Honduras trip: ‘Experience that will last a lifetime’
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph
Their time in Tegucigalpa, Honduras was short, less than week for most, but it was enough to be a life changing experience for visitors from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who traveled to the Central American country in early February. They were warmly welcomed by the Honduran people, inspired by their deep spirituality and had a true experience of the universality of the Catholic faith during their stay.
The pilgrims gathered at our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Monroe on March 12 to engage in further reflection on their journey and discuss what steps God may be calling them to now. Dave Scharfenberger, archdiocesan Justice for Immigrants coordinator, updated the group on immigration reform efforts and shared his own experience of visiting and worshipping with the Honduran people on a trip 15 years ago.
“As you think about where you’ve been, the people you met and what you can do next, it may be hard to put into words what you saw, learned and felt. But, putting it into words and sharing your experiences with others is one of the greatest things you can do,” he said.
Comboni Father Louis Gasparini, director of the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Office, told the group that there are things that Catholics, and the church as a whole, can do to carry forward the sense of solidarity they experienced with the Honduran people.
“We don’t want two parallel churches —one for Hispanics and one for Americans. We want the people of God coming together to worship, but how we get there will be a process. It will take time to dismantle prejudices and that doesn’t always happen in church. It happens at festivals and other gatherings.”
“There is no formula. All it takes is welcoming someone with the shake of a hand and a smile and you’re halfway there,” he added. “You don’t have to speak Spanish to do that.”
Many members of the archdiocesan contingent didn’t speak Spanish, but still found a smile and a few kind words in their native language was all it took to establish a bond of friendship and faith with the Honduran people. The opportunity to worship with them, hear their stories and visit the outreach ministries of St. Dominic Savio Parish, twinning part of St. Margaret of York (SMOY) in Loveland, also added to the experience.
Bob Bonnici, a religion teacher at Mother of Mercy High School, said he found the church to “be beacon of hope” amid poverty and violence, especially in the drug and gang infested neighborhood surrounding the parish of St. Joseph the Worker.
“Inside the parish is a school that tries to provide a safe and educational environment in a neighborhood that is, according to their principal, one of the most dangerous in Honduras,” he said. “I was truly humbled by the courage and perserverance of the teachers knowing that I would find it extremely difficult to teach in a situation like that.”
Thomas Wray, pastoral associate-evangelization at SMOY, said a new insight he has about the Catholic church as a result of trip is “the centrality of the Eucharist to our common faith and witness. As a convert from Protestantism, I have been blessed to make many previous trips to Central and South America. What struck me during this pilgrimage to Tegucigalpa for the Feast of Our Lady of Suyapa is the sheer power, beauty and joy of the Mass. Nearly three million pilgrims from widely disparate backgrounds assembled in peace and mutuality and hope centered on Christ…truly it is the ‘source and summit’ of our Christian life.”
SMOY parishioner Marti Barnes said she feels it is now the duty of the travelers to “take the message of what we saw to our friends and neighbors and churches. Many people are unaware of how the people of Honduras live, the challenges they face every day, and yet in spite of all this, how wonderful, generous and faith-filled they are.”
As a result of this trip, “I want to thank God for the amazing friendships and relationships I made with the others who attended the trip, as well as the people of Honduras,” said Emily Hornback, a 2010 graduate of Seton High School and member of St. Lawrence Parish currently in her junior year at Thomas More College. “These relationships are definitely ones that will last a lifetime. Because of the experiences I had in Honduras and these friendships I have created, I feel that God is calling me to continue mission/immersion work not only in Honduras and outside countries, but also in my own backyard. There are so many communities and people in the Greater Cincinnati area that would be just as welcoming and hospitable as the people of Honduras are; all we need to do is open our eyes!”