A little over two months ago I arrived in Honduras. Though I have met a lot of people, I still feel as if I am still trying to figure out what I am supposed to be doing. But I still feel that God has a place for me here. Events of the past few weeks have helped me see this amidst some discouragements.
Greg McGrath, a student from Iowa State who is active at St. Thomas visited for 18 days. His visit provided me an opportunity to get around to meet a lot of people whom I had planned to meet earlier. His desire to help here – and his hopes to do some research in his fall classes on projects that might help here – really inspired me. I think he had a great experience here, as I did. I welcome other visitors!
This past Monday night I met with another professor at CUROC, the local campus of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). He is clearly enthusiastic about the possibilities of some campus ministry at the university. After we talked a bit he took me to the house of another professor and shared his enthusiasm. The next day he and I met with the director of the university campus who is very open to campus ministry there. This coming week I hope to meet with some of the professors to get things started. This is very encouraging.
Yesterday, Friday August 17, I planned a full retreat for the administrative personnel of the Santa Rosa campus of the Catholic University of Honduras (UNICAH), using the final message of the Latin American Bishops conference recent meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, which stressed the call to be disciples of Jesus and missionaries of His Kingdom. It turned out very well. We brought in two people to give short talks on what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. Fr. Roel Mejía, who directs the diocesan radio and teaches at the university spoke prophetically on the call to be missionaries. He challenged the university administrators to have the university to be really “Catholic” at the service of the Kingdom of God and to reach out to the poor in this part of Honduras. He fears that the university is graduating young people whose main concern will be fitting into the consumer capitalist system and who are not really formed by a clear Catholic ethical and social conscience. I was encouraged and will speak with him this week to try to develop a few projects. I am really longing to find a way to work with some poor rural communities.
Next Monday there is a meeting to help plan events at the Catholic University for the next trimester – September 17 to December 15. I am hoping that I can begin to develop a few special programs. I would like to find a way to take groups of students to poor barrios (neighborhoods) here in Santa Rosa de Copán and to some rural aldeas (villages).
I am hoping this coming week to get a better idea of what I might do in a rural area. I need to talk with a few priests to see where I might be of most help.
The other day I spoke with Misael who is working in a number of projects, including one to help end hunger in communities by a small scale project which works with a few families and provides them some credit for the first year (about $120) to help them grow enough to subsist. He works with small groups of the very poorest and tries to convince them to try this. He works with them one on one and has found that it really helps convince them when he speaks from the perspective of faith. In the course of our conversation he mentioned a very disturbing detail: in this area of Honduras about 40% of the rural population suffers real hunger – not enough food to eat – for at least some period each year. What a challenge.
Yet there are signs of hope. Not the least of which are the signs that God shows us in the nature. On the day that Greg left I was riding back from San Pedro Sula to Santa Rosa with the Spanish Franciscan sisters. On the way we saw a double rainbow. Then, last week in the midst of a storm, I gazed at a rainbow from my street.
And so I look forward to another month full of the surprises that God continues to put in my path.