Mission special on parish twinning: Ohio and Mexico
“We fell in love with the people and the community”
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
For more than 55 years, Precious Blood Sister Carmelita Monnin joyfully served in Santiago, Chili. Her ministry inspired her niece and goddaughter Jane Pierron, pastoral associate for RCIA and adult programs at Immaculate Conception, Holy Family, and St. Denis parishes.
“I just felt like I needed to live out her missionary vision in a meaningful way,” Pierron said.
The opportunity arose in 2009, when Pierron and other representatives from the archdiocese visited the Diocese of Puerto Escondido with Mike Gable, director of the archdiocesan Office of Mission and the Pontifical Mission Societies, to explore the possibility of a twinning relationship. Located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, along the Pacific coastline, the diocese was formed in 2004. Many people in Oaxaca live in poverty, cannot read or write, and have little or no access to healthcare. Travel into the remote mountain areas is difficult, and most priests serve multiple municipalities and 20 to 40 villages.
“We fell in love with the people and the community there,” Pierron said. “They see no strangers and welcomed us. The way they celebrate their faith is amazing.”
Over the years, the relationship has become one of mutual prayer, spiritual growth ,and support. Most twinning partnerships are parish to parish, so “it’s unique to have several parishes twinning with a diocese,” Pierron said, noting that St. Patrick in Troy also twins with Puerto Escondido.
Visits to the area have included joining the people in worship, enjoying meals with them, and learning more about their culture. The parishes here have raised funds to purchase a bus for the Mexican diocese’s minor seminary and for an LCD projector and laptop computer for parish religious education. In addition, the youth group at St. Patrick is beginning to work with the youth at our Lady of Soledad to assist in their music ministry.
While assisting the Puerto Escondido diocese with its needs is important, at the heart of their relationship, said Pierron, is the shared spiritual support and the “love and respect we have for one another.”
Twinning relationships are significant “because we are a global community and these partnerships bring us closer together,” she said. “We’re impacted by what happens to each other. We’re called to be brothers and sisters, no matter our skin color, no matter what our language is. We need to understand that the church is broader than our local community. “
Lizeth Rojas Ruiz, a member of the Puerto Escondido diocese’s core group, spoke of how the faith community there has benefitted from the twinning relationship. “We are growing together in faith with different activities like courses online about spirituality and learning more about the Bible,” she said. “We have had some cultural exchanges, which have been very enriching for everyone because we have lived with people from other countries. Even with the Mexican migrant community in the United States, it’s very motivating for us to see how you all help us in spite of race, culture, color and many other things. We share a mutual feeling in our faith, practicing the same Catholic religion that motivates us with the same desire to achieve salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
A trip to Puerto Escondido is planned for January, Pierron said. If there is enough interest, the parishes will sponsor a second trip especially for high school students will be sponsored in June.
What is parish twinning?
Parish twinning is a type of mission in which established Catholic parishes and communities work together in solidarity to evangelize each other, build up each others’ faith, and experience the universality of the Catholic Church.
Twinning is a two-way relationship. Both sides give and receive, and both sides develop friendships. A twinning relation- ship includes ongoing visits, and and includes parish-wide celebrations as well as focused projects.
Thirty-eight parishes in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are part of twinning relationships with parishes in Arizona and Kentucky, and more than a dozen countries, including Peru, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Haiti, Ghana, and Grenada.
Interested in twinning? Contact the Mission Office at (513) 421- 3131 ext. 2630, or [email protected]