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.