From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

New booklet details history of diocese’s Guatemala mission

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the July 4, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

What prompted the Diocese of Spokane to start a mission in Guatemala? Who were the first missionaries? When did Fathers Rompa, McGreevy, Verdoorn, and the many others from Spokane (including Father David Baronti) serve in Guatemala?

Who constructed the hydroelectric plant that brought the first electric power to the village of Chuisibel? What project drew KXLY’s Daryl Romeyn to Guatemala to produce a TV documentary? And how did Spokane parishes respond after Hurricane Mitch dumped 36 inches of rain on Ixtahuacán in two days?

Answers to these and other inquiries about Spokane’s missionary activities, are now available in a newly published booklet, “Sister Diocese: Spokane – Sololá.” Tracing back to the time of Bishop Bernard Topel, the publication reveals many fascinating details of the Spokane Mission activities in Guatemala over the past 44 years. The condensed presentation highlights both the individuals and the events that have linked the lives of thousands of people in Guatemala with countless others from Spokane and elsewhere.

From its meager beginnings in 1958, the Spokane Mission has been an energetic undertaking. Proceeding in chronological order, the 16-page booklet details the harsh conditions, dedicated personnel, and significant achievements that shaped the longstanding relationship we now enjoy. Selected photos depict some of the people involved and activities that have taken place.

Spokane’s focus on Guatemala stems from a visit of Bishop Topel to Rome in 1958. Pope Pius XII asked him to reach out and support the Latin American Church. By the next year, Fathers Cornelius Verdoorn and Francis O’Neil were in language school in Huehuetenango. Within a few years, Spokane priests were serving at parishes in Nahualá, Ixtahuacán and Santa Lucia.

With more priests and Sisters came agricultural cooperatives and a medical clinic. By 1965, Sister Janet Druffel had taken over responsibility for the radio station in Nahualá, and Our Lady of Fatima parishioners had formed a Sister Parish Committee which is still very active today.

By the mid-1960s, visitors from Spokane had also begun to lend their talents and support to the mission. Mike and Marge Brewer of St. Patrick Parish in Spokane traveled to Santa Lucia to offer instruction on credit unions. With the help of Congressman Tom Foley, Our Lady of Fatima parishioners Ernie Diedesch and Jan and King Cole embarked on the challenge of transporting a school bus to Guatemala.

The next 35 years brought a deepening of Spokane’s involvement and more challenges as religious, medical, social, and economic programs were initiated and expanded. “Sister Diocese: Spokane – Sololá” provides a chronology of these events and the individuals associated with them.

The booklet concludes with events of 2001, including the visit to Spokane of Dr. Jose Miguel Vasquez, the first medical doctor to go through the mission’s educational system. Among other 2001 events are the unfortunate killing of Sister Barbara Ford, the extension of clinic services to the new village of Chwi Patan, transportation of medical supplies and 60,000 trout eggs to Guatemala, and Father David Baronti’s 25th Anniversary as “Padre de Spokane” in the Guatemala Mission.

Research and editing of the work was completed by Dr. Jack Driscoll of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Spokane. His research was aided by staff at the Inland Register. Trudy Jones provided secretarial assistance and Chet Aschenbrenner of the diocese’s print shop managed the printing and photo reproduction.

Booklets are available from the Guatemala Commission of the Spokane Diocese, P.O. Box 1453, Spokane, WA 99210. While supplies last, they can be mailed to members of the diocese for a nominal contribution of $5 to cover materials, postage, and handling.

(Jerry Monks is coordinator of the Diocese of Spokane’s Guatemala Mission effort.)

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