Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sister Rain

We are in the dry season with very hot temperatures and we’ve had no rain for quite some time – until last night.

Thunder and lightning preceded the rain – one lightning bolt striking very close to the house and surprising me as I was preparing dinner.

And then the rains came, in torrents. My rain water barrels filled up quickly and the earth soaked in the rain.

I always love a good rain during a hot day. You can feel the difference in the air.

But this time the rain unleashed the smell of my neighbor’s flowering trees. As I looked out, an incredible smell overwhelmed me, a smell that it is difficult to explain. The fragrance continues even this morning, delighting the senses.

The morning awakened to an intense fog that surrounded Plan Grande. 

As I sat and prayed, I noticed that there was condensation from the fog on some of the screens.

I sat at a different spot toe at breakfast and noticed that the fog was coming in the living room windows.

A little later the sun began to emerge, burning off the fog, promising another hot day.

But in the meantime the rain has nurtured the earth, unleashed fragrances, and refreshed my soul.

Blessed be Sister Rain.

Flowers in my garden

Sunday, April 24, 2016

God's creation and human destruction

I have the blessing of living in an extremely beautiful place – surrounded by mountains, valleys, trees, coffee fields, and more.

This time of year there are also many flowering trees that bring color in the midst of the brown dust and dry fields.

I have also been able to plant flowers on the south side of the house and they are blooming.

I also have experienced between dawns and sunsets – and other gorgeous views that open my heart in gratitude to God for the beauty of creation.
I also have experienced the cicadas whose cacaphony is nearly deafening.

But there are times when I fear for what we humans do.

A few night’s ago I noticed a fire on a nearby hill which spread. Someone was burning the hillside.

at night
the next morning
There are a good number of fields that are being burnt. One of the largest and most devastating is on the road between the main highway and Dulce Nombre. The owners have burned acres of land and cut down trees – to plant coffee.

In the midst of this, we are experiencing hot and dry days. Here in Plan Grande we have water once or twice a day, partly because of some road construction that has affected the pipes but also because the source is not as abundant as normal.

In some parts of the country the situation is more serious and people have little or no food because of the drought.

The hand of “man” [sic] is wreaking havoc.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Complex - yet simple

On the surface, life is not simple. So far, April has included a visit to El Salvador, working with workshop leaders in the prison in Gracias, training sessions for catechists and base community leaders, a meeting of the diocesan social ministry council, visits to communities, reading, planning, and more.

I have been reading a lot, partly in relation to preparing for the permanent diaconate. I finished a good yet large book of Servais Pinckaers,  The Sources of Christian Ethics. A day later I finished Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation  Amoris Laetitia. Both are significant works that offer a vision of morality rooted in the Beatitudes and the virtues, a vision that goes back to the early Fathers of the Church and St. Thomas. It's a vision that goes beyond a morality of commandments and obligation. That’s another post.

Preparation for the permanent diaconate includes getting the bishop to set a date – tentatively Saturday, June 25. It also means getting the vestments which has not been easy. Some folks at St. Thomas in Ames are having a green dalmatic and stole made. I had hoped to have a dalmatic and stole made by the Poor Clares in San Salvador but that is not possible. So I’m looking at all sorts of other possibilities. I also have to have a five day retreat which I’m consulting the bishop and looking at several options.

But pastoral ministry goes on in the parish and the diocese.

This month we had our first catechists’ workshops of the year. This year we will be working on formation, rather than just helping them work through materials for preparing children and youth for the sacraments. The first session I decided to work on faith as confidence, trust in God. Later this year, at their suggestion, we will treat the Bible and the Eucharist.

Catechists' training
This month we also had our first workshops for base community leaders. Padre German is taking the lead in this and I’m assisting with opening and closing prayers. The theme is ecclesiology: what is the church? Padre is very creative and we ended with a very interesting exercise related to rocks. We have had one; two more this coming week and one the next week.

base community leaders' training
I have been working with Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell with men in the Gracias, Lempira, prison, helping prepare for a workshop on Alternatives to Violence we hope to do jointly in May. It has been a good experience and I really appreciate the three men involved. I’m also learning how much this culture is a culture where shame is a clear concern.

I’ve been invited to be on the diocesan council of social ministry and went to the first meeting. What I found most interesting is that I was not as laid back as I sometimes am (afraid to offend) nor was I as bull-headed as I can be when I find myself in opposition. Maybe I am beginning to grow in these areas – after all I am 68 years old.

I also have gone to some communities with Padre German as well as going to two Sunday Celebrations of the Word with Communion. It is good to get to Mass when I can, even though long sermons often put me to sleep!

This year I have begun to work a little more with helping young people form youth base communities or youth groups. On Saturday, May 30, the diocese is having a meeting of youth of the whole diocese. I invited the youth to plan this. One young man took the initiative and has worked to contract a bus.

My concern was that we wouldn’t have enough people to fill the bus – which is what happened last year. But this year, because the youth are more involved in leadership we have had to turn away people. About 70 of us will be going – probably about 6 to 8 adults and more than 70 young people. I hope it’s a good experience.

Then there are the casual discussions with people whom I pass on the road. And there was the road trip to San Pedro Sula to pick up Sister Nancy, one of the Franciscan sisters, who was coming back from the US. I got a chance to make some purchases and she “paid” me with some Ghirardelli dark chocolate –always a treat.

The next two weeks are busy. Two workshops with base community leaders on Tuesday and Thursday, a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, training for the candidates for Communion ministers, and the trip to the youth gathering. I’ll also be leaving my car at the mechanics for three or four day for a major overhaul – checking the rings.

Life is complicated – but that’s the reality.

Yet underneath there’s something simple – How can I serve God, the Reign of God, and God’s people? How can I love?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tragedies and signs of hope

There were two tragedies here last week.

An 18 year-old young man who often works for the parish in some construction crushed under a truck. His leg was amputated and he will be in the Santa Rosa hospital for a few months.

Last Sunday a mother in Dulce Nombre killed by her son. The family is poor. According to reports the son (about 20) said he killed her because she denied him a cell phone. Some speculate that he was drugged or drunk. Who knows?

Yesterday, in a Mass in a rural village, Padre German shared two stories that offer some hope, some light,  in the midst of these tragedies.

There is some speculation that the owner of truck was negligent in terms of upkeep of his vehicle. Despite this, the mother of the young man doesn’t want the man to suffer in jail.

Meeting with family members of the mother killed by her son, he expressed concern that vengeance might be taken against the son in jail and urged them to watch out for him. They agreed and one daughter said that such vengeance would be something that would shame the soul of her mother.

Such willingness to put aside vengeance and retribution is something that is not found all too often here. It is refreshing to hear this. I pray that this may grow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beggars for God

“One beggar must help another.
Good people share with us
and we must share with the poor.”
Mother Xavier Termehr

On April 12, 1892, far from her German homeland, Mother Xavier Termehr, died in Iowa. The Congregation she founded, the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family, have their motherhouse in Dubuque and are often called “the Dubuque Franciscans.”

The Congregation began in Germany where they cared for orphans and the elderly. They also ministered to the wounded during the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars. But, because of the harsh anti-religious laws of Bismarck, they left for the US and were established in Iowa where they cared for orphans and the sick. They later played a major role in Catholic education in Iowa – with missions to China, Chile, and elsewhere. Currently they have missions to the poor in Mississippi as well as in Honduras and Saint Lucia. Check out their website for more information.

I met the sisters while I was doing campus ministry in Iowa. Later, in 1988, I met some of the sisters who had begun missionary work in El Salvador. In 1992, I spent a six month sabbatical in Suchitoto, El Salvador, where the sisters had been working for several years.

I came here to Honduras, inspired by Sister Nancy Meyerhofer, who was working here. Now there are five US members of the congregation plus a Honduran woman who has joined them.

A few years ago I became an associate of the community and they are a great source of community and support. We often visit and I’m now assisting Sister Pat Farrell in an Alternatives to Violence Program in the Gracias, Lempira, jail.

The sisters here have shown me a great commitment to accompanying the poor, to visiting them in their distant villages, to assisting the people in their efforts to live out the Gospel in the second poorest country in Latin America.

I feel blessed to have them as friends. I join them occasionally for reflection and they have always invited me for Christmas and Easter meals. This year it was a great joy to have the meal at the sisters’ new house in La Entrada, Copán, in a poor neighborhood. The three sisters from Gracias and an associate of the congregation joined the three sisters there for the meal. As I arrived, they greeted me enthusiastically from their porch.

Theses sisters are, for me, an inspiration. They willingly have left the comfort of the US to live among God’s people here in Honduras. Three of them lived and worked in Chile, some of their time there during the Pinochet dictatorship; two of them lived and worked in El Salvador, during the war, ministering in a war zone. All of them seek to be present to the poor.

May the spirit of their founder, Mother Xavier, continue to bless them and give them the courage to continue their mission – beggars among beggars, sharing with the poor of this earth.


The image was painted by Jo Myers-Walker, a friend who is also an associate of the Sisters.

Sister Nancy is not in the photo since she was directing me parking my truck by their house.