Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 5, 2007
Man's death a legacy of 1980's lawlessness
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
I am upset tonight. On the agenda for the afternoon I had a Mass to celebrate in the community of San Antonio La Esperanza about a half hour by pick-up from Chicaman, our headquarters. I had the morning to prepare my homily and to catch-up with some correspondence. Then at 2 p.m. I headed out to San Antonio to celebrate Sunday Mass.
The catechist welcomed me and told me the situation. I knew someone had died and there was to be a funeral. Well, not quite. The funeral actually took place a year ago. It was the anniversary of the death that was celebrated.
It was the death of a young man named Francisco who was 22 years old when died. I had few details when I began the Mass and thought that it was cancer or some unfortunate accident that had caused the young man's death.
Much like in Canada, after Mass a lunch was offered with people mingling around quietly. You know the scene.
Time has been merciful
I was having a cup of coffee when an elderly woman approached me. She was the mother of the deceased. I offered her my sympathy. She was rather composed, I felt, as she offered her thanks for the Mass.
Mercifully time had seemingly softened the pain though one could see that tears were not far away. Tragedies, illness, poverty, lack of health care, violence - all factors that impact tragically upon the lives of the poor.
I told her I was sorry about her son's death and that I knew little about what happened to him. She told me that two "friends" assaulted him with knives, one stabbed him in the abdomen and the other stabbed him in the head. The motivation for the crime escapes me. I did not want to probe into something so painful.
In Guatemala, grief and violence are everyday occurrences. Lawlessness abounds and there seems to be no remedy for it. This is a legacy of the 1980s when the army under General Rios Mont turned on its own people, with soldiers getting the green light to wantonly kill and rape, gathering women and children in churches then setting the churches on fire with countless innocent people burning to death.
Let me switch to a more positive topic.
An African arrives
Last week we had the visit of an Oblate from Congo, Africa, who arrived in Guatemala with a confrere about two months ago. He's Father Norberto and much of his time in Guatemala had been spent learning Spanish, which he has mastered surprisingly well. He was ordained two years ago and was asked to go to Guatemala where he was assigned to the parish of Playa Grande with its 120 villages.
We invited Father Norberto to preside at Sunday Mass in Chicaman. He did a fine job and preached a beautiful homily. He's a good and gifted young priest. He will be a great help to the parish of Playa Grande.
He really liked Chicaman and expressed how he would like to work with us - Father Sergio and me. That would be great but the needs of Playa Grande are greater than in Chicaman where two priests can manage adequately.
There's an Oblate community in Playa Grande led by young Father Jose Manuel of Mexico. Father Enrique from Peru has been there more than two years but his main activity as director of a Catholic radio station has cut down his ministry in the villages.
Quebec-born elderly Father Rodrigo is a veteran missionary in Latin America with over four decades of dedicated service in Bolivia and Guatemala. He's presently helping out in Playa Grande but being in his 80s with failing health, he's had to cut down his ministry considerably. Hence the need for Norberto.
Home for boys
Also in Playa Grande, a diocesan priest from Quebec is preparing to oversee a house for high school boys with the hope that some of them will receive and accept the missionary call.
The situation in Playa Grande is overwhelming and I'm relieved to be in Chicaman which has become my home. The many people I've met and interacted with have become my other family.
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