Dec 10 2010

El Salvador celebrates feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

This report was prepared by Yessenia Alfaro, the project coordinator for Santa Ana, El Salvador.

The feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) is celebrated in El Salvador in many churches that carry her name.

The main celebration is in the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Tecla, La Libertad. It is a celebration in which thousands from different parts of El Salvador and other countries participate.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Worshippers attend the serenade to the Virgin inside the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. According to legend, in 1950 the Virgin appeared in a ceiba tree. The place is known as the Shrine of the Ceiba of Guadalupe, and the most solemn celebrations take place in this church.

Kinberly and Irvin

Kinberly and her cousin, Irvin, are dressed in indigenous clothing during the celebrations of the feast day. Irvin is dressed as Juan Diego.

This celebration is in commemoration of the apparition of the dark-skinned Virgin to Juan Diego, an indigenous person from Mexico.

Many parents, particularly mothers, dress their young children in indigenous clothing as part of the promises they made to the Virgin for favors or miracles. Others offer sacrifices asking for favors from the mother of God.

Many CFCA sponsored members and some staff members participate in these celebrations.

The celebrations begin on the first days of December with a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, nine Masses in honor of the Virgin.

On Dec. 11 the Vigil is celebrated with songs and prayers.

The principal celebration on Dec. 12 begins with a serenade to the Virgin. Before this, there is a procession from a nearby parish to the church where the participants venerate the image of the dark-skinned Virgin.

Sixteen Masses are celebrated in the church on Dec. 11 and 12. For years, families have kept the tradition of visiting the Virgin, travelling from faraway places to participate in the festivities.

Outside the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, vendors congregate selling different religious relics, food and candy, among other things.

This tradition maintains the faith of many people and unites many to share in the same trust, hope and faith that God listens to them and attends to their necessities through his motherís intercession. Many give testimony of miracles received, most about health.

One example of this devotion to the Virgin is the family of Edwin. His mother, Rosa, shared with us how she passed on to her sons and daughters her devotion to the mother of Jesus for more than 20 years.

Her daughters, now mothers of their own families, continue with this tradition.

Today Rosa’s grandchildren are participating in the festivities in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Delmy, Rosaís daughter and a former CFCA sponsored child, dresses her daughter, Kinberly, in indigenous clothing for the celebrations. Kinberly’s cousin, Irvin, also takes part.

When there is sickness or worries, the family members always trust in the protection of the Virgin, and that is why they are always grateful for the blessings they have received.

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Sep 15 2009

Maria sells newspapers in El Salvador

What kind of job would you do if your life depended on it? Would you dive to the bottom of a river to collect sand? Pound rocks into gravel? Chop sugar cane in the hot sun?

Maria, the mother of two sponsored children, sells newspapers on a busy street corner in Santa Ana, El Salvador, to support her family. She earns $4.50 a day, not enough to cover expenses.

CFCA sponsorship helps fill the gap between what she earns and what she needs not just to survive, but to get ahead. She receives health care and food provisions for her family. Sponsorship support also enables Maria to provide an education for her children in the hope that they can break the cycle of poverty.

That’s why Maria continues to brave rush-hour traffic, blazing heat and pounding rain to sell newspapers.

Related links
Breaking rocks for a living

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Jul 22 2009

A conversion of hearts

By Father Pete Kohler, M.S., CFCA preacher

CFCA’s mission is to walk with the poor and marginalized of the world Ö grounded in the Gospel Ö to create a worldwide community of compassion and service.

I have been making CFCA presentations since late 1994, and I have found it a truly fulfilling ministry. But recently I had an experience that reconfirmed the transforming power of this apostolate.

I had the opportunity to go to El Salvador and Honduras for a CFCA mission awareness trip. Naturally, there is much I could recount, but I would like to share just one experience.

We visited a small community in Santa Ana, El Salvador. Ten years ago, you would have seen a group of people living and eking out their subsistence in the city garbage dump. It was a lawless place, with each family guarding their small claim literally with their lives. Picture Danteís Inferno: no clean water, no electricity, no schools, no paved roads, no medical assistance, but most of all, no hope.

Happy community membersBeginning seven years ago, CFCA had the challenge of gaining these peopleís trust. Today, the transformation is remarkable. The people have moved from houses of cardboard and strips of plastic to solid adobe houses, and some now have homes of cinder block with sheet-metal roofing. Clean running water and electricity are available.

Parents and grandparents, who cannot read nor write, are proud of their children who are able to attend school. Many of these children are now able to continue to high school and at least three of the young people are attending the university. But the biggest change is the conversion of hearts. Not only are families talking to one another, but they are working together, forming a truly committed community. You cannot help being struck by the pride and dignity etched in the faces of these people.

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Jun 1 2009

Focused on his children

Daniel, 18, was first featured in the opening edition of The Scholar. Since that edition, Daniel was sponsored, graduated high school and started his journalism studies at a university. Here, his father reflects on raising his children and seeing Daniel graduate.

As told by Daniel’s father to Henry Flores, director of CFCA’s communication center in El Salvador.

Daniel ErnestoMy name is Daniel Ernesto, I am 46 years old and I was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador.

I have two brothers, however, we did not grow up together.

When I was little, my father decided to take me to his sisterís house to live with her because neither of my parents could take care of me. My father died when I was 2 years old, so I did not get to meet him.

My aunt did not have any children, so she gave me everything I needed. Now that I am an adult, I realize that family is more important than having everything you need. The family and the mother offer a natural trust.

My aunt was a teacher. She died when I was 19 years old. However, I was blessed to finish high school and had some extra education in electricity.

When my aunt died, and I got married, I started to work in anything that would give me some income. I did carpentry, bricklaying, etc. When you want to accomplish things, you need to put forth all your efforts. Good things are hard to get.

One of the most difficult moments in my life was when my wife left me and our three children. I stayed with the three of them. From one day to the next, I had to wash their clothes and cook for them. I remember I used to get up very early in the morning to do all this.

It was very difficult for me to adapt to my new situation as a single father, but I trusted God so much. He has never left me alone.

Raising my children was hard, but I had solid moral values. I told myself, “I have gone through this, I grew up without a father or a family, I donít want my children to live what I lived.” My mother even told me to let her raise the children, but I told her that I was going to be their mother and father. Continue reading

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Feb 18 2009

‘Faith is living inside us’

Earthquake. Fire. Hurricane. Tsunami. Genocide. War. Famine. Hardly a day goes by that one does not hear of a disaster of some kind that is happening in our world.

We listen to the news, we are concerned, we pray, we donate, we try to give relief. Then the 24-hour news barrage moves us on to the next big news story and the cycle starts all over again. Until we become slightly numb to devastation.

While we may quickly move on with our lives after a disaster strikes, those directly affected by it may feel the devastation for many years to come.

Eight years ago, Rosa was living in the mountains outside the city of Santa Ana, in El Salvador. Her eldest son, Carlos, was already sponsored through CFCA. The family was getting by on a meager income that Javier, Rosaís husband, brought in through agriculture, and a small garden that Rosa enjoyed tending. Rosa stayed at home to tend to the children and to take food to her husband in the field.

Then, in January 2001, an earthquake, registering 7.6, destroyed their† home.

Rosa and her two youngest sons, Bryan and Cesar

Rosa and her two youngest sons, Bryan and Cesar

Rosa and her family slept outdoors for many nights and then went to stay with her brother. Rosa, Javier and their three children, her parents, and her brother and his family of four moved to an area in Santa Ana that had been designated for earthquake victims. There they built a small home from scrap metal that they found.

Rosa finds life in the city to be much harder and more expensive than in the country. She now has to buy the vegetables and beans that before she had grown herself, and she buys less of everything because food prices have increased. Where she used to buy one pound of rice, now she buys half a pound. She is, however, very grateful for the nutritional supplements her family receives as a benefit through CFCA. She also misses the community in her old village.

Rosa now earns a living by going to othersí homes and washing their clothes. Javier works as a bricklayer in the capital, San Salvador. He tries to come home every three days to see his family but the transportation expenses are high, averaging $4 a week.

The family prays every night for Carlosí sponsor. They also pray that the other children in the family receive sponsorship.

ìGod holds me which is good, because things are only going to get worse. Things are more expensive now,î Rosa said. ìSometimes I feel like I have been abandoned by God, but then I tell myself I canít give up because faith is living inside us.î

In September Rosaís 9-yearñold son, Bryan, received sponsorship. Godís answer to her prayers.

Update: At the time of this posting, Carlos, 14, is no longer in the sponsorship program. He decided to leave the program to find a job. Rosaís youngest son, Cesar, 3, has been sponsored in his place.

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Feb 5 2009

A CFCA community organizes a dental clinic

Hello fellow walkers,

The lack of access to basic services is one of the biggest problems of the poor around the world. Many people think that in order to give dignified living conditions to those in need, lots of money is necessary, but what we really need is a heart to walk with them. Just by knowing that someone cares, a healthier environment is created within the poor. What an amazing experience to see the outcome by letting them know that there is ìsomeoneî who thinks and cares about them.

Within the city of Santa Ana, El Salvador, we find a small community of families who survived by collecting garbage from the city dump to sell. CFCA is now sponsoring 84 children in the area, and the changes are fabulous.

With the support and work of the CFCA families who connected electricity from one of their homes, brought chairs, installed lights and offered their help as volunteers, CFCA organized a dental campaign in the community.

One by one, the sponsored children came to see the dentist. It was extraordinary to see the wide, open eyes of the children seeing the dentists work for the first time. As you may imagine, some of the children were crying, some were nervously laughing and others debated the risk to even open their mouth!

Erick gets his teeth cleaned Sponsored child Erick, 8, was very nervous and did not want to enter our improvised clinic. ìNo, no, I am not letting any doctor use a drill on my teeth.î

We invited Erick to see the reactions of other children before him. After much convincing, he accepted and discovered that the check-up was not painful at all.

ìThe machine with the brush was tickling my mouth. It was fun,î said Erick.

The families in the area make an average of $50 to $60 a month. Without sponsorship, dental service is impossible. CFCA organized this campaign with the hope of discovering current dental conditions in the children, to find the possible cause and work on prevention.

Drs. Dennis Funes and Ana Lizeth Mendez were both born and raised in Santa Ana, and they know the needs and difficulties of the families. They were very happy to see that the children were well-behaved. Working 10 hours a day during the weekends, they offered excellent service with patience and professionalism.

Dr. Funes records dental resultsìI am amazed by the conditions of these childrenís teeth. First I thought we were going to have very difficult cases but I am happy to say that most of them are in acceptable condition, and the follow-up treatments will be minor,î Dr. Funes wrote in his final assessment.

Dr. Funes mentioned that the nutritional food provided by CFCA has made a big impact in the current result.

ìThe benefits and services offered to this community in the past have greatly impacted their current dental health, and their health in general. We need to work on prevention, the need for vitamins, and fluoride is a must.î

CFCA will work on fixing superficial cavities, providing proper fluoride treatment and focusing on teaching proper dental care.

Our love and gratitude for all the sponsors who are offering help to the children around the world. You are truly helping to build a better and healthier future for your friends. Letís keep walking together; we are really on the right path.

Henry Flores
Director of Communication Center
El Salvador

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