Mission awareness trip to Guatemala
April 18-25, 2009
A CFCA lifestyle brings freedom
Before meeting up with the sponsors coming to Guatemala, we drove to the headquarters of the northeastern region, El Rancho. On April 18, when it came time for supper, 15 members of the staff from this region showed up with a big birthday cake for me.
For the sponsors and for each of us, it is an inspiring and emotional experience to spend time with our sponsored families in Guatemala City.
The next morning, we had the quiet but powerful testimony of Maria Cristina. She comes from a very modest familyóand, like many, was abandoned by the father. Maria has been sponsored for 16 years. She is now doing her residency and rural service as the final step for graduation from medical school. She spoke confidently about how the love and emotional support of her sponsors has been an important part of her success.
Seems as though each time we come to this project in Guatemala City, we inaugurate a new livelihood program. This time it involves nine mothers (Ruth, Myra, Esmeralda, Carmen, Flor de Maria, Margarita, Olga, Maria and Magdalena). They have a catering service, specializing in soya products and pastries made from chocolate.
Fiesta, Mass in Patulul
In the town of Patulul, we come across Father John Goggin and about 400 of the sponsored children, their parents and scholars from Atitlan subproject B. They met us on the road and ìwalkedî into the stage area. Every gathering must have an initial prayer, words of welcome, the acts themselves and finally words of thanks. We are now headed up the mountain to San Lucas to prepare for Holy Mass at 5 p.m. Former sponsored seminarian Geovanny Perez will celebrate the Mass.
$3 for a dayís work
In San Antonio, we are pleased to serve 1,152 sponsored families, plus 45 scholars. We began our visit at the CFCA center in San Antonio where we met three of the scholarsóyoung girls with high hopes, aspiring to be doctors and teachers. They help tutor children in studies and letters. We loaded the pickup with food commodities and headed out through the cane fields on the dusty road/path to Saquil, a small community of 59 CFCA families. There’s no doubt about need. Men here can earn about $3 for a full dayís labor on the neighboring fincas (farms). But the children are attending school.
Heroes and martyrs
In order for our sponsors to understand the current lives of their sponsored families in Guatemala, it helps, I believe, to study and appreciate the lives of our martyrs in this country. There are literally tens of thousands. I dedicate this report to some of the martyrs I have known, including Guillermo (Bill) Wood, a Maryknoll priest, martyred Nov. 11, 1976 and Mario Mujia Cordoba, one of the first to join the Christian Brothers volunteer brigades, martyred July 20, 1978.
The troubles continue in Guatemala. On our way back to San Lucas, we just passed the spot where five young police officers were killed by narcos on April 24. May they rest in peace. We pray for their families. The narcos escaped.
A very special group
This is a very special group of sponsors. I am very grateful to have had this time with them. My gratitude to each of you, also, for your solidarity and prayers. Please join us in prayer for the 11th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Juan Gerardi. This week, we have staff formation and visits to subprojects before heading to Venezuela for the mission awareness trip.