Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 26, 2005
Life – mundane, mud, murder
But the weary Oblate missionary realizes it is the Mass that restores his flock's lives
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
Sunday I was scheduled to preside the 1 p.m. Mass at El Pinal, one of our largest communities in the Chicam n parish.
I got there by 12:30 p.m. to find a dozen people having their lunch in the church. Earlier, Sister Rosa had led a workshop there regarding health workers.
Nothing much happened for the next hour. I was becoming fretful as I also had a 4 p.m. Mass to celebrate at Puente Seco, a 45-minute drive. I decided not to fret and hang in there and see how things would evolve.
After awhile, I noticed some people were moving pews around and more and more people were appearing. I began to feel that we were probably going to have a Mass after all.
Time for Mass
I called one of the men over and suggested that I might as well hear confessions while they got the church ready. He agreed and announced it to the people.
I was busy hearing confessions for the next half-hour or more. Then I looked up and the church was full of people, really full, well over 600 people. I ended confessions and announced Mass was about to begin.
I suggested the people who were getting married and the parents having children baptized to please come forward. Two couples and their assistants came up to be married as well as five couples with babies for baptism.
And so the 1 p.m. Mass began at 2:30 p.m. and was over at 5:30 p.m. I started thinking again about Puente Seco and their 4 p.m. Mass. I drove as fast as possible and when I arrived, I saw a large crowd of people waiting around the church, waving to me from across the creek. I had never been there before and did not know how to get to the church. Some signalled to go right and others to go left.
Finally, someone happened to come by and led me down a bumpy, narrow road all the way to the church. I expected people to be angry and dejected, but quite the contrary. They looked relieved and happy that I made it at all.
They informed me there would be two weddings and five baptisms as well as a few first communicants. They also suggested I should begin with the sacrament of Reconciliation for the wedding parties as well as for the first communicants.
I'd like to mention in passing that in this parish, we do an average of 350 baptisms a year.
By the time we got all this straightened out, we were able to start the scheduled 4 p.m. Mass at 6 p.m. finishing at 8:30 p.m.
Then I was invited to a home nearby for dinner. During Mass, it had rained heavily and, to get to the home for my dinner, I had to climb a narrow path leading straight up.
I was slipping all over the place and almost fell. Two young men who saw my predicament came to my rescue and helped me make it to the house. Our gracious hostess invited them also to share the meal she had prepared. I got home at 10 p.m. and went straight to bed.
The next day - Monday - I was scheduled to celebrate Mass at La Amay at 10 a.m. and Pancus at 3 p.m. After driving over an hour on bumpy roads, I got to La Amay only to find out that the night before, a 20-year-old man had been stabbed to death, killed by a much older man who had been arrested.
The hall next to the church was full of Poconci people involved in conversations and speeches I could not understand, only that it related to the tragedy.
So I went to church to get things ready for Mass. I was surprised at the size of the church. It's huge and could probably hold 800 people.
Later I was told that over the years people had joined evangelical sects. Talking with congregants, my conclusion was the people were left like sheep without a shepherd. The priest coming for a day every two months wasn't enough and the people fizzled away.
Having a crowd of 100 people at the afternoon Mass wasn't much comfort.
The 4 p.m. Mass at Pancus was well attended, with good music and good participation.
I stayed over for dinner at the catechist's home. Present also was a man from Cumbre de La May who is president of that parish council. By the time we headed out, it was raining heavily and all was dark as there's no electricity in the communities and therefore no lights outside and only candles inside the house.
I got to the truck with the help of the host who had a candle to guide us with. We stopped in La May on my way home to pick up four bags of corn, a gift for the people of Rio Negro whose houses were destroyed by a mud slide a couple of months ago.
Two young fellows asked for a ride and I headed out home with some company for a short while. Then I dropped them off and headed home, driving for an hour in dense darkness, heavy rains and dismal roads, thanking God for being alive and asking for his help to get me safely home.
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