by Jimmy Patterson
Editor, West Texas Angelus
From an ill wind, a beautiful and lasting partnership was born in 2001. Fifteen years after the inception of the international partnership Hermanamiento, bishops representing the two countries have ensured the fellowship will continue into the foreseeable future.
With the flourish of four pens signing eight documents, a covenant that brings the communion of the Church and international goodwill between the four dioceses was extended during a Mass August 10, 2016, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Angelo.
Representatives of the dioceses of San Angelo and Tyler welcomed bishops and others from the dioceses of San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba, Honduras, during the weeklong series of workshops intended to honor and extend the Hermanamiento.
“This has been a tremendous enrichment, whether it is from visiting parishes or priests or the people who go to Honduras or come to Texas,” Most Rev. Angel Garachana, Bishop of San Pedro, said through a translator. “Everyone involved has expressed an enrichment of cultural, pastoral and mission needs.”
The Hermanamiento was born out of the devastation left by Hurricane Mitch, which devastated much of Honduras more than 15 years ago. The original intent of the partnership was to help the people of Honduras with recovery following the storm’s destruction. In the years since and with the recovery assistance, an even larger, more encompassing friendship has unfolded.
“This is a good way to recognize the mission call we receive as baptized Christians to share the faith,” said Bishop Joseph Strickland, shepherd of the Tyler diocese since 2012. “For our part of Texas, which is not predominantly Catholic, it helps us emphasize the catholicity that is present in so may cultures around the world.”
When the partnership was first formed, the dioceses of San Angelo and Tyler entered into a covenant agreement with the Diocese of San Pedro Sula. The covenant was signed on a memorable day, September 11, 2001, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Angelo. Recently the Diocese of San Pedro Sula was divided and La Ceiba became the See City of a section of the Caribbean coast and the Bay Islands (including Roatan). So the Diocese of La Ceiba is now included in the Hermanamiento as well.
Each diocese has a diocesan team to promote the Hermanamiento. Msgr. Larry Droll (Midland) heads up the San Angelo team that includes Sr. Malachy Griffin, Clementine Urista, Mary Hernandez, Toni Gonzales (all of San Angelo), Leonor Spencer (Midland), Diana Madero (Odessa) and Fr. Francis Njoku (Brownwood). The four diocesan teams meet annually to promote the work of the Hermanamiento, rotating the place of the meetings. They also have the opportunity to visit the various ministries of the individual dioceses, ranging from parishes to educational institutions to charities to homes for the elderly and infirm.
Parishes in the San Angelo diocese have partnerships with parishes in the San Pedro Sula diocese. The most active currently are St. Ann’s (Midland) with Santísima Trinidad (Chamelecón) and St. Joseph/St. Anthony (Odessa) with Exaltación de la Santa Cruz (Baracoa). Annual reciprocal visits characterize the relationships, with prayer for one another and the sharing of resources.
There have also been at times partnerships of Catholic Schools (San Angelo Diocese and San Pedro Sula Diocese) and university campus ministries (ASU Newman Center and the Catholic University in San Pedro Sula). Fr. David Herrera spent nine months as a missionary in the Cofradía parish and Fr. Francis Njoku studied Spanish in San Pedro Sula for several months. Some individuals in the San Angelo Diocese help to support a non-profit school called Caminando por la Paz, which assists youth at risk in Chamelecón to complete high school education. That school was begun by Fr. Tom Goekler, MM, and Msgr. Larry Droll coordinates the donations that come from Texas and elsewhere.
Looking toward the future, the Hermanamiento diocesan teams hope to relaunch the program, inviting more parishes and schools to join in. They hope to renew efforts at prayer and relationships with one another. They hope to study together the challenging documents of Pope Francis and work in solidarity to apply these to the Church and society.
The Hermanamiento has become, too, a fulfillment of Pope John Paul II’s exhortation, Ecclesia in America.
“We have experienced many blessings from this Hermanamiento,” said San Angelo Bishop Michael J. Sis. “ We have grown in a spirit of solidarity, we have shared ideas for more effective pastoral ministry, and we have expanded the missionary consciousness of many of our people.
“We have seen more concretely how the Mystical Body of Christ goes beyond borders of nations and languages. We have developed bonds of communion through fraternal ties between parishes and schools. Together we have reflected on common challenges to evangelization.”
Bishop Sis added that the partnership has allowed the many lay missionaries from the diocese to experience a fuller understanding of current challenges to the Honduran family, society and economy.
Most Rev. Michael Lenihan, OSF, a native of Limerick, Ireland, has served as bishop of La Ceiba since it was erected in 2011.
“After 15 years we are improving,” Bishop Lenihan said. “A lot has been done but there is much to be done in the future. Where do we go from here? I think we extend the idea of our partnership, and make sure more people become involved.
Added Bishop Sis: “In the view of the Vatican, there is only one continent in America. Despite differences of language and culture, we are one Church in America. Our Hermanamiento helps us to celebrate this unity.”