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

Fiftieth anniversary tour for Guatemala Mission set for November

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 5, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Fifty years ago, Spokane’s Bishop Topel initiated the Sister Diocese covenant with the Diocese of Sololá, Guatemala. In celebration of that relationship and the progress achieved over those years, the Guatemala Commission will be offering interested parishioners a unique opportunity to visit the Spokane Mission activities during Nov. 6-15.

Guatemala is a beautiful, but extremely poor and underdeveloped country.  About half of the population is Ladino (mixed European and Mayan ancestry) and half is Mayan Indian. Urban (Ladino) areas communicate in Spanish whereas many of the native people, like those in the Spokane Mission area, speak only Quiché (pronounced kee-CHAY). Some of the rural areas follow the native dress, as well as more traditional religious and village customs.

The 50th anniversary tour will include visits with the missionaries and their projects that are carried on in the remote high-lands. This is an expansive mountainous area that spans the continental divide and includes active volcanos within its 7,000-11,000 feet of elevation.

The tour is being managed by Pilgrim Pathways of Spokane for a cost that will include transportation, hotels, and breakfasts. The group will bus (or boat) to various mission locations each day to visit, observe, and participate in mission activities. They will spend two nights in Guatemala City, one in Antigua, and six in Panajachel near the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan.  Among the key locations and projects included in the itinerary are the following:

The Village of Ixtahuacán: The remote and high mountain village of Ixtahuacán is home to a large Mayan Indian population served by Spokane missionary priest, Father David Baronti. The faith of the natives in the centuries old village has prevailed through earthquakes, droughts, and hurricanes. The group will attend mass in the Church of Santa Catarina, tour the Marian Center, and recently constructed bakery/training center. They will also visit a school and see the trout ponds where fish eggs, from Spokane, are hatched and raised.

Medical and Pastoral Projects: Sister Immaculata Burke of the Sisters of Charity of New York has ministered to the sick, injured, and expectant mothers in Guatemala for 38 years. She, along with Sister Marie Tolle, Dr. José Miguel, and others, manage clinics and pastoral activities in countless remote villages.  The tour will include visits to two clinics and a session with native physician Dr. José Miguel. A pastoral highlight will be a tour of the “Voice of Nahualá” radio station opened in 1962 by Father John Rompa of Spokane.

Lake Atitlan: Many of the poorest in Guatemala live on mountainsides surrounding what is acclaimed by some as the most beautiful lake in the world.  The (very deep) blue Lake Atitlan has three volcanoes nearby and colorful villages, including Panajachel, on its shores.  The group will be based at Hotel Villa Santa Catarina in Panajachel, and bus to various mission activities each day.  One day has been set aside for a boat trip across Lake Atitlan to Santiago, the site where Father Stanley Rother was murdered in 1981.  (His cause for canonization is in progress.) There will also be time in the evenings for shopping and sightseeing.

Plans also call for visiting New Ixtahuacán, and the Chiquisis area where refugees fled after being displaced by hurricanes and heavy rains. Persons interested in making reservations for the tour are asked to call Donna Connell (509-924-1346) or Sylvia Howes (509-466-7772). Space is limited.

(Jerry Monks is a member of the diocese’s Guatemala Mission Commission.)

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