Tuesday, September 05, 2017

August adventures and misadventures

I just realized that I hardly wrote anything on this blog in August. It was a very busy month.

We had a clergy study week from August 14 to 17. I had various misadventures with the pickup. I had to go to San Pedro Sula twice for migration issues.  There were baptisms and funerals as well as interviews of couples planning to be married. I had two Holy Hours and Celebrations of the Word with Communion in Dulce Nombre. I presided at three Sunday Celebrations of the Word with Communion and served as deacon at four Masses in the parish and two in the cathedral. I visited a youth group and an event planned by one group which had representatives from four different groups. I helped with training sessions: one for missionaries, one for delegates of the Word, and one for those in formation to become Communion ministers. I transported volunteers to and from the parish coffee field. I met with the diocesan Social Ministry Council. I attended a meeting of the El Zapote Coffee Association that is exporting coffee to Ames, Iowa. I also got to see a friend from Ames who was in Santa Rosa with a medical brigade.

Where to begin?

With grief and comfort:

One day I was in Dulce Nombre to help with the details for the exams that the Hermanas de María were giving for young people from poor families to determine if they would be accepted for their five year, cost-free boarding schools near Tegucigalpa. I was also interviewing a couple who are planning to be married this month. I was called in by Padre German for a delicate situation. Later that morning I spoke with a woman under great stress. It was overwhelming. That evening there was a Holy Hour in Plan Grande. I walked in and sat in the last row. I tuned out what was being said and prayed, first the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Then, I found myself handing over to Jesus, exposed on the altar, the persons who were suffering. I found myself weeping with them – but feeling comforted by the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. That experience opened me to open myself more to people’s needs and to try to find ways to reach out even more.

Keeping legal:

My residency card ran out this month and my five-year residency permit is finishing up. I am in the process of trying to get permanent residence. But, in the meantime, I had to get an extension. I was advised to go to the San Pedro Sula migration office a day before my card ran out. I got there in time and did all the paper work and paid the $40 for a two-month extension. But the kind worker in the office told me that the system would not allow her to enter my extension in the system, because the card had not expired. I had to come back the next day or later. I ended up going back the next week.

Pickup misadventures:

On the feast of St. Lawrence, a patron of deacons, I went to the 7:00 pm Mass in Dulce Nombre. As I tried to return home, I reached a slippery part of the road where I started sliding toward the right side of the road. I stopped before I hit the dirt border and tried to back up. I ended up slipping into the shallow ditch on the other side of the road. I was stuck – in the dark at 8:30 pm. A motorcyclist, who is from Plan Grande, stopped and we tried to get the car moving. No luck. I had in the meantime called Padre German who came out with two young men. Together with two other guys who were passing on a motorcycle, they pulled me out!
Both of my trips to San Pedro Sula were misadventures.
On my first trip, one tire exploded in the city, luckily I was not going fast and I pulled over and put on the spare. I got home safely, though I had to stop to get the tire bolts tightened! But the next morning, I was going to take the car to Dulce Nombre to get the tire fixed. The spare was flat! So I looked for someone who could take me to get the tires fixed. A young guy lent me his pickup!
On the second trip I had a tire that was losing air. I got it changed. But after getting out of the migration office, I had a flat tire. I went to get it fixed, but ended up having to buy two used tires.
There is more – including another tire problem last Saturday. So I ended up buying two new tires Monday.
There are also two experiences one in early August, one today, where I back up into a ditch leaving my back tires hanging in the air. The kindness of strangers got me out of those fixes also.

Marriage preparation

Here the marriage preparation takes place in the villages, with a couple leading the engaged in about three months of formation. Before that can begin, the couple have to see the priest to make sure there are no problems, but then there is the pre-marriage interview with the couple and with two witnesses. This past month I’ve interviewed four engaged couples. This has been a humbling experience, especially since the interview questions are quite serious. But it has been good – and I’ll be doing more.
I also had the chance on Sunday to meet with two couples who will be married here in Plan Grande within two weeks. I helped them plan the readings for the Mass and to go over the rite. This was a real time of grace since they are taking this very seriously.

Baptisms and Sunday celebrations
I may have set my record for baptisms. One Sunday I baptized forty young children (under 7 years of age) in San Agustín. On the feast of Saint Augustíne, back in San Agustín, our pastor baptized about seventeen between seven and fourteen years old. He had me anoint them with Chrism.
Each month I try to visit two or three villages that don’t have communion ministers to preside at a Celebration of the Word with Communion. August found me in three different communities, including Debajiados.

Formation activities

I had to prepare three presentations this past month.
Those in charge of the formation of candidates for becoming communion ministers asked me to prepare an activity to help the candidates discern their call. The formation is almost over and so we want to help them prayerfully discern if this is truly a call from God. We spent more than an hour in silence as they reflected on the questions I had prepared.
We had a formation session for the Delegates of the Word, those who lead Sunday celebrations in their communities – since one priest can’t get to all forty-eight or more places in one day! Padre had asked me to prepare a presentation on Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, on the family.
Then we had a day of formation for the missionaries, volunteers form the parish, who will spend a week in October in one or two villages visiting people and inviting them to live their faith more profoundly. A few days before the event, Padre German asked me to do a presentation on Mission in Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium. Thanks be to God I had studied it and carefully marked up my digital text of the document. I ended up making a powerpoint presentation on the central topics. (It’s available in Spanish here.)

Holy Hours and Celebrations of the Word in Dulce Nombre

Padre German asked me to do two Holy Hours and Celebrations in Dulce Nombre on two Fridays in August. A Family Ministry group in formation was promoting these in different barrios of Dulce Nombre. These were my first experiences of Holy Hours with Benediction. I tried to promote times of silence to listen to Christ speaking to us.
But my preaching must have seen rather odd to the people in attendance, especially because of their concerns for the family (in August which is the traditional month of the family here in Honduras.) 
The first Friday was the feast is St. Clare and I talked about Clare leaving behind her family, referring to the Gospel for her feast day. Matthew 19, 27-29, in which Jesus talks about leaving behind, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. The Gospel for the second Friday was Jesus speaking on divorce. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, here.
I wonder if they’ll ever ask me to preach for these events again.

Youth groups

There are youth groups in at least nine places in the parish. I visited two of them last month and then had an evening meeting on September 1. Twenty young people from eight groups came. We ate, played, discussed, prayed – and we are beginning to form a youth council for the parish which will include a representative from each group.
On August 26, the youth group here in Plan Grande had a cultural evening. I was tired but spent about an hour there. There is a theater group here, about twenty years old, that performed a few pieces. I was about to leave when they announced the next one was on “The Elections.” I had to stay – and it was worth it.
The candidates appeared on stage with their supporters. One candidate, identified with the Allianza, an alliance of opposition parties, announced some of the things the party was going to do. The other candidate, identified with the National Party, promised his voters who live (or, rather, are interred) in the cemetery that he would provide them WI-FI, a soccer field, a new cell phone, and fans (since it is hot there in the graves.) This candidate won the election.

I was surprised and shocked. First of all, the theater group was trying to provide a commentary on the situation in this election year. There have been discussions about the dead on election rolls who end up voting! But I was surprised that the theater group identified this tactic with one party – the party in power. Here, before the elections, the politicians hot only make promises but many especially those in office, will distribute money, tin roofing, food baskets, and whatever in an attempt to influence voters. Sadly, many of the poor fall for this. I was thus pleased to see young people with a critical consciousness.

There was much more that I could relate but this is enough to give you an idea of the variety of ways my ministry plays out here in Honduras. What I do may seem to be a lot, but my pastor does three or four times as much – five or more Saturday evening and Sunday Masses, two or three Masses in different parts of the parish almost every day – and he’s the pastoral vicar of the diocese.

Pray for us.

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