Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

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

Guatemalans demonstrate gratitude for assistance from Eastern Washington Catholics

by Lisa Sharkey, for the Inland Register

(From the February 20, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

People lined the route walked by Bishop Cupich during his visit to Ixtahuacán, Guatemala. Pictured with the bishop is Father David Baronti, a priest of the Spokane Diocese who has ministered in Guatemala for decades. (IR photo courtesy of Lisa Sharkey)

This year Pope Francis is asking Catholics to concentrate on helping the poor. Members of the Spokane diocese have been doing this for many years.

This was very apparent earlier this month when Bishop Cupich visited our sister diocese in Solalá, Guatemala. I was blessed to be there as he arrived and was amazed at the outpouring of goodwill and gratitude that was displayed by the people towards him.

In a poor country where the indigenous people have very little, they created a pageant that awed those of us traveling from Washington. Even though wood is at a premium there, being both scarce as well as necessary for cooking and heating, the people of Ixtahuacán cut several long poles to make an arch leading into the town. The structure included removing actual paving stones from the main street in order to accommodate the arch.

The arch was decorated with evergreens and flowers, tied in place. A carpet of long pine needles and flowers led from the arch into the church and continuing on to cover the altar area. Finally, they hung streamers and balloons everywhere, in the papal colors of yellow and white. After all of the decorating was done, the people walked up a steep hill for about a quarter of a mile to wait and greet the bishop.

When Bishop Cupich arrived, they lit a cannon and had him get out of the car to walk under a velvet canopy in a procession down the hill, through the arch, and into the church. All of the children had white and yellow flags to wave, and there was music and firecrackers.

When we arrived at the church, the people of Ixtahuacán gave Bishop Cupich a beautiful embroidered jacket. There were several speeches, followed by a celebration of Mass attended by over 500 people, many of whom had walked for hours to participate.

This was only one of several pageants created for Bishop Cupich in various towns in the Solalá area during his visit. The people there appreciate all that our diocese has done for them: helping to improve their schools, health clinics, radio station and church. Even when they ask for more help, it is simply to keep things going that we have helped start.

For example, the radio station has dreams of a repeater which will help them reach many more small villages in the mountains, yet they only ask for enough to pay for the increasing energy costs.

The health clinics are in a similar situation, funded by money given by our diocese, payments from patients, and donations obtained by the Sisters of Charity of New York. Two of the Sisters help manage the clinics, but are getting older and are looking for a nurse/administrator to take over. The plea that caught my heart was made by one parish council: for catechism books for their children. Ixtahuacán has over 500 children registered for the youth program and neither books nor other materials to help teach them our faith – including materials for sacramental preparation classes.

Even though the people of our diocese have been helping the poor of Guatemala for years, more can be done. How is your heart calling you to help the poor this year, as Pope Francis directs us?

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