are working together and may have an agreement with a coffee processor in Santa Rosa de Copán to buy their quality coffee. They also have been able to get seven more solar driers, which they will pay for on credit.


The school years is over, graduations are being celebrated, and people are thinking of next year.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church has been providing partial scholarships for student participating in Maestro en Casa, an alternative education program for middle school and high school for three years.

Today I just got requests from Bañaderos: twenty are asking for another year of scholarships and twenty-one are asking for a scholarship for the first time.  I’m still waiting for requests from five other Maestro en Casa centers in the parish.

Yesterday I went with Padre German, our pastor, to Tegucigalpa with eight young women and their parents who were eligible for complete scholarships for a middle and high school program run by the Hermanas de María. It’s a live in program that has more than 800 young women students who not only receive classes and faith formation but have opportunities to learn skills from swimming to playing musical instruments to sewing and working in agriculture. There were 12 eligible from our parish but I think only nine will go forward to take advantage of the scholarship.

It was a long trip. We left Dulce Nombre at 3:00 am and got back at 10:30 pm. But it was worth it since at least a few young women will have some opportunities for good education. But next year I’m going to search fro money to rent a bus to take them. Sixteen plus hours driving is devastating, though I had someone who drove my truck more than half of that time


December 30 was the end of the novenario, the nine days of prayer, after the death of Arnaldo, the husband of one of the catechists in Plan Grande. Padre German celebrated Mass here. The final prayer was held in the house that night and I was asked to share a few words.

As I prepared for what I might say, I noted a beautiful sunset and recalled how the life of each person may show us the beauty of God’s love and mercy – if we have eyes and hearts open to see and contemplate God in each person and event.

Wednesday, January 2, Santiago Mejía, the mayor of Dolores, one of the municipalities in the parish, was killed and his wife was injured. Again violence has touched people’s lives here. It appears that a subject has been identified, which is unusual since most violent deaths (over 90%) go uninvestigated and never come to trial.

On Thursday, Padre Francisco Rivas, a priest of the diocese, was killed in a traffic accident. He had been the director of the diocesan Caritas office since last January. A funeral Mass was celebrated in Santa Rosa on Friday and his remains were taken to be buried in El Salvador, where he was from. In a diocese with a limited number of priests this makes the life of faith even more difficult.

This morning I read on Facebook that the father of a young woman in Quebraditas died. Another death.

The life of the church

The church here accompanies the people in many ways – and the people also accompany the church.

An example of thee way the people accompany the church is the parish coffee field, two manzanas, about three acres of coffee. Last week parishioner volunteers came on three days for the first harvest of the parish coffee fields. Not only was this the first ever harvest from the fields but it was the first of several that will take place during the harvest season. Next Friday and Saturday there will be a harvest. I hope to help one of those days.

Funerals have one of the ways the church accompanies the people here, but there are many other examples.

In Advent here in the parish we celebrate the Posadas from the beginning of December. In other places the Posadas don’t begin until about December 16. I will write about the Posadas in a blog entry in a few days, but, in short, they are re-enactments of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter (posada) in Bethlehem.

The first Wednesday of the month, December 2, the parish extraordinary ministers of Communion met, as is there custom. They discussed a number of concerns, including the formation process next year for new communion ministers. A particular ministry of the communion ministers here is visiting the sick and bringing them communion.

The Eucharist is an important part of the devotional life of the people, even though there aren’t as many communicants as one might expect – and hope for.

December 8 was the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As part of the celebration in the parish, a new chapel for the Blessed Sacrament was blessed. This will enable people to visit the Blessed Sacrament during the day when the church is not opened.

Tomorrow, I’ll be joining Padre German to go to two villages to celebrate feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe early. On Saturday, the actual feast day, the bishop will ordain two new priests and three new transitional deacons in Santa Rosa de Copán. Padre German and I will attend.

After that we will go to the city of La Entrada for the dedication of a new church in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The mass will also be a celebration of the silver anniversary of the priestly ordination of our bishop, Monseñor Darwin Andino, C.R.S.

Sunday, I’ll join Padre German in the morning for a Mass in Camalote to celebrate their patroness, Santa Lucía – Saint Lucy. In the afternoon I plan to go to Gracias to a get together with the Dubuque Franciscan Sisters working there and the Honduran Franciscan associates.

Next week we will have our parish evaluation and planning meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. Lots to do and think about.

And so our life proceeds.

In this Advent, this season of hope, we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, but we also open ourselves to celebrate His presence among us every day – amid the joys and the griefs.