Sep 23 2011

Independence Day torch tradition in Guatemala

CFCA sponsored youth Simiona in Guatemala

Simiona, CFCA sponsored youth, carries the Independence Day torch in Guatemala this year.

CFCA sponsored youth Maria in Guatemala

MarÌa, another CFCA sponsored youth, also helped carry the torch during the celebrations.

Cruz Quievac Choy, a CFCA staff member in the CFCA project in Atitl·n, Guatemala, sent us this report about a popular tradition on the eve of Guatemala’s Independence Day, Sept. 15.

After 190 years, Guatemala still commemorates its independence in a unique way.

This initiative was promoted by MarÌa Dolores Bedoya (Guatemalan leader who participated in the independence movement of Central America), together with the heroes who sought freedom and called for citizens to sign the Act of Independence.

History tells us that the people joined the celebration, burning fireworks to the sound of the marimba. Independence brought great joy for the Central American countries.

The euphoria of the citizens continued as Dolores Bedoya ran through the streets of Guatemala with the light of a lantern.

Many people joined this procession, carrying a lantern as the symbol of independence for their country. In addition, it represented the light that illuminates the path of Guatemala.

Today to commemorate this celebration, people run with a torch through town after town.

Many people gather in front of the municipalities or in the atrium of parish churches where the parish priest blesses the torch or the mayor gives his approval.

On the roads, entire families come out to encourage the runners carrying the torch.

CFCA sponsored youth Simiona and MarÌa participated in this yearís civic activities.

They said it was exciting to celebrate their independence by running the torch because it is a day of celebration and living as a community with other students from different schools.

They said it was also an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate their talents in contests of folk dances, poems and songs.

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Jul 4 2011

Independence Days around the CFCA world

Happy Fourth of July to the CFCA community based in the United States!

Of course, many in our community overseas celebrate their Independence Day sometime other than today. We’d like to recognize a few of those:

El Salvador

El Salvador annually celebrates its independence from Spain on Sept. 15.

This celebration is called the “Central American Independence” because Central America was under the domain of Spain and its countries reached their independence at the same time.

For this celebration, thousands of students from public and private schools participate in the “independence parade,” organized in every major city or town.

They march to the rhythm of “peace bands” playing folk, classic and modern songs, as well as dances, acrobatics and cheerleading routines. People fill the streets with flags and smiles.

Guatemala

Like El Salvador, Guatemala celebrates its independence day on Sept. 15. Many schools, buildings and buses are decorated with nationalistic images: the white-and-blue flag, quetzal (national bird) and monja blanca (national flower).

Students have parades with marching bands as they sing the national anthem, with cultural presentations and firecrackers. The army participates with a military parade and air shows, usually in front of the national palace and with the president.

On Sept. 14, a night parade takes place where people light the “independence torch” in their communities. The streets are decorated with balloons and white-and-blue ornaments, with children and adults waving plastic Guatemalan flags.

India

India celebrates its independence from the United Kingdom on Aug. 15. Every city has a flag-hoisting ceremony where schoolchildren gather to sing the national anthem and watch the hoisting of the flag.

Sweets such as laddu are also distributed. Children in school competitions read compositions about India’s freedom fighters. Unlike in the U.S., fireworks aren’t common except in certain towns.

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Mar 8 2011

A CFCA tribute for International Women’s Day

Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day. As we celebrate this day, we recognize women around the world who are leading their families and communities as they pursue a full and meaningful life.

Read these inspiring stories about women who have been helped through CFCA and are returning that help:

Maria CristinaBy all accounts, Maria Cristina should not have graduated from school or successfully completed her medical degree.

She should have been one of the 60-plus percent of Guatemalan youth who drop out of school by the sixth grade.

But Maria Cristina is unique. This is even more significant given that she is a woman and a member of the indigenous population in Guatemala.

FaridaWhen Farida fell into a deep depression after her husband abandoned the family, her son, Aftab, encouraged her to seek help from the CFCA mothers group.

With the support of other mothers in the program, Farida gradually recovered her self-esteem. She†learned to sew and tailor clothing through a class at the CFCA resource center.

Farida now gives back to her community. She adopted an orphaned street child, cared for him and enabled him to attend school. She runs a sewing business and is building a home for her family.

Guatemalan sewing mothers groupIn Guatemala, spirited mothers have formed a group to improve the lives of their families ó one garment at a time.

In 2009, eight of the women officially formed a new mothers group. They called themselves ìCreaciones la BendiciÛn,î or ìBlessed Creations.î

The women borrowed $1,800 for one year from CFCA to purchase fabric and an industrial sewing machine. They have sewed more than 11,000 T-shirts for Walk2gether, CFCA President Bob Hentzen’s 8,000-mile trek through Latin America.

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Feb 14 2011

Mother finds mutual love, support in CFCA workshop

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our readers. On this day, we decided to highlight the love of a special family CFCA serves in Colombia.

Lidia and family in Colombia

Lidia, center, with her three children, from left: Duvon, Yuri and Wilmer.

Benjamin and Lidia are two hard-working parents trying to provide the best for their three children ñ Duvon, Wilmer and Yuri. The two eldest are sponsored in CFCA’s Hope for a Family program.

Lidia is active in a CFCA mothers group and has joined the ìMothers as Leadersî workshop, which prepares mothers to be leaders in their communities and serve as project liaisons for emergencies, announcements and program activities.

“This workshop relieves my stress,” Lidia said. “It’s my time ó a moment for me to step away from washing, cooking and milking. We do exercises, lie on the floor, relax and forget about our burdens. We close our eyes and learn to give ourselves time to realize that we are valuable women.”

The group ñ a source of friendship, community and education ñ has become Lidiaís own valentine. It has given her new skills and renewed her commitment to provide the best possible future for her children.

This family’s love is mirrored in thousands of other families throughout the CFCA world. On Valentineís Day, we celebrate that love.

Read more about Lidia’s story.

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Jan 6 2011

Celebrating Three Kings Day

Two CFCA projects explain the Three Kings Day celebrations taking place on Jan. 6:

Mexico

In most parts of Mexico, they believe that the Three Kings, or the Magi ó traditionally Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar ó visit the homes at dawn on Jan. 6 to leave gifts for children who have behaved well throughout the year.

Children write letters to the Magi asking for the toys they would like. This tradition is based on the Biblical passage where the three kings brought the child Jesus gold, incense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

Kings Cake

Children in Cuernavaca, Mexico, wait to partake of the traditional ìRosca de Reyes,î or Kings Cake ñ a bread with sugar and crystallized fruit.

Days before Jan. 6, parents buy gifts and hide them from the children so they are surprised and believe the kings brought the gifts.

On Jan. 6, the children wake up early, impatient and thrilled to find the gifts left for them. The children play with their toys all day long with their siblings and friends.

Families, offices, schools, neighbors, friends ñ in short, everyone ñ partakes of the traditional ìRosca de Reyes,î or Kings Cake, which is a bread in the shape of a ring decorated with sugar and crystallized fruit.

Various small plastic dolls about an inch and a half long are hidden inside to represent the baby Jesus.

Each person cuts his or her own piece of cake, and those who find a doll inside must bring tamales to everyone present on Feb. 2, the day when Mexican families bring the statue of baby Jesus to the church for a blessing.

According to the Bible, that is the day when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple.

This tradition is practiced primarily in urban and suburban communities, because families in rural areas do not have the economic means to do so.

-Written and edited by: Daniel Luna, Alicia Garza Ramos and Angelica Lozada at the CFCA project in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Martha Meireles, Cuernavaca project coordinator, sent us this report.

Dominican Republic

The celebration of Three Kings Day is one of the biggest traditions in the Dominican Republic.

The celebration starts Jan. 4 when children write letters for the three kings describing the gifts they want and put them in Christmas trees, on beds or give them to their parents.

On Jan. 5 in the afternoon, children find grass, water and food, and place them under their beds for the camels and wise men to eat and drink and eat when they visit at night.

On this day, children go to bed earlier than usual. Once the children are asleep, parents place the gifts under their bed or at the Christmas tree and take the food away to let the children know the three kings visited them.

At dawn, you can hear in the street whistles, laughter and the sound of bikes, children running and playing with their toys after opening the gifts.

The celebration is extended to the community because the children visit their neighbors to show them their gifts, and the neighbors usually give them other gifts left for them by the wise men.

This tradition turns a normal day into a magical day and offers an unforgettable memory that will last all their lives.

This beautiful tradition is full of faith and love holding a magical world of fantasies uniting families and communities.

-Nelson Figueroa, CFCA project coordinator in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, sent us this report.

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Dec 12 2010

‘Mother of all Mexican Catholics’: Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

Mexicans celebrate the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, beginning one day before in the shrines of our Lady of Guadalupe or the chapels that bear her name. There are Masses, confessions, dances and readings of the story of her appearances on Mexican soil.

Here is a Q-and-A with the CFCA project in MÈrida about the feast day.

In MÈrida it is a tradition that at the shrine of Saint Christopher, pilgrims are received a month before from all corners of the state of Yucat·n, neighbor states, guilds, schools, companies and diverse institutions. There is also an open air dance all night long on Dec. 11.

I have been told that some people participate in a pilgrimage to MÈxico City to celebrate at the Basilica of Guadalupe. Can you tell me about this?

The pilgrimages are carried out by groups with torches, families and even entire towns, who arrive at the basilica, to ask or give thanks for favors from the Virgin, or as a promise from a family tradition (sickness, births, etc.).

Do any members of the CFCA community participate in these pilgrimages?

People from the CFCA community participate in these pilgrimages, walks or Masses. It is a celebration in all of MÈxico for Catholic families on this day.

Virgin of Guadalupe

CFCA scholar Jes˙s Federico displays a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The pilgrimages vary, depending on the distance from the start to the final place. It can be 1 day and up to 15 days for the long ones. All are supposed to arrive on Dec. 12 to hear Mass and receive the benediction and then return.

Those pilgrimages are done on foot, on bicycles or running on one’s knees, depending on the promise offered. The Virgin of Guadalupe reminds us the promise of the mother of God to be with us in difficult moments.

She presented herself as a mestiza, with indigenous and Spanish characteristics, to include everyone under her protection.

Any other information or commentary that you would like to add?

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the mother of all Mexican Catholics by tradition. There is a faith and fervor that exists within us for her that is inexplicable. To us, she is miraculous and if you ask her for something and you have faith, we are sure that she will honor you.

Jes˙s Federico is a 15-year-old CFCA scholar. He is in the first semester of computer science and also serves in the Church as an altar boy and catechist.

Why do you participate in this pilgrimage?

It is a way of showing my faith and gratitude to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and it motivates me in my personal life to move ahead, and it is a family and community tradition.

Since when have you been participating in this pilgrimage? What is your route and distance covered?

This is the second year that I am going to participate. We go from the community where I live with a group of 30 people: family and friends.

It is about 180 kilometers (112 miles) away and we are going in a group, in which every person runs for about 20 minutes and then is replaced, and that is how we cover all the distance.

On the way we meet a lot of people who offer food to the whole group as part of their offerings to the Virgin. They give us water in the communities we pass along the way and they treat us really well.

We are always careful because we could be prone to highway accidents.

It is an unforgettable experience and all because of our dear Virgin of Guadalupe.

During the trips we sing chants to the Virgin and everyone takes offerings and promises to be fulfilled in the future. Also, a few days before the trips we have meetings in the Church where they explain to us the significance of the pilgrimage and about the love that we should have for our Virgin of Guadalupe.

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Dec 10 2010

El Salvador celebrates feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

This report was prepared by Yessenia Alfaro, the project coordinator for Santa Ana, El Salvador.

The feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) is celebrated in El Salvador in many churches that carry her name.

The main celebration is in the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Tecla, La Libertad. It is a celebration in which thousands from different parts of El Salvador and other countries participate.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Worshippers attend the serenade to the Virgin inside the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. According to legend, in 1950 the Virgin appeared in a ceiba tree. The place is known as the Shrine of the Ceiba of Guadalupe, and the most solemn celebrations take place in this church.

Kinberly and Irvin

Kinberly and her cousin, Irvin, are dressed in indigenous clothing during the celebrations of the feast day. Irvin is dressed as Juan Diego.

This celebration is in commemoration of the apparition of the dark-skinned Virgin to Juan Diego, an indigenous person from Mexico.

Many parents, particularly mothers, dress their young children in indigenous clothing as part of the promises they made to the Virgin for favors or miracles. Others offer sacrifices asking for favors from the mother of God.

Many CFCA sponsored members and some staff members participate in these celebrations.

The celebrations begin on the first days of December with a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, nine Masses in honor of the Virgin.

On Dec. 11 the Vigil is celebrated with songs and prayers.

The principal celebration on Dec. 12 begins with a serenade to the Virgin. Before this, there is a procession from a nearby parish to the church where the participants venerate the image of the dark-skinned Virgin.

Sixteen Masses are celebrated in the church on Dec. 11 and 12. For years, families have kept the tradition of visiting the Virgin, travelling from faraway places to participate in the festivities.

Outside the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, vendors congregate selling different religious relics, food and candy, among other things.

This tradition maintains the faith of many people and unites many to share in the same trust, hope and faith that God listens to them and attends to their necessities through his motherís intercession. Many give testimony of miracles received, most about health.

One example of this devotion to the Virgin is the family of Edwin. His mother, Rosa, shared with us how she passed on to her sons and daughters her devotion to the mother of Jesus for more than 20 years.

Her daughters, now mothers of their own families, continue with this tradition.

Today Rosa’s grandchildren are participating in the festivities in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Delmy, Rosaís daughter and a former CFCA sponsored child, dresses her daughter, Kinberly, in indigenous clothing for the celebrations. Kinberly’s cousin, Irvin, also takes part.

When there is sickness or worries, the family members always trust in the protection of the Virgin, and that is why they are always grateful for the blessings they have received.

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