Thursday, December 13, 2012

Honduras Epilogue

Before, between and after the youth formation week and Guajiquiro mountain mission I had the chance to do a few other things in Comayagua. Among them were a formation day with the local Corazón Puro (Pure Heart) youth chastity group; three Sunday Masses, Confessions and a showing of the film For Greater Glory at the Granja Jesús Nazaret boys orphanage; and a formation talk for the staff at St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center. The photos in this post are from a trip into the nearby village of Matasanos, in the Mountains of Comayagua, where Missioners of Christ assist the Missionaries of Charity in working with a youth group comprising several local communities. This visit focused on Advent and included making Advent wreaths for the chapels in the different villages represented.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mountain Mission in Guajiquiro, La Paz, Honduras

San Juan Village Team with local lay leaders.
The Monday following the week of mission formation five youth teams headed into the mountains of Guajiquiro, La Paz to different villages in the parish of San Sebastian: San Juan, San José, San Miguel, Talanga and Guanacaste. We travelled in three pickups and dropped teams off at villages along the way. In each village there were daily programs for children, youth and families, and Mass, Confessions and Adoration when a priest was available.

Villagers in San Juan.

The team in front of the chapel in San José.

St. Joseph and the Child Jesus with sombreros in San José.

Stop along a bridge over a gorge (above and below).

San Miguel team with children.
I was part of the team that stayed in San Miguel (above and below), and celebrated Mass there daily, as well as in Talanga and another nearby village, San Antonio.

A view of the mountains from the chapel in San Miguel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Honduras Otra Vez (Once Again)

I was in Honduras for the last two weeks of November and the first ten days of December. I spent the first week in La Ceiba on the north coast, helping out in the very busy cathedral parish and doing some additional preparation for the Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) Eucharistic youth retreat planned for the last week in January, and a youth mission for Holy Week next March. My visit coincided with the annual national convention of Delegados de la Palabra de Dios (lay leaders who celebrate a Liturgy of the Word each Sunday in rural communities without a priest), hosted this year by the Diocese of La Ceiba. I was able to help fill in a little for Bishop Michael Lenihan, OFM (who also happens to be the national episcopal moderate for the Delegados) and Fr. Francisco, who accompanied the Delegados most of the days of their stay, by celebrating Mass in the Cathedral parish and three of its satellite chapels in the city. Additionally I was a guest on the weekly youth radio program and helped with Confession.

Following my time in  La Ceiba I travelled by bus to Comayagua to assist the Missioners of Christ with a week of missionary formation for youth who just finished their academic year. Above and below are photos from the week of formation.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ethiopian Countryside

While in Ethiopia we saw some beautiful landscapes. The first three photos are from the drive from Addis Ababa to Mendida. The scenes reminded me of the Italian countryside.

These next four shots are from a walk we took last Saturday afternoon in the valley below the Cistercian monastery. The green field in the third photo is composed of teff, the grain from which injera, the Ethiopian "bread" (actually more like a crepe in texture), is made.

These last five photos were taken on Sunday at Ankober on our way back to Addis Ababa. The capital of the Ethiopian Empire was located at Ankober during the reign of Emperor Menelik II (1844-1913) before being moved to Addis Ababa. 2870 km = 1.78 miles above sea level - almost twice as high as Denver!

Left to right: Fr. Alexandre, Samson (our translator), Br. Michael Paul,
Fr. Herald, Fr. Jean, Fr. Dereje, Fr. Athanasius.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ethiopia: Cistercian Monastery and First Mass

Cistercian Holy Savior Parish church, Mendida.
Holy Savior Parish, where the youth encounter in Mendida took place, is staffed by Ethiopian Cistercian monks. Their monastery, on the same grounds, is also the novitiate of their community. It's a beautiful, very monastic setting in the cool highlands of Mendida.

Monastery courtyard.

Professed monk and novice.

Monastery cemetery.

Panoramic view of valley below from monastery.

View of monastery on top of hill from valley below.
Mendida also happens to be the hometown of Fr. Joseph, the Cistercian monk whose ordination we attended the previous Sunday in Addis Ababa. By God's providence, our visit happened to coincide with his first Mass in his home parish. It was quite a celebration. The whole Catholic community eagerly awaited his arrival, with some going out on horseback and in trucks to meet him along the road, and the others staying back at the parish to welcome him once he arrived.

There was singing, dancing and jubilation upon his arrival. At the gate of the compound he was clothed in an alb and new vestments and was accompanied into the parish church by the singing and dancing throng. There the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for a time of adoration, followed by Fr. Joseph giving us Benediction.

Waiting for the arrival of the new priest.

Venerating the hands of the new priest at his first Mass.
The church was full at his first Mass the next day. At one point in the celebration all of us present venerated his consecrated hands, which now feed us with the Eucharistic Body of Christ and administer the other Sacraments. After Mass was another joyous procession with singing, drumming, dancing and jumping to the hall where breakfast was served.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ethiopia: Youth Encounter in Mendida

Participants in the youth encounter in Mendida.
On Friday, November 2, I traveled with the Brothers of St. John to the town of Mendida, about two and a half hours north of Addis Ababa. Our destination: Holy Savior Parish, for a Year of Faith youth encounter. Mendida is even cooler than Addis Ababa; the temperatures were fall-like, in US terms.

Fr. Herald giving the main talk: "Do Not Be Afraid! Open Wide the Doors to Christ!"
 There was a very friendly welcoming reception on Friday evening, with songs, skits and an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. But the encounter itself began the following day. I gave the main address in the morning on the theme of: "Do Not Be Afraid! Open Wide the Doors to Christ!" I spoke about faith as a door that opens both ways: to welcome Jesus into our hearts, but also to step out in faith to share Him with others. After the talk, there were small group discussions (below), followed by questions and answers.

Br. Michael Paul (from Colorado) of the Brothers of St. John
speaking about the Scriptures

In the afternoon, Br. Michael Paul of the Brothers of St. John gave an excellent talk on the importance of the Scriptures for our lives. Afterwards, each participant received a copy of the New Testament in Amharic.

Eucharistic Holy Hour with youth encounter participants.
We then headed to the parish church, where Fr. Athanasius of the Brothers of St. John gave an introduction to Eucharistic Adoration, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The day concluded with Benediction. Just after we took a group photo in front of the church.

Group photo in front of Holy Savior Church.

Participants with their Amharic New Testaments.

Other participants.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ethiopia: Out and About in Addis Ababa

A statue of a large dove, representing the Holy Spirit, at St. Joseph Church, Addis Ababa.
After a full week of conferences, seminars and presentations, we were able to get out and see a little of Addis Ababa before the Ugandan team had to leave on Monday. It was a special blessing to be able to attend the priestly ordination of a local Cistercian monk at St. Joseph's Parish.

Fr. Dereje Bekele (pastoral advisor for charismatics) and I 
in Ethiopian rite vestments just before the beginning of the rdination Mass.
It was a beautiful, elaborate ceremony celebrated almost entirely by chanting with twenty priests gathered around the altar. The church was full of people and joy.

The newly ordained Cistercian priest (just to the right of Bishop Lesanu)
together with the Cistercian Abbot General (to the left of the bishop) his family,
community members and concelebrating priests.
The celebration afterwards was almost as impressive. The Ethiopian Cistercian monks danced and sang to a particular tune that lasted for about a half an hour. It began very slowly and solemnly and gradually got faster and more jubilant, till it ended with everyone jumping, clapping and shouting. It was an amazing brotherly, communal, cultural expression of exuberant joy.

After the celebration we were able to visit a few other parishes and institutions of the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa, including the very beautiful church of St. Gabriel, built by the Consolata Missionaries, which has a beautiful and imposing statue of its patron saint with African features in the sanctuary, and a vivid mural of the seven days of creation over the main door.

An formidable statue of the Archangel Gabriel in St. Gabriel's Church (above),
and a mural of the days of creation over the main door of the same church (below).

No visit to Ethiopia would be complete without participating in the traditional coffee ceremony, which includes roasting, brewing and serving their delicious blend. Our charismatic friends made sure we didn't miss this, and also gave us the added gift of some Ethiopian coffee to take home.

Roasting beans during a traditional Ethiopia coffee ceremony.