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Missionary Updates

Jesuit missionaries team up in Bonito Oriental, Honduras

Editor’s note: Father Jack R. Donald, S.J., is a Jesuit missionary who serves as pastor of Santos Mártires Parish in Bonito Oriental, Honduras. Here, he reports on the addition of Father Gustavo D. Hernandez, S.J., to the pastoral team.

May 1, 2009

Dear Friends of the Honduras missionn:

Now, after 32 year of trekking the jungle paths of Honduras alone, my old Jesuit buddy and mentor, Fr. Gus Fernandez, S.J., of Arizona fame has joined ranks with me here in Bonito Oriental.

We make a good pastoral team. He visits the villages along the dirt road in the 4-wheeler and I hit the mountain villages via mule or motorcycle. But these visits are the cream on the cake, so to speak. Most days are filled with meetings during which I try not to sleep, especially when the Bishop is present.

Never has the weather been nicer! This year we have had over a hundred inches of rain, the nights have been very cool, and the days like in Camelot. Even last year’s floods didn’t take a toll in our parish.

When I look back on the few years since arriving here at Bonito, I am amazed at the transformation of our Catholic population. The villagers base their lives on faith and so celebrate that faith every Sunday in their little church. Complementing my yearly visit, the remote communities are organized in church councils and celebrate the Word each Sunday.

In the city, most of the parishioners are organized in faith groups that meet once a week in their neighborhood. They are great collaborators! As you know, we are trying to build a new parish church (without funds), so the pastoral groups sacrifice a cow each weekend and have a community barbecue. 

Nine years ago, my new parish was only a name on the map. Now, we actually have an office, a parish center, and a house in which to lay my weary head at night. As I say, we are now working on the parish church (I reflect that Jesus had no church, no parish office, and no place to call home).

So thanks for your prayers and your support. When we finish the parish church I will send you a picture.

Fr. Jack Donald, S.J.

New “green cemetery” for Bonito Oriental, Honduras

August 15, 2006

Know of a local parish that has its own cemetery? Ever visited a “green cemetery?” Well, our little parish of Santos Martires has its own ecological cemetery duly dedicated to San Jose, patron of a good death. From the cradle to the grave, we begin a new pastoral ministry.

The municipal cemetery here in Bonito leaves much to be desired by the Christian community. Frequently, the river overruns its boundaries and carries off the coffins. At all other times, the cows enter the graveyard, wreck havoc with the tombstones, and carry off the flower wreaths with their horns. The city has no funds for a wall or for a gate to protect the grounds.

Our two-acre site is part of the parish center and will be an expression of the faith of our community. Imagine a church park and a graveyard combined-- no lawns, no mausoleums. There are only simple grave markers with beautiful mahogany, laurel, maquelizo, and cedar trees overhead. In recent ceremonies, the bishop consecrated his first “ecological cemetery.”

Thanks to all of you who helped out with this project. Even though no one is buried here as yet, people will be dying to get in. So if you ever want a final resting place, just drop by and reserve your site.

Peace and blessings,
Fr. Jack Donald, S.J.

Robert J. Glynn, S.J., reports from Africa

Editor’s note: Father Glynn serves as chaplain and senior lecturer in English at Charles Lwanga Teacher Training College in Zambia-Malawi. The following excerpt is drawn from a letter he wrote to St. Ignatius Parish in Sacramento on the feast day of St. Ignatius.

July 31, 2006

My dear friends,

Christ’s peace! Happy feast day to you! I find it amazing to realize that this is my second St. Ignatius Day spent far distant from Arden Way [St. Ignatius Parish] and your good company. I still picture vividly the unveiling of the beautiful painting of St. Ignatius given to the parish by the Altar Society during my second year with you. This year, at the teacher training college, I had a portrait of our patron, St. Charles Lwanga, painted for the college chapel. A courageous Charles Lwanga, surrounded by spears, is engulfed in the fires of martyrdom at Namugongo, Uganda.

Our celebration of the college’s titular feast on June 3 was an event I am certain many of you would have enjoyed greatly. The students were touched by the presents given them by their friends at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Sacramento: each received a small cloth with a silk-screened image of St. Charles Lwanga. I have no doubt the delight you would have taken in seeing hundreds of young people singing and dancing while waving pictures of a saint. Your generosity made possible such a gorgeous moment here in the middle of Africa.

Our students and staff continue to enjoy the multitude of books which are available in the lending library in my office. Considering that a normal paperback novel usually costs around $25 in Zambia, the book bags you sent last year have given access to treasures for our students, most of whom would never have had any hope of reading to any extent otherwise. It gives great joy to see the ones who plow through one text after another for the sheer pleasure of simply being able to do so. I use the many fine children’s books included in the huge collection sent from Arden Way to teach my students how to read to small children and how to teach the little ones to read. Thanks for making this possible for me to do.

My beadworkers continue their industrious efforts at crafting necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. They’re doing a wonderful job and finding real fulfillment in the artistic endeavours, the profits from which will help them to pay for food and clothing when they are student teaching next year. I started this project last year with some of the male students at the college. Some of our young men run into real trouble during the second year of studies when they live in even more remote areas than our own and need to fend for themselves on very short funds. Alcohol is distilled locally and is purchased at a very small cost while foodstuffs are frequently less readily available and cost significantly more. Consequently, many of the young men turn to drink and do so in excess. When they have money, they inevitably choose to eat instead and the results are far more positive. Although I’ve only been able to do this project with a few students, so far the effects have been positive. The boys have been able to purchase supplies to last them for months and have continued the beadwork while in the field to supplement the small stipend they receive as student teachers.

While not being able to carry a tune myself, I do tend to recognize when someone else can. For the first time since I’ve worked at the college, we have a truly phenomenal choir. Last week, I took them to our mission radio station to make a CD. While artistic temperament abounded in the rehearsals for the recording session, the actual performance was snit-free and pretty darn impressive. The Polish Jesuit priest who manages the radio station has promised 100 CD’s by mid-August, so one will be finding its way to the parish by mid-September. We hope you’ll enjoy it.

On St. Ignatius Day, I will offer Mass for all of you, recalling you with the love born of having shared a bit of the journey to the kingdom with you.

Love and blessings,
Fr. Bob