Monthly Archives: July 2011

In Antigua and catching our breath

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Hola, mi amigos!

The blog has become quiet for the days during the core part of the mission.  This is mostly due to the intensity of the mission program where our days start before 5AM and end after 11PM due to the daily routine of working as one team to act upon God’s call to our apostolic action.

Now after 4 long days, culminated by our longest yet on Thursday, the team gets a rewarding day to catch its breath.  This will be the first time since Sunday where the mission allows for a brief respite of personal time and, God willing, the blog will reflect this catch-up.

In the meantime, enjoy the photo below from this year’s Youth Rally.  The Internet access in Antigua appears to be better than Santa Cruz so hopefully additional content will be loaded today for the blog.

A full day + late night = short blog with pictures

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The mission team experienced a God-filled day starting early in the morning with the team prayer service prior to breakfast.  Christ’s presence continued to shine on the team at the aldea (village) of Chicabracan II as the team presented its Adult and Youth Faith Formation programs.  Additionally, the Holy Spirit provided a noticeable presence during an exploratory meeting as it took place between mission team leadership and community / school leadership at Chicabracan I.  Just as the team has missioned to an enthusiastic community at Chicabracan II over many years, the aldea of Chicabracan I is anxious to share in the joy of the mission program for the first time on Wednesday.

God continued His presence for the mission team as we concluded our day with an emotional and long Reflection session.  Thus, it’s late now, so the rest of the blog will be devoted to a few pictures from today.  Enjoy!

Mass y mas

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This morning the team awoke to beauty that follows a night of steady rain. While the streets were wet and the air hung heavy with humidity, there was a sense of cleansing and replenishment that only water from high above can offer.

While the rain has had an on-again, off-again presence throughout the day, the team found it remarkable to see the city pulsing with an undeterred energy as Sunday’s are market days in Santa Cruz – just as is the case in many small towns in Latin America. From far and wide, people came to town from the rural communities to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful flower bouquets straight from the fields, colorful garments and materials and much more. A little rain and fog just meant it was time to hang tarps over the market that stretched throughout the city, displacing what were streets for only a day as a weekly occurrence.

Yet while the market was being organized and set-up in the morning, the team knew it was time to find spiritual organization and join our brothers and sisters at Mass at our sister parish, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus (Sacred Heart of Jesus).

Upon arriving at the parish for Mass, the team acted upon one of our mission foundations by mixing within the community. Specifically, the team is asked not to sit together as one group, separate from our fellow parishioners. Instead, the team sat in groups of 2s, 3s, or 4s next to sister parish parishioners. It’s a beautiful experience to be welcomed into a community as though this is your home parish and your family.

As the church bells tolled to remind the surrounding community that Mass was to begin shortly, the mission team absorbed the senses around them… smiling, familiar faces; the majesty of this simple church; the enchanting music; and the anticipation of re-encountering the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And as Mass begun, everything different about our two communities seemed to be non-existent. While we celebrated Mass in Santa Cruz del Quiche, our friends and family Houston were celebrating the exact same liturgy and Eucharist. To be literal for a moment, Mass at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus begins at 8AM (MST), which is the same time as Mass at Prince of Peace being 9AM (CST), when factoring in the the timezone difference. Thus, mission team members could close their eyes and imagine sitting next to their families at home even while that sat next to their mission family in Guatemala.

The processional into Mass of Fr. Ventura, Fr. Alfonso and Deacon Dennis along with the co-celebration of Mass further represented how our parishes are part of one community. Deacon Dennis reading the gospel in English followed by Fr. Alfonso reading it in Spanish… Fr. Ventura presenting his homily in Spanish and asking Lili to translate it into English… The entire mission team being welcomed to stand in front of the parish to receive a blessing from Fr. Ventura and the parish… All aspects of how this mission functions.

Many times, we are asked what the mission is about – do we build schools, repair homes, or dig wells? The mission is a building mission, but not of the physical kind. This mission is about building relationships.

It is about making a promise to one another and following through in our commitment to pray for and support one another. It is about returning annually to celebrate Mass together. It is about learning about each others’ cultures and finding ways to incorporate this in our daily lives. It is about being passionate about mutual sharing and being respectful of what we all bring to our mission relationship. It is about a ministry of presence to one another no matter where that presence may occur.

As Mass ended and the last of beautiful music came finished, the team lingered around the church for another few moments to take in all that they had experienced. After stepping outside, our fellow parishioners waited outside to greet the team and take pictures. Several versions of a group photo for the mission team were snapped with Fr. Ventura and members of the community joining the team in creating these digital memories.

Awaiting the team after Mass was a joyful reception of food, music and dancing in the Grand Salon behind the church. More on this later with pictures accompanying (Internet speed willing).

Tonight, the team is having dinner with Fr. Ventura and Bishop Molina. We look forward to sharing a meal with them as we learn more about them on a personal level. Additionally, we hope to further understand how they see the mission evolving in the years ahead.

In closing out this post, the team had a few hours to shop at the market this afternoon, visit the Cathedral, and see our fellow hotel guests at the Square raising money for cancer treatments.

Deacon Al – some of us walked to the coffee shop and enjoyed various, wonderful coffee drinks in your honor.

Right now, the team is hard at work, diligently preparing for the week ahead and organizing the ActionPackers. It has quickly become clear that this team is all about helping each other and getting their work completed early and with quality.

More to come later tonight after dinner and Reflection.

Safe arrival in Santa Cruz del Quiche

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The team has arrived safely at our destination in Santa Cruz del Quiche.  Our traveling has been thankfully uneventful with smooth sailing at the airport and thorugh customs.  The drive from the airport in Guatemala City to Santa Cruz was easy with no unexpected stops.

(For those who may not have access to news in Latin America, a popular Argentinian musician was killed early Saturday morning in Guatemala City.  While there was increased military and police presence in the City, we were uneffected by this event and we are far removed from the City now.)

With regards to our travel day, the only unusual thing that the team encountered was a very loud and joyous party celebrating a wedding.  This party was taking place in the lobby and all of the hotel could hear the music and feel the vibrations. Interestingly – part of the building had the electricity diverted to support the music and accompanying light display. For those wondering, no electricity also means no water because the pumps were off.  Not to worry though – this team has packed plenty of flexibility and didn’t let a minor thing like this bother us.

After a wonderful dinner at La Martita (thank you, Onelly), we returned to find the wedding reception winding down only to have a quincinera beginning upstairs which was sure to be even louder. With swiftness and poise, we immediately shifted our evening schedule to start Reflection right away as led by Deacon Dennis & Fr. Alfonso even as the music was getting louder with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday en espanol halfway through Deacon Dennis opening comments.

The team didn’t complain a peep, but instead rejoiced in the life celebrations around us.  After Reflection, the team completed its duties in getting organized for the next day and putting all of the ActionPackers away efficiently.

Now here comes the interesting part and where we’re already seeing God’s humor and love at work.  With the chores complete for the evening, part of the team convened in the hall way to practice their music for the mission.  Normally, the mission team is expected to be quiet when in public areas or their rooms.  Yet, tonight was unusual with all of the parties and celebrations at the hotel.

As the team practiced their music, some other hotel guests begun coming out of their rooms and decided to join the mission team with the singing and dancing.  Many little kids and their parents didn’t hesitate to participate and turn the practice into fun.  (Note: videos to follow once uploaded.)

After several, several songs and dancing and laughter, a couple of mission team members spoke with the families.  As it turns out, these families are visiting Santa Cruz from the rural communities because their children are going through cancer treatment.  Here the team was just having a good time and some kids decided to join in because it looked like a lot of fun, but in truth, this was God reminding us that the mission has begun.

We were told that the children are leading a parade on Sunday to raise funds for their cancer treatment.  While the families invited us to the parade, we won’t be able to attend as we have Mass and reception at the same.  The families will be here during our stay so we look forward to learning more about their circumstances and praying on how we can assist them.

The mission team does ask that when you are praying for us during this year’s trip, please include these children and their families in your prayers as well.  Tonight, they reminded us about the importance of finding joy in unexpected places while we open our hearts and minds to God’s presence.

And the mission resumes…

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The 2011 mission team has completed its extensive training, all 30+ Action Packers have been weighed taped and sealed, the missionaries have been blessed and commissioned by the parish community, and the leadership team is going through final preparations… it feels like it’s either the anticipation of Christmas Eve or we’re about to launch the final Space Shuttle flight due to all of the necessary advance planning and due diligence from an extensive community of passionate team members.

Regardless of the driving purpose of our collective hard work and dedication, the sense of outcome will be the same. Just like the youthful joy of Christmas morning or the exhilaration of launching the Shuttle, the days ahead will be intense and over before we know it – all with a wonderful feeling of success and accomplishment.

And so the mission resumes again…

T minus 1 day to launch. Today is Mission Eve.