It has been two months since the reopening of the mission in San Antonio, Toledo. With the renovations to the parish house complete, SCN’s Higina Bol and Christine Kunze are now settled into the house and each day is feeling more like home. They have begun ministry within some of the Mayan villages in the areas of pastoral care, social work and nursing. They share with us the unfolding of this mission thus far…
Within San Antonio, much time is spent visiting families and getting to know them. We spend one day a week taking communion to the elderly and sick who are no longer able to attend church service. We have found that the visits allow these people the time and space to share their stories with us. Realizing the need for this kind of space to share, we have also begun a women’s faith group that meets weekly.
In addition, we are visiting other villages which include San Jose, Blue Creek, Jalacte, Pueblo Viejo, Santa Elena, Santa Cruz, Corazon, Crique Sarco, and Otoxha. We have attended mass or communion service in these villages, accompanied the youth coordinator to meet some of the youth groups, and are in the process of meeting with the catechists and leaders in these villages.
We have been greeted warmly and with openness by the people, and we have felt an appreciation for our SCN presence in the past and a welcoming of our presence once again. It has affirmed for us the importance of this mission in the Toledo District of Belize.
We are realizing some of the many challenges the people are encountering within the Church. One of these challenges is a lack of pastoral presence. Other than mass once every six weeks there is little opportunity for ongoing faith formation and spiritual nourishment. The people have shared with us a hungering to understand and deepen their faith. In addition, they are experiencing division within their faith communities due to the presence of other religions preaching against Catholicism. We share the following two examples of this lived reality…
Last year in the village of Corazon, a catechist was influenced by another religion to believe that the way in which Catholics pray and worship is not right. The people became divided, and only a few families chose to remain Catholic. However, those who decided to leave the Catholic faith maintained control of the church building, and a new Catholic church had to be built. The few remaining Catholic families in this village are asking for support in the strengthening of their faith.
Six weeks ago another village, San Jose, experienced vandalism in the church. In the night, the church was broken into, the tabernacle burned, the music equipment stolen, and obscenities against the Catholic Church written on the wall. The people were traumatized that others would desecrate their church in this way. The lead catechist and three others came to our house to share what happened and asked for prayers and support. In response, we were able to go to San Jose to facilitate a group process in which the people shared how they were feeling about what happened. The following Sunday, the pastor held a special healing Mass in support of the community. The people have asked for our support and to facilitate opportunities for faith development.
While the needs are many and often times overwhelming, we are aware we cannot meet all the needs. Our hope is to truly listen and discern how we can best utilize our gifts and resources as this ministry continues to unfold.
Please pray with us for strength, courage, wisdom, and patience.