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

Guatemala visit humbles, revitalizes Colbert parishoner

Story and photos by Jim Tate, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 2, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

(Editor’s note: Jim Tate and other parishioners from St. Joseph Parish, Colbert, traveled to the diocese’s mission in Guatemala last month.)

As I sit in my room, I listen to the beautiful singing of the choir of Santa Caterina de Ixtahuacán (pronounced Ish-tou-wa-CON). The choir is practicing in a room below mine in Ixtahuacán’s Marian Center built with support from Spokane. The center is a gathering place for the Mayan Indians shepherded by Father David Baronti of the Spokane Diocese.

Representatives of St. Joseph Parish, Colbert, visited the Spokane Diocese’s mission in Guatemala last month, where they were thanked for their support with song, dance, gifts, and smiles. (IR photos)

Father David has been ministering to these indigenous people since 1976. He is fluent in Quiché, the local language. While visiting Guatemala in 1996, Pope John Paul II signed and approved Father David’s translation of the Missal into Quiché.

While Ixtahuacán only has a population of about 1,500, around 45,000 live in the surrounding mountains. These indigenous people lead simple lives and travel to the church of St. Catherine for Masses and festivals.

Earlier today, youth leaders from the surrounding area came together to thank us for our parish’s support of their programs. It was a humbling experience as they showered us with gifts, sang, and danced. We were presented shirts, bags, statuary, hats, personalized weavings and a tablecloth to thank St. Joseph Parish for support youth programs. It was evident these young people were filled with the Holy Spirit.

My purpose in visiting Guatemala with fellow parishioners Patt Pearlman and Don Baldwin was two-fold. First, we delivered baby cloths, vitamins and almost $1,600 from St. Joseph parishioners, as well as medicines from the Diocese of Spokane. Two major storms produced deadly landslides and devastated crops around Ixtahuacán this summer. Aid from Spokane and the spirit of the people are getting them through this difficult time. Damage is evident at the Church of St. Catherine as portions of the nave have dropped about 18 inches since May. Walls are cracked and doors have had to be removed and re-cut to fit.

Our second purpose was to establish relationships and find other areas where our parish can help. We identified two areas we can make a great difference.

First, we would like to help the local Upper School (grades 7-12) get connected to the internet. This would open up the world to about 225 students.

Second, we would like to invite parishioners to come to Guatemala next August to work on finishing the Marian Center. If you can clean or do basic construction, you would be a great help. The Center has several meeting rooms and one large gathering room. It also includes five rooms for visitors and a kitchen. It is a great resource for the community and is not far from completion.

I have returned from my trip to Guatemala humbled by the people and by what has been accomplished there over the last 50 years. It reminds me of how much I take for granted in my life in America. My spirit has been revitalized by the strong faith of the people of Santa Catarina de Ixtahuacán.

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