Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2006
Padre enjoys his spiritual sidekick
Sharing his missionary life energizes Johnson
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
Yesterday I drove for about an hour on my way to the community of El Portal, a former finca or vast farming estate owned by a family with a multitude of people working for them.
The last living member of a family of four unmarried sisters died as I arrived at Chicam n two years ago. In her will, the deceased deeded her land and properties to the bishop of Quiche.
It turned out to be a mixed blessing as people who had been servants to the head of the finca for generations insisted on having their piece of the pie. I wish all the luck to our new and excellent young bishop in this difficult affair.
In the afternoon, I drove for another hour to El Soch, the community that had two giant ceiba trees, but who were jilted by a small group who cut down the larger of the two and pocketed the benefits of the lumber sale for their little bunch.
When I arrived at the church at El Soch there wasn't a soul around. I met a few people who had never heard that a Mass had been planned for that day. I found out that some of the leaders knew about the 2 p.m. Mass, but they failed to pass on the information.
A group of people gathering outside the church attracted the people passing by. Soon we had a crowd and moved into the church where we celebrated Mass. By the time Mass was over, the church was full. And so it goes. . . .
My marching orders for this Sunday were to celebrate Mass at Las Pacayas at 10 a.m. and celebrate again at 3 p.m. at El Pinal.
For the last few weeks I've had a sidekick in my missionary endeavours in this mountainous part of northern Guatemala. Guatemalan Lionel, 25, has been with us for the last month or so. He's from our other parish, Playa Grande, with its 220 villages, ministered to by three Oblate priests.
Lionel is interested in missionary work and he's with us in Chicam n in order to have a "mission experience." I like the idea of sharing my missionary work with a young man. It's good company and besides I can share lots of things about missionary life.
My boss, Father Sergio of Mexico, is exactly half my age, a mere 34 years of age. After having had leadership positions in the community for several years, I find it a breeze to be taking orders.
Fun and freedom
Now I'm having fun and there are no administrative responsibilities. I can concentrate on the ministry that is offered me. Meeting people and working with them is a joy. As we move from community to community, Lionel and I have lots of time to reflect on the daily experiences.
Las Pacayas is a rural community scattered over many kilometres. The centre of activities is their 40-year-old whitewashed church built with stones and cement. A major gift of this small rural community to the Church is a local son by the name of Cruz who will be ordained to the priesthood within a year. He will be the first Guatemalan to be ordained an Oblate priest. We're hoping that several of the 30 young men we are supporting in their studies will also experience the call.
It was a pleasant one-hour drive to get to Las Pacayas. Lionel came along and he was good company, throwing all sorts of questions about missionary life as well as giving his opinion about what the response to his questions might be.
The main event of the day was the Baptism of 11 young children following the homily. The church was overflowing with people. There were also 12 young children making their First Communion. No wonder the local community council has asked for financial support on our part so that they can build a new church in time for Cruz's ordination.
When Mass was over, we were invited for dinner at a home. A wonderful elderly woman and her daughter treated us like kings.
Then we headed out for El Pinal, half an hour on the way home. El Pinal is the largest community in the parish after Beleju and Chicam n. The church is large, with three rows of benches and all benches were full. The faith of the people is strong and their involvement in the Church is a great blessing for all.
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