Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ya en Honduras (Now in Honduras)

Praying the Rosary with Missioners of Christ.
On Friday, November 18, I flew into Tegucigalpa, and was met at the airport by two Honduran members of the Missioners of Christ community in Comayagua. Actually the two young women who met me are both currently college students who stay during the week at Missioners' university residence in Tegucigalpa, where we went for lunch and later met Carol Restaine and Roger Blanco. After picking us some supplies (always part of a trip to Teguz) we headed to Comayagua. When I return to Honduras after being away for a while I am always overwhelmed by the amazing natural beauty of the mountains, sky and vegetation - lush and green now at the end of the rainy season.

St. Seraphin Friary and Casa Guadalupe.
One of my principal purposes in coming to Honduras is to assist Missioners of Christ as they integrate new members into their long-term community in Honduras and begin a new "season" of activities, as well  as to be part of a team that will be preparing Honduran high school and university students (whose vacation begins next week) for a week of evangelization in mountain villages, during which I will also accompany them.

Provisional Chapel at the Granja, with statue  of Jesus
donated by Mary Our Queen Parish, Norcross, Georgia.
One of my great joys in returning to Honduras is the opportunity of visiting and spending time with the residents and staff of Jesus of Nazareth Farm (Granja Jesús de Nazaret), who are like family to me. Maynor and Bryan (Honduran Missioners of Christ) accompanied me to the Granja on Sunday morning for Mass. I was very inspired to see the way in which a classroom became a provisional chapel, complete with a statue  of the Resurrected Christ - a donation from the parish of Mary Our Queen Parish in Norcross, Georgia.  It was particularly appropriate on the Solemnity of Christ the King, which we celebrated at Mass. It is the fervent hope and deep desire of everyone at the Granja that one day there will be a permanent chapel on the property that enshrines the Eucharistic Presence of Christ the King.

Young man reading at Mass (he did a great job).
 As always the Mass was well prepared, with clean linens and fresh flowers, and the two young men who proclaimed the Scripture readings did an excellent job. Similarly, all the boys who received Holy Communion did so very devoutly.

An attentive congregation.

Fr. Herald and Bryan (a Honduran Missioner of Christ).

A young boy fascinated by the articles used for Mass
- a future vocation?
Right after Mass Chema and Ada Alcerro helped to distribute small Ethiopian crosses I picked up during my recent trip to Africa to everyone who came to Mass. The crosses have a distinctly Ethiopian design and I saw many people wearing them in Addis Ababa. It's a special joy for me to share, even in a small way, my missionary experiences with these boys and young men, and to help them feel part of a Church that spans countries and centuries.

A Down's Syndrome boy wearing one of the Ethiopian crosses
distributed to everyone at the orphanage.
Group photo after Mass.
 To round off the day, we showed the most recent Narnia film to the younger boys (some of the young men came, too). Next Sunday after Mass we'll take the older boys on an outing.

Watching Narnia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gode, Kelafo and Godere, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Gode.
On Thursday, November 3, Fr. Haggerty and I flew southeast from Addis Ababa through Dire Dawa and Jijiga to the small city of Gode, which has a mostly Somali and Muslim population. There Fr. Christopher Hartley (a priest from Spain who formerly served in New York) is in the process of building a large complex along the river that will include a school and other forms of outreach to the local community.

Fr. Don, Medvin and Ethiopian children in Gode.
Camels along the road between Gode and Kelafo, and Kelafo and Godere (above and below).

After being picked up at the airport we drove about 75 km through the desert (I’ve discovered that roads are approximate in Ethiopia) to the much smaller town of Kelafo. There Fr. Hartley and four Missionaries of Charity, in collaboration with the Somali NGO WASDI and the Czech NGO PIN (People in Need), have begun relief efforts for the 15,000 – 20,000 Somali refugees who have settled in the tiny village of Godere, so close to the border that Somalia is visible in the distance.

Essential relief supplies for the refugees provided by the Missionaries of Charity.
On Friday, November 4, all of us drove another 75 km to Godere to visit the camp and evaluate the progress on the houses where the MC Sisters and Fr. Hartley will be living while ministering to the refugee population. It is an extremely harsh and desolate location. Water has to be trucked in daily from about 6 km away; the heat is tremendous and there are no trees for shade.

The house of the Missionaries of Charity in the Godere refugee camp.
What is most heart-wrenching, though, are the stories of the refugees who have fled the deteriorating situation in their homeland, walked many miles on foot through the harsh desert, only to face a difficult and uncertain future in a foreign country. The situation in Godere is much more primitive and raw than what I saw in Dadaab. In the face of such intense suffering and desperation, I was deeply moved by and grateful for the presence of the Church in the persons of Fr. Hartley and the Missionaries of Charity. Please pray for them and those for whom they are laboring to make the love of Christ tangible through their service and the material assistance they are offering.

Refugee Family.
When fighting overtook her village, this woman became separated from her family;
she does not know where they are, or whether they are dead or alive.
When his last cow died from the drought, this young husband and father
finally fled Somalia with his wife and three young children.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Addis Ababa

I arrived in Addis Ababa on the evening of November 1. I came to visit Fr. Donald Haggerty, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who just began a new assignment teaching moral theology to Ethiopian seminarians at the Capuchin Institute of Philosophy and Theology. I was extremely pleased to be staying with the Capuchins and was inspired by their witness and impressed by the quality and scope of work being done at the institute.

The Capuchins - like the Church itself in Ethiopia, and the broader culture, too – are a fascinating combination of varying elements. The friary was constructed in a traditional European style, including a courtyard and monastic-type refectory (dining room). St. Francis Church is somewhat western in architecture with a choir in the apse where the friars pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The sanctuary and the choir, though, are divided from the nave by columns and arches decorated with icon-like paintings in the Ethiopian style, giving the impression (almost) of an iconostasis. Icon-type paintings of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis receiving the Stigmata hung on the walls of the choir. Although part of the Latin rite Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, these Franciscans are part of the Catholic Ethiopian Rite and celebrate the Liturgy accordingly. Near the end of my stay I was able to visit the Ethiopian rite Cathedral of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is unlike any other part of Africa I have seen. It’s an exotic hybrid of influences from Africa, the Near and Middle East and Europe; the Old Testament, Christian Orthodoxy and Islam; monarchy, communism, dictatorship and democracy – all of which seem to coexist in a curiously symbiotic way, producing a fascinating effect. It has its own languages and alphabet, way of telling time (the hours are counted from dawn instead of midnight) and calendar, unique topography and vegetation, and Ethiopians themselves their own distinctive features. I am looking forward to learning more.

Near the end of my visit I was able to speak with Addis Ababa Auxiliary Bishop Abune Lesamu-Christos Matheos, Fr. Daniel of the Capuchin Institute and the Brothers of St. John (a French religious community serving in the capital) about future possibilities for evangelization efforts in Ethiopia, and hope to return during the next African mission trip in the Spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Maynor's Slideshow of Photos from Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda


The small MAF plane that flew us from Torit to Kampala

From October 27 to November 1, Maynor and I made a short visit to Uganda. We flew on a small plane sent by MAF Uganda. Because of rain we flew below the clouds, giving us some magnificent views of the South Sudanese and Ugandan countrysides.

A view of the Nile from the skies.

One of our principal purposes of the trip to Uganda was to see our friends at Emmaus Center in Katikamu, about 50 km north of Kampala. We have been able to send a number of youth from Torit to programs at Emmaus, including Isaac Jackson, who recently completed a six month discipleship formation and evangelization training program. With the help of Ugandan lay missioniary Dennis Kiyimba (who’s serving in Torit) we are planning to send seven youth to an international impact week at Emmaus in December. We are also hoping to send an additional young man and young woman to next year’s discipleship formation program at Emmaus.

Mass in Emmaus Chapel.

During the course of our few days there I was also able to speak with Robert Tuhumbise, Director of Emmaus, as well as another national Catholic lay leader about collaborating on some outreach efforts during our visit to East Africa next spring. With the help of Noelle Gornik (who’s doing faith inspired development work in Uganda) we are also looking into ways to reach other high school age Catholic youth in the Kampala area.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Maynor's Videos from South Sudan

[Those of you who receive postings via email will have to go to the blog to view these videos.]

I'm posting this entry as we prepare to leave Uganda (more on that visit to come). It includes four short video clips recorded by Maynor Ballesteros while in Torit.

Clip #1: Children entering the Mercy House Chapel (fast forwarded):

Clip #2: Main Street / Juba Road, Torit (just in front of Mercy House):

On two mornings, Maynor accompanied lay missionary Dennis Kiyimba into the field to visit projects that Shelter for Life, the NGO with which Dennis is assisting. These two videos are from those trips.

Clip #3: Excavating a Giant Cassava Root:

Clip #4: Extracting Honey from a Hive in a Tree:

This last photo is from the concluding Mass we celebrated with the St. Daniel Comboni Youth the evening before we left last Thursday.