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

Our Lady of Fatima parishioners visit Guatemala Mission sites

by Guillermo Rubio, for the Inland Register

(From the May 15, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Scholarships funded by members of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Spokane, help support scholarships for students at young women of the Instituto Indigena Nuestra Señora del Socorro (Our Lady of Help) at San Andres Semetabaj, Guatemala. (IR photo courtesy of Guillermo Rubio)

In late February, nine members of the Guatemala Mission Committee from Our Lady of Fatima (OLF) Parish, Spokane, traveled to Sololá, Guatemala, to visit the mission sites supported by our parishioners. Six of the travelers were there for the first time, and in keeping with most visitors in their acquaintance trip to the country, were pleasantly impressed by the natural beauty, warm welcoming people and cultural richness that permeate Guatemala. Many seem eager to return for a second visit.

OLF began its linkage to the mission over 50 years ago, inspired by the establishment of the Sololá Diocese’s association as “sister diocese” of the Spokane Diocese. OLF initially partnered with a Sister Parish: Santa Lucia, where some of the Spokane missionaries served for several years. Later, Sololá’s Bishop Fuentes suggested we take a smaller, poor village in Tzamjuyub as our sister parish. Although the village had no church, there was a more urgent need for a school. We built and staffed a new school, and that success awakened the neglected obligation of the Guatemalan government to provide elementary education to all their people. This led to the change of our mission focus toward support of the education of indigenous (Mayan) Guatemalans.

We have since established three preschools and provided ongoing assistance to these schools that also serve special needs students. We also support mid-level students in two locations: young men at the minor seminary in Sololá, as well as 20 scholarships for young women of the Instituto Indigena Nuestra Señora del Socorro (Our Lady of Help) at San Andres Semetabaj. These students become school teachers, accountants, or hospitality service workers; some enter Religious life.

On our trip, we were warmly greeted and shown the facilities at every site where they invariably shared a meal. Father David Baronti, the one remaining missionary priest of our diocese, discussed with us the adverse socioeconomic circumstances through which “Antigua” Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, his parish base, now suffers because of changing government policies. Dr. José Miguel Vasquez, who staffs the clinics managed by the Sisters of Charity of New York, gave us a glimpse of Quetzaltenengo; he cared for Sister Immaculata Burke, who died from a protracted illness a few days after our visit.

There are many remaining unmet needs in our sister diocese. While we count our blessings, we discover the joy of helping others born into fewer privileges, but with similar aspirations, the same humanity and share of the Body of Christ. Seeing the faces of our brethren, for the most part happy despite the obvious life disparities, invites continued commitment and expansion of the assistance we now provide, in expectation of better self-sufficiency and future life.

We invite everyone to become contributors to the sister diocese program. I assure you: The blessings go both ways and enrich us all.

(Rubio is a member of the Guatemala Mission Committee of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Spokane.)

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