Mission awareness trip
Guatemala, May 16-23, 2009
Colombia, May 24-June 1, 2009
While the sponsors were enjoying a beautiful day in San Lucas Toliman with their sponsored children and aging, on May 18, 2009, an American Oblate priest was killed, and an African Oblate wounded during a highway robbery near Playa Grande, Ixcan, Guatemala. Apparently the assailants wanted the van carrying the missionaries to a regional meeting of their order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). Bullets flew, leaving Father Lorenzo Rosebaugh, 74, dead, and Congolese Father Jean Claude wounded. In the confusion, assailants fled without the vehicle. Father Lorenzo had a long history of taking risks to aid the poor and marginalized. All of us here are deeply saddened by this tragedy.
Spontaneity and laughter
In spite of several alarming events, the sponsors on this trip to Guatemala encountered spontaneity and a great sense of humor among the people they met. The sponsors see and appreciate the need for the presence of CFCA in Guatemala, especially when they learn of the crude reality of a divided society.
On the final morning in San Lucas, Father John Goggin kindly celebrated the Eucharist. We remembered Father Lorenzo in a special way. In his homily, Father John stated, “The world can change, when people learn to walk with the poor.”
We had one sponsored girl and one sponsored aging person who traveled overnight (Cali-Medellin) with staff member Diana to see their sponsors in Medellin. The mother of the sponsored girl, Karen, speaks with such gratitude for the program. Karenís father was shot and killed when she was 5. Magnolia, the mother, states that thieves took his life over a motor scooter and a pair of tennis shoes.
City of the flowers
Medellin still impresses me as a very beautiful and cultural city. Coordinator Transito Hernandez informed us that there are 23 universities here. We have also been learning that Medellin now has more than 3 million people and faces serious human challenges. Only 46 percent of school-aged children are enrolled in school. After 18, the number drops to 30 percent. Those not in school are vulnerable to the many dangers of the streets. At CFCA, we are blessed with a fine central coordinating team – Transito, Martha, Monica, Luz Angela, Erika.
Victories in community building
On our last afternoon in Medellin, we visited families in a neighborhood called Medellin Las Victorias (Subproject MV). We have a strong presence here with 349 sponsored. As we walked through the crowded streets, we noticed that each CFCA family had decorated their home and posted welcoming signs, children’s art work and balloons. Everyone wanted us to come in. Time after time, we found mostly single moms or grandmothers living lives of heroic love and service to their families. We found outgoing parents, teens and childrenódeeply grateful for their membership in CFCA and all keenly interested in Walk2gether (my 8,000-mile walk beginning December 2009).
Among the many organized groups, we will have 80 major seminarians, theologians and philosophers walking with us. Many religious sisters will be walking too.
With all love and respect, I like to compare the sisters working with the people in the overcrowded, rough-and-tumble neighborhoods of Medellin to the brave riders of the Pony Express. Some of these heroic sisters have been sponsored during their final years of training and university studies.
Three of our currently sponsored young sisters came all the way across town each morning to help with the morning prayers and share a good breakfast with us before heading off to class.
Yet even these devoted and courageous women have built-in challenges for a personalized sponsorship program. Coordinator Transito commented that last December she lost four subproject coordinators, due to holy obedience.
Continue reading about the mission awareness trip to Colombia in part 2 of Bob’s notes.