kids_guatemalaSt. Cloud Diocese and Guatemala

The Diocese of St. Cloud is active in mission in Guatemala through numerous diocesan and parish exposure trips. Many of these trips consider themselves “reverse” mission, because they begin with the question: “What do you [your culture] think?” rather than “What do I think about you[r culture]?” And it ends with the most difficult part: listening. In the process, the Diocese of St. Cloud is building wonderful connections and relationships with people in Guatemala.

Learn here about several examples of such experiences, and about our Diocesan connections with various places and organizations in Guatemala.

Reverse Mission: One Example

Fr. Jeff Ethen is a priest of the St. Cloud Diocese. He is very active in mission, having traveled to numerous countries in Latin America, including Guatemala on several occasions. Here is his thoughts about “reverse mission” after one such trip:

frjeff_massReverse mission replaces the former model whereby the values, expectations, outcomes, even culture of the missionary is imposed on the host community. It takes the Gospel message of peace and justice, which is demanding and uncompromising, and accepts that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Or, if the Gospel message will be used by the missionary to evangelize people, that very same effort must transform the missionary as well. This prevents mission work from becoming patronizing and it challenges the missionary with the fact that personal conversion is a life long process. There are ways other than our own for viewing the world, community building, farming and praying.

To become an effective missionary requires touching hearts, which is accomplished by recognizing and respecting local perceptions. Reverse mission guides missionary projects to proper solutions. Proper, that is, for the community. “Wouldn’t brighter light bulbs in the school make it easier to read the books?” “Not if the more expensive bulbs make the books unaffordable.” The twelve Minnesotans helped repaint wooden school chairs with paint thinned with turpentine. It took twice as long to sufficiently cover a chair, but as the local supervisor said, “You have twice as much paint.”

sanlucas4Twenty-two families own most of the land in Guatemala, a country the size of Ohio. The San Lucas Parish has helped landless farmers purchase acreage from the wealthy, mostly absentee landowners. Recently, acquired property was to be divided into 3 acre plots by the North Americans at the parish. This would have left some people with plots on the sunny side of the mountain and others with plots on the wetter side, allowing only one harvest per year. The locals, in their wisdom, asked that each family receive instead one acre for their house and garden, then an acre for each family on the sunny side of the mountain, and another on the wetter side of the mountain, which allows each family to have crops year-round. Reverse mission begins with the question: “What do you think?” It ends with the most difficult part: listening.

San Lucas Toliman: One Great Connection

Rosanne Fischer, former director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, traveled with her children to Guatemala several years ago. Here is a first hand account of their experience at the San Lucas Mission.

sanlucas5San Lucas on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan is a four hour bus ride and ½ hour boat ride from Antigua. The church compound is a few minutes walk up the hill from the lake. Upon arrival we were greeted warmly by Margarito, the parish secretary and book keeper who appears to keep all the various gears of the parish working in sync. A number of U.S. delegations from different states were present when we arrived, so Margarito found us housing at a small hostel up the road behind the church. A student group from a Catholic Twin Cities high school were housed there as well.

The first evening we were privileged to accompany New Ulm missioner Fr. John Goggin to the outlying community of Panimaquip. The chapel in this community is built on a hill that touches the clouds. Both the men and women of Panimaquip wear traditional hand-woven brightly colored garments. They have a long-standing custom whereby women sit on one side of the chapel and men on the other. My two sons were not happy about being separated from me during Mass, but I stressed to them the importance of being respectful of the local ways. It was a privilege to be among these people, who were so different from myself, and yet we were one in the celebration of the Mass. I felt very welcomed and at home. We were indeed “brought together in unity” as we shared the body and blood of Christ.

The work of the New Ulm Diocese in San Lucas Toliman touches every aspect of life including housing, reforestation, land ownership, small business development, health, education, sustainable agriculture and evangelization. United States partners are welcome to participate in any of these areas. Such participation broadens awareness of our connectedness, our oneness, our need to be evangelized by the poor, and our need to share our resources.
Visit the Diocese of New Ulm, MN’s web site on the San Lucas Mission.

Maryknoll Priests, Sisters and Lay Associates

The following is a continuation of the reflection by Rosanne Fischer about her trip to our many mission connections in Guatemala. 

At the end of our sojourn to Guatemala and El Salvador, the children and I stayed for a few days at the Maryknoll house in Guatemala City. In addition to the beauty and comfort of the home, we felt blessed to meet the great variety of missioners passing through. We met the Benedictine Abbot of a community in southern Guatemala, as well as a monk from that community who brought in a boy needing a cast from an injury suffered on the soccer field. We met Maryknoll Sisters Dee Smith and Marlene Condon, who work in AIDS ministry on the hot and humid Guatemalan coast, and Maryknoll Father Gerald Persha, who teaches systematic theology in El Salvador’s major seminary. Our wonderful hosts, Maryknoll Fathers Bill Donnelly, John McGovern and Joe Nerino, did a great job of adapting to children in the house, which I think is a rare occurrence. The kids will not soon forget Fr. Joe, who taught them all how to play poker!

Dr. Mark Kummer, a lay missioner from the Los Angeles Archdiocese who is associated with the Maryknoll priests, spent a number of nights at the house. There was unrest in Peten and the roads were blocked so he could not get home to his wife, Debra, and their children. MarkÕs mother-in-law, Joan Super, lives in Little Falls, Minnesota. In the Peten region, only 1% of the people have formal education higher than 6th grade. Dr. Mark works at a free medical clinic in the town of San Luis, serving a population of about 10,000 people. Recently a 21 year old woman, Floridalmia Laj, came into town after suffering with symptoms of diabetes for over 2 months. Mark discovered that none of the pharmacies in town carry supplies for diabetes or even insulin. The cost of insulin in Guatemala is equivalent to U.S. costs ($30.00/bottle), but the average farmer in the Peten earns only about $100 per year. Without insulin Floridalmia, mother of two children, would likely die within the year. Dr. Mark is looking for donors who might donate $30 per year to help cover the cost of insulin Floridalmia needs to stay alive. He sent the photos on this page of Floridalmia with her children and in her kitchen. Donations can be sent to the St. Cloud Mission Office, marked “Insulin Fund.”

Guatemalan Coffee:  Our Fair Trade Connection

sanlucas2Conditions are perfect in San Lucas for raising the very best of coffees. The San Lucas Toliman Mission has prioritized land ownership in its integral human development program. It makes available to a farming people what is vital to their lives – land on which to produce their own basic food and an opportunity to raise a cash crop of high quality to meet other human needs. The San Lucas Mission pays small coffee producers 3 times more for their coffee beans than the large coffee exporting companies. The coffee is marketed under the name “Juan Ana Coffee”.

“Juan Ana Coffee” is available at the St. Cloud Mission Office. Check out our selection of Fair Trade coffees and international crafts.

Read more about Juan Ana Coffee in past newsletters (contact the Mission Office for this edition):

  1. Spring 2011