Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rethinking Mission - in Honduras

Today our parish, Dulce Nombre de María in Dulce Nombre de Copán, Honduras, sent out forty-one members of the parish on a week-long mission, most going out two-by-two, to visit almost all of the fifty-some towns, villages, and hamlets. They were sent at Mass this morning – without cellphones or money. Please pray for them.

I had to rethink “mission” when I came to Honduras I June 2007. I came as a “lay missionary” but quickly had this gently challenged. A Spanish Franciscan sister I had met told me about a Mass every Sunday morning in the neighborhood where I ended up living for more than eight years. A retired priest, now ninety years old and still going strong, presided at the Mass. The first time I went, Sor Inez introduced me as a lay missionary. Padre Fausto, without batting an eye, noted that we are all called to be missionaries. Wow.

Then I read and studied the document that had been issued in May 2007 by the Latin American bishops meeting in Aparecida, Brazil. Central to that document is the call to be missionary disciples. In the very first article they explain why they met and were sending out this message:
We have done so as pastors who want to continue to advance the evangelizing action of the Church, which is called to make all its members disciples and missionaries of Christ, Way, Truth, and Life, so our peoples may have life in Him.

Not surprisingly, the first major writing of Pope Francis echoed this, In paragraph 120 of Evangelii Gudium, The Joy of the Gospel, he wrote:
In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19).
This should be no surprise for those who realize that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was on the committee that produced the final document from the Aparecida meeting.

The week of mission that we have had in our parish for the last three years has been an attempt to live this out on the parish level.

For this mission, no outside preacher is brought in. All those involved are members of the parish who give a week of their time for this effort.

They go two by two (or, occasionally, in a group of three) to villages or towns which are far from their homes – living on the generosity of the village which provides them food, a place to sleep, and a guide to visit homes.

Their mission is not to preach. First of all, they are there to listen, to offer a word of comfort or invitation, to be the presence of God by what they do and say. In our training sessions, we have tried to help them develop a spirituality of mission similar to that found in the apostolic exhortations of Pope Francis, with an emphasis on accompanying the people. They are not there to preach at people.

Though we’ve stressed in the last years the importance of visiting the sick, this year we see the mission as reaching out to the estranged – in Spanish, los alejados – so that they can hear words of welcome from the Church.

The missionaries will visit the sick and the elderly, but we hope they will reach out to people estranged from the church or persons who are looked down upon by other members of their communities.

This year we gave each missionary a cross to wear around their neck. It was made locally by a carpenter, based on a cross that I had obtained in New York over a year ago, a cross meant to be held in the palm of the hand. The missionaries will wear this around their neck and when they pray with someone they will take off the cross and place it in the other person’s hand. They were urged to give it to someone on the last day.

As Padre German explained to the missionaries before Mass, the carpenter had made about 100 of them for us last year, at no cost. Each missionary had one and gave it to a sick or bed0ridden person during their week of mission. The carpenter just wanted to keep the original. When the pastor asked him to make some this year, the carpenter pulled that cross out of his pocket. He had carried it and often held it in his hands. It was nearly black, having absorbed the sweat, the oil, and more from his hands.

Bearing the cross, sharing the cross, letting one’s life be absorbed by the cross – that’s a new way of doing mission. Well, not really new – just returning to the roots.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In awe of creation

Tuesday, our deanery had a workshop on Pope Francis’s encyclical on the care for our common home, Laudato Si’.

During the opening prayer, we were sent out in parish groups to answer a few questions and then come up with a praise of God.

The group from my parish, Dulce Nombre de María, started out very conventionally.

The first question was: “How do we meet God in our brothers and sisters?” The initial responses were fine, but conventional – in the poor, the sick. But then I mentioned kids and couples. I think we’ve been so conditioned to see God in the poor and the needy that we find it hard to see God in the ordinary people, in their joys – and not just in their sorrows.

The second question was: “What does God speak in our situation?” I can’t remember all that they shared but I urged them to move outside, where I had them listen to the breeze.

The third question was: “Where are the footprints of human beings in creation?” The negative seemed to prevail as they began to talk about the harm done to creation. I was aghast and I asked them what were the positive elements of the human presence.

I was troubled. There are severe negative effects, but why do we emphasize them and not look for the little signs of the positive that God does through us.

Also, I felt that they were trying to get me to give them the answers.

But then we got to the final task: compose an alabanza, a praise of God. The group started to go off in conventional directions but I persisted, asking a few pointed questions.

“What happened last night?” It had rained after a very hot day and after a dry spell.

“What do you hear?” There was a man chopping the grass and you could hear him working.

And so the praise emerged. I offered a few suggestions, but it came mostly from them.

Te alabamos, Señor, por este nuevo día
— por las lluvias que riega nuestros campos
— por los cantos de los pajaritos
— por las manos de los hombres y mujeres que labran el campo
— por la brisa y el sonar de las hojas de los árboles que se acarician una a otra
Alabado seas, Señor.

Here’s my free translation:

      We praise you, Lord, for this new day,
         for the rains that water our fields,
         for the songs of the birds,
         for the hands of the men and women who work the earth,
         for the breeze and the sound of the leaves of the trees
            as they caress each other.
      Lord, may you be praised.

I was awed.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Santa Rosa Diocesan Statement on Mining

Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán [Honduras]
Bishop’s office

Diocesan Statement
(Santa Rosa de Copán, September 1, 2018)


The time has come … when the dead are judged; the time to recompense your servants, the prophets, the holy ones, and those who fear your name, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
(Revelation 11:18)

The Bishop and the priests [presbiterio] hear the cry of the community of Azacualpa (La Unión, Copán): No to the exploitation of the gold deposit in the Cerro el Cementerio [Cemetery Hill].

1. Since May 27, 2018, more than three months ago, families of the community of Azacualpa are heroically resisting "without selling themselves to spurious local or international interests" (LS 38), defending "Cemetery Hill" [Cerro el Cementerio] against the ambitions and actions of the Mining Company AURA MINERALES DE CANADA, operated by its subsidiary MINERALES DE OCCIDENTE S.A. DE C.V.(MINOSA) to exploit the gold mine.

2. This conflict is added to many years of struggle against the exploitation and destruction of the environment, which continues generating divisions, intimidations, threats, prosecutions, and discussions. But, as the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ [of Pope Francis] affirms: “In every discussion about a proposed ven­ture, a series of questions need to be asked in order to discern if it will contrib­ute to genuine integral development: For what [purpose]? Why? Where? When? How? For whom? What are the risks? What are the costs? Who will pay those costs and how? In this examination, some questions must have higher pri­ority.” (LS 185)

3. The families of the community of Azacualpa declare their principal concerns:
3.1. NO TO THE EXHUMATION AND MOVING OF “LAS SEPULTURAS DE LOS FIELES” [THE TOMBS OF THE FAITHFUL]. Because the company Aura Minerales and MINOSA are actively trying to have the families give in and accept money in exchange for the exhumation and moving of the bodies of their beloved.
3.2. PROTECTION OF AND RESPECT FOR “CERRO EL CEMENTERIO,” AN HISTORICAL CULTURAL, AND SACRED HERITAGE. Currently the mine is only 30 to 50 meters from the cemetery, violating the limits which their license establishes, which indicates that it ought to be 200 meters distant. Also, they raise the fear that Aura Minerales will buy and obtain licenses to exploit the whole of Cerro el Cementerio completely, destroying buildings and obstructing the lives of the people and the environment. In the case of the cemetery, which, because of its antiquity is a historical heritage of the community of Azacualpa, Article 54, letter d of the General Mining Law (Decree no. 238-2912) ought to be applied. This says: “To suspend immediately all mining activities and give notice when, in the area of exploration and exploitation, [one] encounters the presence of vestiges of the cultural heritage of the country, so that the competent authorities may proceed to the delimitation of the area, that area which will remain excluded from mining activity.” Also, the general principle of Article 5 of the General Law of the Environment (Decree no, 104-93) on the Environmental Impact Evaluation and the fulfillment of measures to protect the environment and the historical cultural heritage should be taken into account.
3.3. THE NONFULFILLMENT OF STANDING LAWS OF THE COUNTRY AND THE FAILURE TO GUARANTEE THE PROTECTION OF LIFE (soil, air, flora and fauna) and THE HEALTH OF THE HUMAN PERSON (cfr. Art, 54.a. of the LGM [General Mining Law]. The mining company’s abuses of power consist in direct actions which violate the rights: to property, to life, to freedom of movement [transito] and residency, to a healthy environment, to minorities, to count on appropriate mechanisms of negotiation, to hold assemblies or meetings, to enjoy and make use of their natural resources, to health – with the following problems which originate from the mining industry, for example: pains in the lower extremities, problems of dreams and nightmares which cause anxiety and sadness, headaches, respiratory problems, skin rashes, hair loss, vision problems, strange types of cancer, etc.


4. The Diocesan Bishop – with the Presbytery – of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán “freely exercises his powers and function in sacred place [Churches and Cemeteries]” (c.1213; cfr. c. 1205 [The Code of Canon Law]), because as the ecclesiastical authority he ought to “protect and highlight their sacred character (c. 1243). He can speak his word of advice or denunciation, if necessary, as pastor of the Catholic community, because it is a question of “the burial of the faithful” (c. 1205). This “deposit or mine” of gold found in the cemetery of the community of Azacualpa, since it is located in a “SACRED PLACE,” does not give to any institution or local community the right to be able to extract from the terrain for its exploitation, only if the holiness of the place is lost, that is, “if they [cemeteries] have been in great measure destroyed or if they are permanently reduced to secular uses by the decree of the Ordinary [the Bishop of the diocese] or as a matter of fact” (c. 1212). Therefore, we DECLARE [MANIFESTAMOS] OUR SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT of the community of Azacualpa in their struggle to defend the environment and human life in the face of the destruction and continuing threats of the Company AURA MINERALES and MINOSA; and to “ALL” the mining companies we demand the closure of all operations (Exploration, Exploitation, and Processing) and their DEPARTURE from Copán and from the other departments of our diocese (Santa Barbara, Lempira, Ocotepeque, and Intibucá).

THE CHURCH’S SOCIAL TEACHING [MAGISTERIUM} on the care of “our sister mother earth.”

5. Pope Francis, since 2015 makes a “CALL” to the human family and, therefore, to the local Church of Santa Rosa de Copán: “the urgent challenge of protecting our common home includes a concern to unite the whole human family in the search for a sustainable and integral development, since we know that things can change…. I want to recognize, encourage, and thank all those who … are working to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Special gratitude is owed to those who vigorously struggle to resolve the tragic effects of environmen­tal degradation on the lives of the world’s poor­est.” (LS 13)

6. In the commitment and ability to work together to “construct our common home” among us, “we need a conversation that brings all of us together, because the environmental challenge we are living and its human roots concern and impact all of us…. We need a new universal solidarity…. All of us can collaborate as God’s instruments for the care of creation, each one from their culture, experiences, initiatives, and abilities” (LS 14).

7. In Honduras and in all the peoples of Latina America and the Caribbean, “financial institutions and multinational companies are becoming stronger to the point that local economies are subordinated, above all weakening the local States, which seem ever more powerless to carry out development projects at the service of their populations… International extractive industries and agribusiness often do not respect the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the local populations, and do not assume their responsibilities” (Aparecida Document, 66)

8. Echoing the Document from Aparecida (no, 66) of 2007, the Encyclical LAUDATO SI’ of 2015 invites us to “acknowledge the sins against creation: ‘that hu­man beings destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; that human beings degrade the integrity of the earth and contribute to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; that human be­ings contaminate the earth’s waters, soil, and air. All these are sins.’ For “to commit a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and a sin against God” (LS 8)

9. In the face of these “risks to the environment,” “the situation demands that decisions must be made based on a comparison of the hypothetical risks and benefits that each possible alternative decision entails. The consumer culture which gives priority to the short-term and to private interests, can encourage procedures which are too quick or allow hiding of information.” (LS 184)

10. In the course [recorrido] of the World Ecological Movement and in the Diocesan Environmental Crisis, according to the Christian conscience, we need a “New Diocesan Solidarity”; because “the work of international agencies and civil society organizations is praiseworthy – those which raise public sensitivity [sensibilizar] to these issues and cooperate critically, also employing legitimate means of pressure to ensure that each government carries out its own duty which it ought not delegate to others [indelegable] to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or interna­tional interests. (LS 38)

11. But we are conscious that environmental policies cannot be modified every time there is a change of government; also, “the en­forcement of law is at times inadequate due to corruption” (LS 179). Therefore, “continuity is indispensable”. “For politicians to assume these responsibilities and the costs they entail, this does not fit with [responder] the logic of efficiency and short term results [eficientista y inmediatista] of present-day economics and politics. But if they are dare to do this, they will again recognize their God-given dignity as humans and leave behind in history a testi­mony of generous responsibility (LS 181).

12. Finally there are lines of action in the church teaching [Magisterio], in which “Political activity on the local level could also be directed to modifying consumption, to developing an economy of waste disposal and recycling, to protecting cer­tain species, and to planning a diversified agriculture with crop rotation. It is possible to encourage the improvement of agriculture in poor­ regions can be improved through investment in rural infrastructures, in the organization of local or national markets, in systems of irrigation, and in the development of sustainable agricultural techniques. One can provide [facilitar] forms of cooperation and community organization that defend the interests of small producers and preserve local ecosystems from destruction. There is much that can be done!” (LS 180)

Demands for Political Institutions and Actions of the Presbytery and Parishes

13. The position of the diocese against mining: GET OUT OF AZACUALPA AND OUT OF THE DIOCESE!

14. Demands to the State of Honduras: THE LEGISLATIVE, EJECUTIVE, AND JUDICIAL POWER[S]
14.1.1 Revise and reform the Mining Law in accord with the interests of the State and of the local Communities which possess mineral resources, including the following themes: No to open pit [cielo abierto] mining exploitation. No to the use of cyanide and other chemical substances which contaminate and destroy Human Life and the Environment. Obligatory and binding consultation with the communities with natural resources (minerals). Reparation [reparación] for the damages to the environment and health.
14.1.2. Study and fulfill the Law of Mining, Communities, People, and Government.
14.2.1. Urge the revision and reform of the Mining Law, without bias.
14.2.2. Promote the Common Good and the integral and sustainable development of the peoples.
14.2.3. Respect sovereignty and the people’s will.
14.2.4. Efficient service of the governmental institutions involved with the mining industry. (STSS [Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social/Ministry of Labor and Social Security], INHGEOMIN [INSTITUTO HONDUREÑO DE GEOLOGÍA Y MINAS/Honduran Institute of Geology and Mines], SAR [Servicio de Administración de Rentas/Service of the Administration of Revenues], Salud [Ministry of Health], MIAMBIENTE [La Secretaría de Energía, Recursos Naturales, Ambiente y Minas/Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, the Environment, and Mines, SANAA [Servicio Autónomo Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados/National Autonomous Service of Water and Sewage Systems], ICF [Instituto de Conservación Forestal/Institute for Conservstion of Forests], IHAH [Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia/Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History], SEDIS (La Secretaría de Desarrollo e Inclusión Social/Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion], COPECO [Comisión Permanente de Contingencias/Permanent Emergencies Commission].
14.2.5. Publish all the requests for concessions of exploration, exploitation, and processing so that the peoples and the communities may exercise their sovereignty.
14.3.1. Impartial application of the General Mining Law.
14.3.2. Sanction the true violators [of the law]
14.3.3. Assure that the Law is enforced and respected by the various social actors (State of Law)
14.4.1. Promote the Common Good and the integral development of the communities.
14.4.2. Apply the municipal laws according to the “agreements of the neighboring peoples [poblaciones].”
14.4.3. No to complicity with the Mining Companies.
14.4.4. Promote and respect the organization of the people in defense of their rights.
14.5.1. We make you an urgent and radical petition: GET OUT OF OUR TERRITORY!
14.5.2. Do not exploit or rob our natural resources.
14.5.3. No to the contamination, corruption, and illegal exploitation in our country, which in your cases the peoples and the government prohibit. We demand that you respect: The national and international laws, regulations and conventions. The organization and the will of the people. The obligatory consultations with the communities, with a binding character. The corrective measures which have risen from the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EAI).
15.1. Study and deepening of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ [of Pope Francis] at every level of the church.
15.2. Campaigns for Protection of the Environment through the MCS, Social Ministry, Caritas, etc.
15.3. Organization of Committees for the Defense of the Environment (Land, Water, Forests, etc.)
15.4. Support of Civil Society Organizations which protect the environment and human life (ASONOG, MADJ, CIPRODEH, etc.)

16. With hope based in the fulfillment of the Messianic promise of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), TODAY WE BUILD a “NEW DIOCESAN SOLIDARITY.” With optimism and joy we sing the “Canticle of Daniel 3,” joined with Holy Mary, Queen of all that is created, with Saint Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, and with Saint Francis of Assisi, “most excellent example of care for what is weak and of integral ecology, lived joyfully and authentically” (LS 10).

Let the earth bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
mountains and hills, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
everything that grow in the earth, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
springs of water, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
seas and rivers, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
whales and all that swim in the sea, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
birds of the air, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor;
wild beasts and cows, bless the Lord, sing eternally in his honor.

Monseñor Darwin Rudy Andino Ramirez. C.R.S.
Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán


·    For translating texts of church documents, the translator consulted the English translations of Laudato Si’ and the Aparecida Document but changed them, at times, significantly, when he felt they did not reflect the Spanish translation used in this pronouncement.
·    He also sometimes included the Spanish words in square parentheses [ ]when he felt that the English translation he made may not reflect the full significance and nuances of the Spanish.
·    Words or phrases included within square parentheses [ ] were added by the translator for clarity or to explain an abbreviation or reference.
·    I have translated the word “presbiterio” in two different ways. “El presbiterio” is used to indicate the body of priests in an area. I have translated it as “presbytery” or as “priests” in the plural.
·    If there are any errors, please feel free to contact the translator.

The original Spanish can be found here.

The photo of the mine of San Andrés was taken from San Agustín, Copán, August 25, 2013.