by Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso
(Editor's Note: Like the Diocese of San Angelo, the Diocese of El Paso supports a Hermanamiento partnership in Honduras. The following is a first-person account of a recent visit to the Central American country by Bishop Mark Seitz. It is reprinted here with the permission of the Rio Grande Catholic, the diocesan newspaper of El Paso.)
Whenever you travel you find yourself introduced to a new perspective that can enlighten the way you interpret your own experience. This was certainly the case a couple of weeks ago when I had the opportunity to join a team of 12 from our Diocese on a mission trip to our Sister Diocese of Choluteca.
While Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, Choluteca is one of the regions with the most limited economic resources in all of Honduras. There is a great deal of unemployment and the land is difficult to cultivate. People from this southern region often feel forced to leave in order to get by. Many move to other parts of Honduras, many head to the United States.
In the midst of this difficult situation, or maybe because of the way God's grace works in such situations, one finds people full of goodness and generosity, and full of Faith. Our 12 missionaries divided between two parishes in which they have entered into sister-parish relationships. I stayed at the "Obispado" where the bishop lives and has his offices.
This relationship is not about people from a wealthier country giving money, although we do try assist them with our annual collection. It is not about people from a more powerful country coming in with all the answers for the weaker one. This is about breaking down the walls we build between people. This is about living in a more concrete way the amazing brotherhood and sisterhood we share as members of the family of God in the Church. As brothers and sisters we discover that there are an abundance of ways we can support and assist each other.
This is no one-way relationship. In the people of the Diocese of Choluteca we discover a deep and proven faith. Due to a severe shortage of vocations and because of very limited resources they have had an added impulse to develop lay ministries.
It was in the Diocese of Choluteca that a plan for forming lay men and women as leaders of communities that are some distance from the main parish center was first developed some 50 years ago. They are called "Delegados de la Palabra", "Delegates of the Word". Formation of leaders in various ministries such as catechesis is taken very seriously as is assisting those in need and working for social justice. At the same time I believe we have much to offer our brothers and sisters in Choluteca. One of the most important gifts we can offer by our presence and humble assistance is the gift of hope. The daily life in Honduras is very hard right now. People struggle in many places with narco-trafficking violence, which the government seems unable to control.
Gangs recruit children at the point of a gun, corruption drains much needed resources from those for whom they are intended. Unemployment is high, the opportunities for education are limited and many struggle to find ways just to put rice and beans on the table for their children.
Most of these issues cannot be fixed by our relationship, but our presence: our love and concern does make a difference. When they see that we have taken a personal interest in them they know that God has also noticed. They are not forgotten!
By working together we can each contribute our own particular gifts and we can take small steps for mutual growth in faith and in the service of our brothers and sisters. Anyone who has the opportunity to go to our sister diocese will tell you how much they have grown in their faith.
Anyone who has met one of the members of the Diocese of Choluteca when they have visited us will tell you of the lasting impressions the encounter has made upon them.
Isn't that the way it is supposed to be in this great family of God?