Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Guatemala Mission’s 50th anniversary events include Spokane visit by Sololá’s bishop
by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register
(From the Jan. 15, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Fifty years ago, in 1958, a fragile Pope Pius XII received one of his last visitors. The popular Italian theologian, and 260th pope, who had headed the Vatican since 1939, welcomed Bishop Bernard Topel of Spokane.
During the Second World War, Pope Pius XII had helped maintain an underground network of Religious and laity to save refugees from the Nazi occupiers. When Hitler occupied Rome in 1943, he opened Vatican City to Jewish refugees, even granting Vatican citizenship to many of them.
At their final meeting in Rome, when Pope Pius XII asked about the Church in Latin America, Bishop Topel replied, “I will do something about it, Your Holiness.” He followed through on that promise, with the establishment of the Spokane Mission in the remote and mountainous area of the Guatemalan Highlands.
During the intervening 50 years, the Diocese of Spokane has responded with personnel as well as religious, economic, and social assistance. The Diocese of Sololá has, in turn, helped with administration, accommodations, and prayer.
Insofar as year 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the funding of two Spokane Diocese priests to work in Guatemala, Spokane and Sololá are joining in activities to recognize the long-standing and close relationship that they share. Among the major events of the year will be the exchange of visitors between the two dioceses.
Bishop Gonzalo de Villa y Vasquez, S.J. of the Diocese of Sololá-Chimaltenango will be visiting Spokane during the first week of February 2009.
A native of Spain, Bishop Gonzalo de Villa joined the Society of Jesus in 1993. He later served as rector of Rafael Landivar University, the Jesuit University in Guatemala City. Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala in 2004, he was named to Sololá-Chimaltenango in 2007.
Details of Bishop de Villa’s visit are not yet firm, but will most likely include a Sunday mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane.
The other major exchange will be the 50th Anniversary visit of parishioners from the Diocese of Spokane to the Diocese of Sololá. It will take place during the second week of November 2009. Plans are for the participants to fly from Spokane into Guatemala City on Friday, Nov. 6, and return on Sunday, Nov. 15. The first and last days may be spent in the larger cities, such as Panajachel and Antigua.
During the week, the group will visit the seminary in Sololá, convent in Novillero, radio station in Nahualá, and mission church in Ixtahuacán. Visits will also include clinics and schools in some remote villages, as well as some of the ongoing projects such as reforestation activities, trout production, and weaving and baking classes. The Guatemalan people can be counted upon to provide a warm welcome.
Participation in the 50th Anniversary visit is open to any interested parishioners. A limited number of spaces will be available, however, and costs have not yet been finalized. For information, call Donna Connell at (509) 924-1346.