Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dulce Nombre de María Parish report, September 2017

Dulce Nombre de María Parish report, September 2017

(A pdf of this report with photos can be downloaded here.)

Dulce Nombre de María is a parish in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, covering four municipalities in the department of Copán (Dulce Nombre, Dolores, San Agustín, Concepción) and some aldeas (villages) in the municipality of Santa Rosa de Copán.

The main parish church is in Dulce Nombre de Copán.

The pastor, Padre German Navarro, visits each of the approximately fifty villages at least once every two months. Normally, Sunday Masses are celebrated in at least five different locations – one on Saturday (Dolores, Copán) and at least four on Sunday (two in Dulce Nombre de Copán, one on Concepción, Copán, and one every other week in San Agustín, Copán; on the off-weeks there is often Mass in El Zapote Santa Rosa, Candelaria, or Plan Grande.) The deacon, John Donaghy, often assists at one of the Sunday Masses.
Celebrations of the Word
Almost all the villages have Delegates of the Word who lead Sunday Celebrations of the Word in their communities. Nine communities have extraordinary ministers of communion who often lead Sunday Celebrations with Communion. A permanent deacon also leads Celebrations with Communion several Sundays each month in different communities, while also accompanying the pastor in Mass in at least one place most Sundays.

Major feasts
Holy Week is a major celebration in the parish.

The Friday before Palm Sunday, the parish celebrates a parish-wide Stations of the Cross in the streets of Dulce Nombre. The Stations are reflections on the Way of the Cross of Jesus in light of the situation of Honduras and the parish and include strong social messages in the light of the Gospel.

There are Palm Sunday processions in most of the communities in the parish, including a major procession with Mass in Dulce Nombre.

This year members of the parish went on mission to other villages in the parish from Sunday to Wednesday of Holy Week, visiting homes and having Celebrations of the Word.

Holy Thursday began with the Chrism Mass in Santa Rosa de Copán, which the pastor, the deacon, and several parishioners attended. The deacon presided at a Celebration of the Word with Washing of the Feet and Communion in Concepción on Thursday afternoon.

There was one Mass in Dulce Nombre in the evening, followed by adoration until midnight.

On Good Friday, most communities celebrate the Stations of the Cross outside in the roads and villages using the materials provided in the parish Stations of the Cross. In the afternoon they have the Celebration of the Passion (with Communion if there is a priest or deacon or extraordinary minister of Communion present.)

In some communities there are other processions, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

There was one Easter Vigil celebration in the parish in Dulce Nombre de Copán with about 30 baptisms.

 Easter morning, there were Masses and Celebrations of the Word in most towns and villages.

Parish events

In 2016, as part of the celebration of the Year of Mercy as well as the centennial of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, the parish made two pilgrimages to church with the Holy Door – the shrine of Our Lady of the Remedies in Tomalá, Lempira, and the shrine of the Merciful Christ in Quezalapa, Copán. Several busses went from various parts of the parish.

 This year, as we have in some other years, we celebrated an all-night vigil for Pentecost for the whole parish in the municipality of San Agustín. The celebration began with a lighting of the fire and a procession, and included a Holy Hour and Mass. Beginning about 6 pm on Saturday, it ended in the early hours of Sunday morning.

 September 12 is the feast day of the parish, the Holy Name of Mary, a major celebration in the parish. A novena of prayer is celebrated in the main church before the feast with the participation of teams from different villages close to the main church. There is also a fund-raising event related to the feast day – the selection of la niña dulce, a little girl (between 4 and 7) who is selected based on donations made in her name. The feast day begins with a musical greeting to Our Lady and a rosary at 5 am with a procession in town and Mass later in the morning.

 The feast of Christ the King in November is also a major parish celebration, bringing together people from all the communities of the parish. It is also a day when Honduras celebrates the delegates of the Word.

Last year the celebration was in Concepción. This year the celebration will be in El Zapote Santa Rosa. It will be celebrated on Sunday, November 19, since the feast of Christ the King is the same day as the Honduran elections and large public assemblies are prohibited on election day.

Religious education is decentralized with preparation for baptism, first communion, and confirmation. There are training sessions for catechists at least five times a year.

Baptisms of infants and of children under 13 are celebrated in the villages, usually during a Mass, though there have been a few celebrations of baptism by the deacon during a Celebration of the Word with Communion.

Baptisms of persons over 14 take place at the Easter Vigil, after their participation in the Catechumenate process.

Confirmation is celebrated once a year by the bishop. This year we expect about 230 to be confirmed in three different locations in the parish at the end of October.

In August about 110 began the catechumenate process – for non-baptized older than 14, planning to be baptized at the Easter Vigil 2018.

An increasing number are preparing for sacrament of matrimony, including some older couples. The pastor is getting the deacon involved in the pre-marriage interviews.

The pastor continues to visit the sick, bringing them Communion and celebrating the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The deacon and the extraordinary ministers of Communion frequently bring Communion to the ill and elderly.

Extraordinary Ministers of Communion.
Presently there are thirteen extraordinary ministers of communion and seventeen in formation. A major part of their ministry is visiting the sick, the elderly, and the home-bound, bringing them communion. They also distribute Communion at Celebrations of the Word with Communion in the villages – and assist when there are Masses in their villages. They are also responsible for mornings of prayer before the Eucharist once every two months in the sectors of the parish and for Hoy Hours on Thursdays in their villages.

There are youth groups or base communities of young people, in various stages of organization, in at least nine communities in the parish. The leaders have met several times this year and in January we had a workshop led by two Dubuque Franciscan sisters. The deacon is working with the leaders. A council composed of one member from each group is being organized.
Members of the parish spent a week last October in mission in villages and towns in the parish. The pastor sent them forth with a cross and a special blessing. They also spent three days during Holy Week in mission. In August they were invited to visit homes in their own villages to promote the family. In October this year they will also spend a week in villages and towns throughout the parish. They have had continuing training sessions.

Solidarity Fund
The pastor asked the deacon to start a solidarity fund to respond to the serious needs of the people. Most of these needs are medically-related, though we have often have to respond to families in need because of deaths or sickness.

The fund is meant to supplement the efforts of the people to provide assistance to those in need. St. Thomas Aquinas Church has donated seed money for this. We are trying to revive the Social Ministry in the villages so that they can monitor the needs and mobilize people to respond. In many cases, the local church leaders will organize a collection to assist the person, but it is often much less than needed. In the two cases assisted financially so far, the communities have contributed significantly.

Base Communities
The parish is largely organized from the base communities at the local level. These are groups in villages or neighborhoods which meet regularly to pray and reflect. Currently some use material based on the Sunday readings, developed by two priests and a deacon in the diocese. They are developing materials for the coming liturgical year.

Other expressions of faith
There is a charismatic group in Dulce Nombre de Copán.
A Family Ministry is in formation in Dulce Nombre de Copán and organized Friday Holy Hours in August, the month of the family in Honduras. Mass or a Celebration of the Word with Communion followed the Holy Hour.

One of the priorities of the parish is faith formation of the parish leaders so that they can help form the people in the widely scattered parish.

Some of the sessions are in the zones of the parish, but many are in the church meeting room in Dulce Nombre de Copán. This means that the people have to walk or pay for transportation to get to the training sessions. In addition, those who can contribute to cover the costs of meals. Volunteers from the villages assist the parish cook in the preparation of meals for these sessions.

The donations from St. Thomas help subsidize the costs of formation.

We have had formation this year for catechists, delegates of the Word, the three-fold ministry of the base communities, missionaries, and social ministry.

Social projects
There are two social projects within the parish which are helped by aid from St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

Because of the few middle schools and high schools within the parish boundaries, there is a program called Maestro en Casa – Instituto Hondureño de Educación por Radio, which provides weekend classes to students in various places in the parish. Four of these centers (in Bañaderos, El Zapote Santa Rosa, El Prado, and Dulce Nombre) have benefited from partial scholarships to 130 students. The funding comes from St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

An association of 15 small coffee farmers has been working together for three years to export quality coffee to the US with the assistance of St. Thomas Aquinas Church. With the help of Caritas Santa Rosa, the diocesan social development agency, they now have legal status. This year they sent 4,500 pounds of green coffee to St. Thomas in Ames. They are continually seeking ways to improve their coffee and to provide a quality product.

Parish support
Many of the towns and villages are very poor and so there is not a lot of financial support for the parish from the parishioners. However, many donate basic grains – corn and beans – for the use of the parish. There are also a few events during the year to raise funds.

Several years ago, a parishioner donated a manzana (1.72 acres) of land planted with coffee. He also offered another adjoining manzana which was bought with funding from St. Thomas.

Parishioners, of all ages, come out various times during the year to work on the fields – fertilizing, weeding, harvesting coffee. This provides several thousand dollars a year. In addition, the quality of the coffee has been very high.

St. Thomas Aquinas is also sending support to the parish four times a year.

Projects contemplated

1.   There is space on the land by the parish coffee farm to erect a training center for the parish. The parish plans to begin work in the next six to ten months, beginning first of all with latrines and then a retention wall for the road above the field. Then a meeting space with bathrooms, kitchen, and meeting hall is planned. We also plan to build several small dormitories so that people can stay overnight.

2.   Because of the difficulties and high costs of transporting the sick to the hospital in Santa Rosa as well as to Gracias or San Pedro Sula when needed, the parish is contemplating purchasing a good vehicle to transport the sick. Instead of paying a high price for a trip, the cost would be for fuel as well as a small donation for the driver and for the upkeep of the vehicle. The driver would receive training in basic first aid so that he would know how to treat any patients transported. The vehicle would also be used to transport volunteers to work on the parish coffee field.

3.   The owner of a small private institute for teaching English in Santa Rosa de Copán is interested in a project to teach English to children and youth in a rural community, with classes once a week. The costs would be minimal for the participants, based on their ability to pay. The pastor supports this project. The deacon will be discussing this with a community and school. The owner of the English teaching institute is developing a proposal to consider costs and logistics.

Other institutions helping in the parish

A St. Louis-based medical group, AMIGAS, has come three times in the past two years with a medical brigade in the various health centers of the municipality of Concepción, Copán, which is in the parish. They will be coming again in October. They are in the process of purchasing land in Concepción, Copan, for a storehouse, as well as setting up ways to continue to come with a medical brigade twice a year. The deacon often helps with translation and offers hospitality to the two directors when they come.

A congregation of sisters, Las Hermanas de María, run two centers of education outside of Tegucigalpa exclusively for poor children. These boarding schools – one for girls and, more recently, one for boys, offer free education for five years (middle school and high school) as well as occupational training (including welding, sewing, carpentry) and music and sports (including swimming and dancing) for the young people. A number of young people from the parish are participating in this program. To enter the program, the children have to pass an admission examination and meet certain pre-requisites.

Prepared by John Donaghy, September 2017

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