Wednesday, July 05, 2017

My thousandth post

This is my thousandth post on Hermano Juancito.

I began on June 28, 2006, as I was beginning to discern whether God might be calling me to Honduras. Twelve years later I am in Honduras, having spent more than ten years here, still blogging.

Much has changed in these twelve years. I’ve lived through a coup in June 2009. In December 2011, I became an associate of the Dubuque Franciscans of the Holy Family, who have been a great source of support and inspiration to me. I lived in Santa Rosa de Copán for more than seven years; but in December 2014, I moved out to the countryside to the aldea of Plan Grande, Concepción. I came as a lay missionary; I was ordained a permanent deacon in the diocese in July 2016. In July 2007 I made my first visit to the parish of Dulce Nombre de María; now I live and minister in the parish as a deacon.

The transitions in my life and ministry have generally been gradual, finally leading me to serve as a permanent deacon in a rural parish.

I began working, at the suggestion of then bishop Monseñor Luis Alfonse Santos, in campus ministry at the Catholic University of Honduras campus in Santa Rosa. But soon I began to visit and help in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María, not far from Santa Rosa. Later Bishop Santos asked me to help with the diocesan office of Caritas, where I helped for about six years, while I continued to go out to the parish of Dulce Nombre. In 2014, I stopped my work in Caritas and began full-time ministry in Dulce Nombre.

What are the strands that permeate my ministry here?
  1. A desire to accompany and be of service to the poor.
  2. A Franciscan spirituality of being with the poor, even though I can never be poor like them
  3. A methodology of formation that seeks to help the people discover their faith and grow in their love of God and service of their sisters and brothers.
  4. A spirituality that sees service with the poor, formation of people in the church, and a sacramental life centered in the Eucharist as essential to keep me connected with God.

What was unexpected?
  1. The political events that have affected the lives of people here, including the 2009 coup, the militarization of society under the current regime.
  2. The difficulties of living alone.
  3. The call to the permanent diaconate
  4. The election of Pope Francis and his commitment to the poor

What has helped me survive and continue?
  1. Time for prayer, especially in the morning.
  2. The support of two groups of Franciscan sisters
  3. A good pastor who has given me a lot of freedom
  4. The beauty of the countryside
  5. The love the people show me
  6. The development of a sense of humor that helps me laugh at myself and be a bit foolish.

What have been some joys and successes?
  1. Working with some catechists and youth leaders who have captured a spirit of community and participation in their ministries
  2. Introducing many to Ignatian contemplation as a way to read scripture
  3. Preparing materials for catechists, base communities, and parish celebrations (including the parish Stations of the Cross.
  4. Helping a group of small coffee farmers organize themselves, improve their crops, and sell coffee to a parish in the United States.

What are the challenges?
  1. The roads and the drivers who often drive me to language that I don’t dare put into my blog.
  2. Dealing with some people, including leaders, who are stuck in ways of working in the church and elsewhere that are very top-down and controlling.
  3. Some people express their religion in very institutionalized, moralistic, dualistic, and restrictive ways that seem to me to close them off to a faith where they can more freely encounter God and respond in love and community.
  4. A society where corruption and poverty go hand in hand in marginalizing many, keeping many satisfied with handouts and temporary measures, with people isolated from each other and youth marginalized and with little hope.

What have been the disappointments?
  1. I had great ideas and plans when I came here. I have not been able to put most of them into practice, which may be for the best.
  2. The way the US State Department’s reports on Honduras have stopped many people from coming to visit.

Where do I go from here?
  1. Continue to serve in the parish of Dulce Nombre: helping in the formation of catechists, youth leaders, base community leaders; baptizing, visiting rural communities for Sunday Celebrations with Communion; beginning to help in the preparation of couples for matrimony; more visiting of the sick and homebound.
  2.  Being open to help in other ways in the parish and the diocese.

What I want to do?
  1. Continue to serve God and the poor for as long as I can – here, if God wills it.
  2. Develop materials to help the people discover the presence of God in their lives and the call to serve God’s Kingdom.
  3. Write about my journey.
  4. Grow in love of God and availability to the poor.

What I ask of others?
  1. Prayers
  2. Visits; come and see.
  3. Work for national and international policies that serve the needs of the poorest.
  4. Join me in prayer. 

Perhaps we can pray together, once a week, this prayer of the Chilean Jesuit, Saint Alberto Hurtado:
Lord, help me to speak the truth in front of the strong
and not say lies to gain the applause of the weak.
 If you give me fortune, don’t take happiness away from me.
If you give me strength, don’t take reason away from me.
If you give me success, don’t take humility away from me.
If you give me humility, don’t take dignity away from me.
 Help we always see the other side of the medal.
Do not let me blame others of treason
for not thinking like me.
Teach me to love people as myself
and to judge myself as others.
 Do not let me fall into pride if I triumph
nor in despair if I fail.
Rather, remind me that failure
is the experience which precedes triumph.
 Teach me that forgiving is the grandest for the strong
and that revenge is the primitive sign of the weak.
 If you take away my fortune, leave me with hope.
If you take away success, leave me with the strength to triumph from the defeat.
 If I fail people, give me the courage to ask pardon.
If the people fail me, give me the courage to forgive.
Lord, if I forget You, don’t forget me.

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