Monday, October 09, 2017

Caring for our common home

Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, on the care of creation, has been a breath of fresh air. Our bishop has made care for the common home one of the pastoral frameworks for the diocese and we’ll be considering this at the diocesan assembly in November.

In our parish, we celebrated the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi within this perspective of care for God’s good earth. It is not without significance that the title of Pope Francis’s encyclical is taken from St. Francis’s Canticle of Creation.

To celebrate this the parish organized three Ecological Stations of the Cross in three areas where the local church is dedicated to Saint Francis. I got to two of them, since I spent the evening of October 3 with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters and other associates in Gracias. A welcome change of pace.

For the first celebration, the morning of October 3, we  began near Camalote and ended with Mass in Dolores. A crowd gathered and we walked in the hot sun, up the hill. (I forgot to bring a hat!)

The second celebration was in El Zapote Santa Rosa, but I didn’t get there.

The third celebration was in Zone 4 of the parish – one of the most remote. I went to Delicias Concepción where we were planning to end the Stations with Mass. I had decided not to walk the whole way but met them as they began the seventh or eighth station.

I was very impressed by one poster made by a catechist from San Isidro La Cueva. I like how she put both the problem and a solution in the same poster.

Padre German was rather strong in his preaching – recalling the problems of the environment here, from cutting the forests to burning the mountainsides to plant coffee. He especially noted the problem of water and the rivers. There are major concessions open to private companies to use the rivers for profit. These are the roots of major social conflicts here. Very interestingly, he noted the death of COPINH indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, killed last year for her leadership in trying to save rivers in the department of Intibucá.

It will be interesting to see what comes of the diocesan efforts to respond to the environmental problems. We have a major Canadian mining company operating in the area, using cyanide leaching to extract gold from the rock and removing a cemetery to extract gold where the dead had previously rested. There are also major mining and river concessions in the area, most notably in the departments of Santa Bárbara and Intibucá. Monoculture is a problem in many areas and in the south of the diocese there are serious drought problems.

I plan to work with the catechists to help them incorporate some dimensions of the car of our common home in their religious education – not just in terms of theory. I am hoping we can offer them a spirituality of creation to sustain them and the children and youth as well as suggesting various ways to show care in their villages.

Photos from the procession between Camalote and Dolores.

Photos from the procession to Delicias Concepción.

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