Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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

Three more parishes pledge support for Guatemala mission efforts

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 18, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Bishop William Skylstad in Guatemala, 2000During a trip to Guatemala in 2000, Bishop Skylstad had a chance to visit with some of the younger students at the diocesan seminary in Sololá, Guatemala. (IR photo from the Guatemala Commission)

Three Spokane Diocese parishes have embarked on new programs of support for missionary activities in Guatemala. Their association with the mission has been enthusiastically welcomed by Father David Baronti and the Sisters serving in Guatemala, for it gives parishioners a direct window to the poor and provides some much-needed financial help.

Contributions from parishes of the diocese have not been sufficient to cover expenses for the past three years.

Father Baronti is a priest of the Spokane Diocese who has served in Guatemala for over two decades.

The current fiscal year budget for Guatemala Mission activities is $5,830 per month. This is down from the previous year budget of $7,030 per month. The main impact of the reduction has been in school and youth programs. A prior year’s reduction had already cut heavily into Spokane’s support of the local seminary in Sololá, a program dear to the heart of Bishop Raul Martinez of the Diocese of Sololá. He has had good enrollment in the seminary, but inadequate funds to support the seminarians who are enrolled.

Joining the list of parishes that are now helping the Mayan Indian people are Immaculate Conception Parish in Colville, Sacred Heart Parish in Tekoa, and Assumption Parish in Spokane.

The contributions of Colville parishioners will brighten the prospects of Father Baronti’s youth programs in Ixtahuacán. Youth programs have become more essential for young people as cultural changes have brought about the need for adding new dimensions to the spiritual guidance offered to youngsters in the mission area.

In earlier times, few children had a chance to go beyond a third grade – or even first grade – education. As youngsters reached mid-teens, the next phase of their life was typically to get married and start a family of their own. There was no need for “youth groups.”

Today, as more youngsters have an opportunity to complete a basic education, they face new challenges associated with entering society as a group of young people. This is a time for them to learn more about their own cultural and economic environment, explore work opportunities, and so on. It is also an opportune time for them to strengthen their religious base, a task that Father Baronti takes very seriously.

Sacred Heart Parish of Tekoa has begun making contributions that will help support the pastoral activities of Sisters Marie Tolle and Mary Bertrand. Sister Marie, an experienced educator, works with a wide range of students, from preschool to elderly women’s groups. She prepares youngsters for reception of the sacraments, and trains catechists to go into some of the more remote communities to help develop the faith life of the people.

Sister Mary Bertrand is also engaged in extensive pastoral activities. Working with a staff of two others, her team extends religious training to over three dozen parishes in remote areas.

Spokane’s Assumption Parish initiated support for mission activities with a contribution that helped support the Spirituality Center in Nahualá. This center, managed by Sister Mary Bertrand, takes an active role in vitalizing the Catholic faith for people in communities that face discrimination from other religious denominations. The Social Concerns Committee of Assumption Parish is in the process of discerning whether their regular future support will be directed to the Spirituality Center or one of the other many ongoing programs in Guatemala.

Among other parishes continuing their much-appreciated support of the Guatemala Mission during this fiscal year are St. Augustine of Spokane and Sacred Heart of Pullman.

St. Augustine Parish is a long-standing supporter of the Colegio Nahualá primary school, and Sacred Heart has a history of support for the radio station in Nahualá.

Health programs have received assistance from four parishes, including St. Mary of Spokane, St. Mary of the Rosary in Chewelah, Holy Rosary of Pomeroy, and St. Agnes in Ritzville. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane, is also a consistent supporter of health programs.

St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, directs its support to pastoral activities.

Salary support for Sisters Immaculata Burke, Marie Tolle, and Mary Bertrand continues to come from St. Patrick in Walla Walla, St. Patrick in Pasco, and Our Lady of Fatima in Spokane. St. Patrick of Walla Walla and St. Patrick of Spokane are the only parishes now contributing to the seminary operations in Sololá.

Our Lady of Fatima Parish is in the process of terminating its long-standing support of the school in Tzamjuyub because the teachers will, in the future, be funded under a qovernment program. The Sister Parish Committee of Our Lady of Fatima plans to direct their future help to tuition support for students in Ixtahuacán and is considering providing some support for the Spirituality Center operated by Sister Mary.

Parish organizations that are not currently supporting the Spokane Mission in Guatemala and wish to do so, are invited to contact the Guatemala Commission at P.O. Box 1453, Spokane, WA 99210-1453 or phone the Catholic Pastoral Center: 358-7300.

(Jerry Monks is a member of the Guatemala Commission.)

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