Tuesday, November 26, 2019

November a full month

November is almost over and I’ve only written two posts – not for lack of activity. But I have also been doing a lot of writing, in Spanish.

For the past three years, I’ve worked with three young priests to prepare materials for the base communities. The previous years we stuck to the Sunday readings but this year we wrote on themes for several months – as well as general themes on Advent, Christmas-time, Lent, and Easter. This threw me off a bit and so I kept procrastinating and ended up spending three days in the middle of the month writing themes for seventeen weeks.

I'm also preparing a series of presentation. A few weeks ago I received a request from CONFEREH, the Honduras Conference of Men and Women Religious, to do a week for their four-week study program on the theme of the "Social Reality and its influence on the stages of beginning formation.” I hesitated but spoke with two of the Dubuque Franciscan sisters here in Honduras. So I decided to say yes. Needless to say, this has meant a lot of work. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thought, including re-reading Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination. It’s next week, December 2 to 5. So, lots of studying, writing, and praying. 

The month has also been full of meetings. I met with the village coordinators of Social Ministry as well as the catechists of the parish. I also was at the meeting of the missionaries our parish sent to another parish last month. I really appreciate the chance to be with all these people who are giving so much of their time and energy to the parish.

But there were evaluation and planning meetings – on the deanery, diocesan, and parish levels. I sometimes feel as if I’m getting too old for these meetings. All I want to do is to get out and be with the people. But… 

Yet, there were great moments at the diocesan meeting, seeing a young priest I know who is a good friend (and speaks English.) Also, at the diocesan meeting, Sister Nancy Meyerhofer, one of the Dubuque Franciscans here in Honduras, gave a presentation on pardon and reconciliation. Her presentation was great – what else can we expect from sisters like her. It was also very much needed. She was invited, in part because the pastoral theme at the national level is “A reconciled community builds a country in truth and justice.” I hope that this theme will be part of the programming of the diocese. I will try to involve our parish social ministry in some training on violence and the transformation of conflicts.

I also heard that our diocese will be going ahead to respond to the abuse crisis in the church and the country. I hope so, since it’s so desperately needed – especially in the light of violence and rampant domestic violence and abuse in the Honduran society. 

With all these other commitments I have not gotten out to visit the sick in the communities as much as I should.

Yet I continue my Sunday commitments – usually going to a village in the morning for a Celebration of the Word with Communion. I try to get to places where the people don’t normally have communion on Sundays. I also go to one of the Masses that Padre German has – at least four each Sunday. I almost always preach – so that he can rest a bit. This month I’ve baptized children twice, in San Agustín and Camalote, during a Sunday Mass. This Saturday I have a baptism outside of Mass (since Padre German is visiting family in Guatemala for about ten days.

There have been two other events that I’ll write about later this week – the opening of the process for the beatification of a Delegate of the Word and catechist in our diocese and the Christ the King celebration.

I also should write something about the continuing saga of drug-trafficking as well as the continuing destruction of a cemetery by a mining company. (Maybe next week.)

The weather is becoming cooler and there's more rain. It's also coffee harvest time and I see a lot of people going out to the harvest. More later.

God is good.

To prove it, here are a few photos from our world.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The hope of Christ the King

“¿Se emocionó?” Padre German asked me after today’s celebration of the feast of Christ the King in the parish. “Did you get emotional, while carrying the monstrance through the crowd after the Mass for Christ the King in Dolores, Copán.

I didn’t answer, but he was right. I was touched deeply.

A custom here is to have a procession of the Eucharist in a monstrance on some occasions, especially here in our parish after the Mass for the feast of Christ the King. During the procession, people approach and touch the monstrance, seeking a physical connection with Christ.

I must admit that I have often been a bit skeptical about this aspect of the popular piety here, but today change that for me.

Toward the end of Mass, Padre German asked me if I wanted to carry the monstrance. I said that he should go first and then I would relieve him.

He started the procession through the crowd and I followed. At one point a little kid stood on a chair and reached out and touched the monstrance. He then turned around and gave me a hug. Emerson reached out a second time and I caught it in a photo.

I followed the monstrance, at time trying to open up a space for people who wanted to approach the monstrance but, because of the crowd or because they were a little timid, had a hard time getting close.

Padre then passed the monstrance to me and I continued the procession.

As they pressed on the monstrance, I could feel a deep longing for God. I also felt that they were bringing their suffering to Christ and sought his comfort and courage. I saw little kids reaching out – sometimes without the urging of their parents. I saw one short older woman approaching and bent down so she could be close to the luna where the host is placed. I sensed a deep desire to connect and so brought it closer to her and she kissed it.

I was floored, at times close to tears. So many, suffering so much, seek to touch God.

It was humbling, seeing their faith – babies in arms, older women and men, kids, adolescents, and young people.

As I think back this evening, I see this as a call to deepen my diaconal presence among them. How can I share in their pain and suffering, as well as their joys? How can I help them recognize the presence of a loving and tender God among them? How can I accompany them, opening them (and me) to the dignity we have and our mission to show forth the reign of Christ in a world full of all too much pain, suffering, poverty, injustice?

As if to ratify this, as I sat at home at the computer, I heard it raining, but I looked out and the sun was shining to the south of the house. I went upstairs and looked east – to see a rainbow which started in a nearby valley.

There is hope – the Eucharist, the people suffering, and a rainbow make that clear.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Back home

It's good to be back home.

I’ve been back in Honduras since October 22 and, though I’ve taken time to do some cleaning, some car repair, and some preparation of materials, I’ve been involved in several different ministries.

On Saturday October 26 we had the first part of our parish annual assembly, a day to evaluate what we are doing in the parish. More than fifty people came and we worked in groups. The first part was identifying social problems. Problems of water and deforestation were identified as two of the most serious problems. Migration and its effect on the disintegration of families, health problems and the lack of health services, and drugs and alcohol were also frequently mentioned. We also evaluated the formation activities in the parish as well as organizational issues.

I had to leave early since young people from six different places were having a day long get-together. They had asked me to come for a closing Celebration of the Word with Communion. I arrived and they were still doing a number of activities. After the celebration, I had a short evaluation with the leaders. There is a great desire for formation.

AMIGA Honduras, a medical group that comes to our area twice year arrived on Friday. I drove some of them to San Juan Concepción Saturday morning before the parish meeting. But I really didn’t get to interact with them until they got to Sunday Mass in Dulce Nombre. That afternoon, they came to my house and I shared with them some of my thoughts on the situation of Honduras.

Monday and Tuesday they went to two rural communities – El Zapote de Dulce Nombre and Granadillal. I accompanied them to help with translation, although they had help from some young people from a bilingual school in Santa Rosa de Copán.

In Granadillal, they saw over 550 people – many of whom I know. This was the first time a medical brigade had been in that region – and it was apparent to me that the needs are great in that part of the parish. I hope they can get there when they come next June.

Wednesday in the afternoon I helped arrange the delivery of a wheel chair from the brigade to a dentist I know who would see that it was delivered to a remote village in Ocotepeque.

Friday was the feast of All Saints, which is not very big here. But there was a Mass in the cemetery of Oromilaca, which is in a beautiful place, with gorgeous views. I could even see my house in Plan Grande several miles away!

Padre German had another Mass that day, in the cemetery of San Agustín, but he had four Masses on Saturday, All Souls Day, the commemoration of the faithful departed.

I got up early Saturday and headed out to the 7 am Mass in the cemetery of Delicias. In a light rain, we celebrated the Eucharist – but got pretty wet.

Afterwards I went with some people visiting graves. I stopped at the grave of Juan Ángel Pérez, a young father from Debajiados who died three years ago. He was a candidate to become a Communion minister. I had gone with him several times to bring communion to his parents and was there at his funeral and his internment. His son and his parents were cleaning the gravesite. This was his mother’s first visit to his grave since she had been gravely ill and confined to home until recently.

In the afternoon, there was Mass in Candelaria. I went to the cemetery hoping it would be there, but they had moved it to the church because of fear of rain.

Today, Sunday, I went to Debajiados for a Celebration of the Word and Communion – in the midst of a cold rain. There was a nice congregation despite the rain. After the celebration a kid asked me if I could help his family with a little money for milk. They had been at the brigade’s clinic in Granadillal and his widowed mother was told that the youngest needed milk to prevent calcium deficiency. I gave him a little money and need to see how to help more in the future. This reminded me of how people need simple food like milk to keep their children healthy but don’t have the resources to get them.

After Mass I gave a few people a ride to relatives in El Zapote Santa Rosa and then, as I returned home, I saw some folks out working in a coffee field in the rain.

This afternoon, there’s Mass in Plan Grande.

This week I have a meeting of catechists on Wednesday and a meeting of Social Ministry on Friday. Friday night and Saturday there is a deanery evaluation meeting.

November is here – and it’s starting to turn colder. It’s only 68o and has been rainy, though the sun is out now. I expect we’ll have temperatures in the fifties in a few weeks with rain; this is bone-chilling. I can put on several layers of clothes and two blankets at night. But I still wonder how many will be cold in their homes (outside of the kitchen).

Still, it’s a continuing blessing to be here.