LATIN AMERICACOLOMBIA - A mission inspired by the Founder
In the life of our Founder, he held a special fondness for youth, as we notice in his biography and in his writings. When St. Eugene began his ministry in Aix, he cared very much for the youth and he began a very beautiful pastoral ministry with them, a ministry which has continued among his Oblates for a long time and has expanded to those places where they are now present.GUATEMALA - Building Dreams
I remember that the first time I met the Oblates was at a youth meeting. Remembering that moment always makes me feel good and inspires me to one day become part of this marvelous ministry of working with youth.
Thanks be to God, we have had the opportunity to work with youth in our ministries, and thanks be to God, the seed we are sowing is falling on good soil and the harvest is beginning to develop. It was not easy in the beginning, since few youth were interested in anything about God and the Church, but with much effort, we are beginning to gain their interest. We have managed to persuade 25 of them, those who today make up our youth group.
I believe it is the youthful Jesus who has captivated the youth and it is He whom we try to show them during this whole year in catechesis, in biblical formation, in dances, in theater pieces, in spiritual moments, but especially in day to day life, in the midst of their various situations.
In order to develop a bit the plan we are following with them, we managed to have a retreat for two days in the Oblate house in Bogotá, a time during which we shared a beautiful experience. We prayed around the figure of Jesus, a friend who invites us to follow him in mission, but first we must combat our fears and we must let ourselves fall in love with Him.
This time was a moment filled with meaningful experiences which we are sure captivated the youth even more and filled their hears with joy and a desire to respond with generosity to the love that God always gives us.
At the end of this semester, I continue giving thanks to God for all that which He has allowed us to live and achieve for the youth, for their families and their community, for the Oblates who gave me this opportunity and for Eugene de Mazenod who inspires us and continues inspiring so many Oblates to go on realizing this wonderful ministry. (Reineris Herazo Julio, prenovice, in the Boletín Institucional of the Prenovitiate of Colombia, November 2009)
(Here are the reflections of Bridget Murphy, a Canadian woman who has served as a volunteer in an Oblate parish in Guatemala.)Since 2006, I have made three trips to visit and volunteer with Parroquia Cristo RedentorMission in Playa Grande, Guatemala. This Mission is run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and serves 120 villages. Many of these villages are accessible only by walking up mountains which can take up to as long as two hours.This mission serves one of the poorest regions in Guatemala and in fact, it is one of the poorest regions in Central America. This area of Guatemala is known for the massacres of entire villages which include women and children during the civil war of the 1980s. This region is mainly inhabited by indigenous people, the Maya Q’eqchi, who receives little or no financial support from the government.During my stay, I was very fortunate to be able to visit many of these villages and to experience firsthand the level of poverty in the area. Many of the people live in poverty with little access to adequate jobs, medical care, good drinking water, electricity, housing and education.Many of these villages have no high school and the schools that are found in this area of Guatemala have few or no educational resources. They are also poorly staffed. The schools are substandard to say the least, with no electricity, no running water and no proper bathroom facilities other than an outhouse. The children have no access to a library, a computer room, or to a gym. In addition, education is only guaranteed to grade six. There is no educational funding available for youth after this grade. These youth have no means of fund raising as we do in our country. Many of these youth must try to find work, for very little pay, to help support their parents and siblings. The families have great difficulty in providing the basic needs of daily living.In January 2008, I made a visit to an area in Guatemala called Centro Chactelá. During that visit a group of teachers met with Fr. José Manuel Santiago, OMI, looking for his support to help secure funding to build a high school. Observing the poor conditions of primary schools and the need for a high school, I decided to take action and to help the teachers achieve this need. As a result “Guatemala: Children First Project” was born. The goal of this project would be a fundraising effort to raise the funds that would supply the much needed high school with textbooks, basic school supplies and desks. Some of my efforts to date have included: penny drives, yard sales, cookbook sales and soliciting donations.You cannot imagine my disappointment when I received word that the youth of this region would not be getting a high school any time soon. Their proposal had been denied. Not to be deterred by this news, I decided to start the second phase of “Guatemala- Children First Project” titled, “Building Dreams.” My project would not only provide school supplies but hopefully, will provide, the materials required to build the much needed high school. Together, we can build dreams! (www.omilacombe.ca, December 18, 2009)
GUATEMALA - A winter mission
I want to share with all of you my mission experience with the indigenous Mayans whose native language is “poconchi.” First a bit about their culture and religious traditions. This Mayan ethnic group lives in Northwest Guatemala, bordering the closest country, Mexico. The region is very rainy and there are many huge mountains. It belongs to the Quiche Department, one of the poorest departments of the country and severely wounded by the cruel reality of the war at the time of the military dictatorship 17 years ago. The painful wounds left behind by this war are very much alive in this department and the surrounding regions. One can say that it is a land fertilized by the blood of martyrs who gave their life for their faith: catechists, celebrators of the Word, ministers and priests who were tortured.
The concern for defending the Pocones communities makes the indigenous put much confidence in the Church and in their culture. They welcome the missionaries and the work that can be accomplished for them. My joy was to share with them their culture, their traditions and to learn their language.
The children and the women do not speak the Spanish language; only the men do. Few of the youth can go to school; also a few of them can speak a little Spanish. The important thing is that our mission touched each of these communities. Their devotion to the Virgin shows that they are a very marian and loving people, dedicated to Mary Immaculate and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our meetings with the small communities were by sectors; they included praying the Holy Rosary, readings and many songs. Something which I really marveled at in this culture was how much incense they use in religious services and how they attend the religious services with such loving respect.
The work that a missionary Oblate offers in service of these communities requires 7 to 8 hours to arrive at a village and to share with it; climbing up and down the mountains tires us, but upon arriving at the place and seeing how they are eagerly awaiting the missionary and seeing the needs of these communities, our fatigue becomes the strength to be with them and to be at the service of others and to love as Christ Jesus loved and gave Himself for us. (John Jairo Teherán Cali, Colombian OMI novice, in the Boletín Institucional of the Prenovitiate of Colombia, November 2009)