Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hogar Mission Trip, Pt 1

Dear Parish Faithful,

Buenos Dias!

Di Carter and I returned yesterday evening from our Mission Team trip to the Hogar in Guatemala. We were the two members representing our parish on what proved to be a nine-member Team, and I was also the “spiritual leader” of our Team. We both thank God for a wonderful week at the Hogar and the accumulated encounters and experiences that made our trip memorable. After two long flights and a week together in close quarters, we still remain, not only on speaking terms, but very close friends! Di agreed to write a summary of her first visit to the Hogar – complete with a description of an extraordinary Pentecost Liturgy at the monastery cathedral of the Holy Trinity that overlooks Lake Atatlitlan and is itself overlooked by a row of stunning volcanoes. We will look forward to Di’s account.

For the moment, I would like to focus on our own Francesca, the little girl we have been sponsoring for the last two years. I have both “good news” and - if not necessarily “bad” - then certainly “sad news” to share with you. The good news is that Francesca could not have been more “sweet” and adorable. We made a point of spending a good deal of time with her, as we took her to Antigua with us, and I also spent a day with her at the zoo. She knows of our relationship with her, and she was as respectful, friendly, warm and loving as possible. It was a joy to be with her. She thanks all of our Church School children for her birthday gift (coming up on July 8, when she will turn nine); and we were able to purchase a new cross for her that she chose while in Antigua.

Yet saying good-bye to Francesca was not easy. For due to a combination of complicated reasons, she and her two brothers will most probably be transferred to another orphanage in the near future. Since she and her brothers are very much at home at the Hogar; and since it is only at the Hogar that she is being nourished by the sacramental life of the Church on a daily basis; this is indeed sad news for her (although she is not yet aware of it). I asked Madre Ivonne if she could do her best to help us maintain some contact with her. Such a story is part of the fabric of life at the Hogar. Yet, as life goes on, I have already spoken with Madre Ivonne of transferring our sponsorship to another child and I will keep everyone informed if and when that will occur. So please continue keep Francesca and her two brothers – Hugo and Alejandro – in your prayers.

For the moment I would like to share an anecdote that is both amusing but impressive and indicative of how the children are being raised at the Hogar. While at the zoo on Wednesday, we stopped for lunch at Polla Comparo – the Guatemalan equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken (which, by the looks of it , is just as bad and unhealthy as KFC). For the children, though, this is a real treat. Be that as it may, I asked one of the teachers if we should first bless the food. After answering, “Si, padre,” she informed the children that we would now have the blessing. Without any prompting at all, and as if spontaneously with one collective movement, all twenty-six children stood up and began to sing the troparion for Pentecost as loudly as possible right in the restaurant! Their total freedom from any self-consciousness or awkwardness was absolutely refreshing. One could only smile in admiration. The workers stopped and the other customers expressed surprise, amusement, and … respect. As a pastor I could not help but reflect: Are we – including or children – even able to make the sign of the Cross over ourselves before eating in a public setting; or are we restrained by that very self-consciousness mentioned above? It was good to see the children take the Church with them out into the world.

I look forward to this weekend’s celebration of All Saints. Great Vespers will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday; and the Divine Liturgy at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Dios los bendigas!

En Cristo,

Padre Steven

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are welcome to post a comment. Comments are monitored to make sure they are appropriate for our readership. Please observe common courtesy to all. Offensive remarks will be removed.