Liturgy in Honduras

My friend John Donaghy, a long-time staff member at my current parish, has been in Honduras for the past few years assisting in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. Many of our students and resident parishioners have traveled there to serve for a week or two. I told John that hardly a daily Mass or student liturgy goes by that a spontaneous intercession (when they are invited) for Honduras isn’t uttered.

John sent me an e-mail earlier today describing some of his liturgical work. (Some of it’s repeated on his blog.) I asked if I could share it with my readers here, and he agreed, so here goes:

I just got back from a liturgy workshop at Dulce Nombre. The parish is doing a two year three-session prayer training first of all for the leaders of the Liturgical ministry in the villages and also for about 17 people who are in the process of becoming extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, as they call them here. It will also enable the villages to have the Eucharist in their chapel (when they have a secure tabernacle) and to have regular Liturgies of the Word with Communion.

57 people showed up. There was someone from every one of the eleven sectors of the parish, with people from early twenties (about 3) to over sixty (about 7).

My task, yesterday afternoon, was to give an overview introduction to the parts of the Mass. Now you first have to remember that most of these people have a sixth grade education  – or less! So, my challenge was to make it as participative as possible and to get them to learn as much as possible. I think I succeeded in making it participative. If they’ll remember what I taught, that’s another question – though they have a 30 page booklet to help them go over the material.

What was really fun was having them sing hymns or parts of the Mass when we discussed them. When we got to the Great Amen they sang the usual one that is used here – The Lilies of the Field “Amen.” So I gave them a challenge – which I’ll have to reiterate – to have their village music groups write an “Amen!” If they do it, I may have to record them and send them your way.

While preparing for the workshop – and being with the folks – I remembered that some of the liturgy groups (LTP?) have some materials in Spanish. I’ll have to check that out – who knows, that may be a way to begin connections with liturgy in both places.

I’m fascinated and amazed on many levels.

How other places do liturgy: a great curiosity. The “Lilies of the Field Amen.” Imagine that. Hondurans appropriating a piece of American pop culture and singing that Jester Hairston tune. On one of his last visits to Iowa, I asked John about the music sung at liturgies in Honduras. He told me one local group has written a few songs. I think I asked about their composing for Mass. If they came up with something decent, I’d seriously consider using it at our liturgies at the student center.

The challenges of Catholics in rural Honduras seem very distant from Rome, or even our political American concerns about how other people receive Communion. One missioner told me that she was the first foreign Catholic a group had ever met. They had been visited by Baptists and evangelicals from the US, but never a Roman Catholic.

John’s post script on organization:

You might find the structure of the diocese interesting. Base ecclesial communities are the basic instance of the church. There are about 5000 base communities or communities like them in the diocese (in its 41 parishes). In each villages there is a church council which usually has a representative from each base community in the council. These are then formed into sector and/or zone councils with the parish council. Then there are the deanery council and the diocesan pastoral council (which has priests and laity). But within each the structures there is what they call here “The Triple Ministry” – prophetic (catechesis, preaching), liturgical, and social. And so there are persons in each of the ministries throughout the diocese!

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Liturgy in Honduras

  1. Kevin in Texas says:

    This is interesting to hear from your friend, as I’ve been to churches in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Spain (where I lived for 2 years), but hadn’t ever heard much about liturgy and catechesis in Honduras. Now I live in the Dallas area, and as you can imagine, there are many Mexican and Central American immigrants living here. My parish is a full parish (as opposed to a mission), is very large, and holds Masses in Spanish, English and Portuguese –the priests are from Brazil and Mexico, and there is a contingent of Brazilians in this area, too. As a fluent Spanish speaker, I’ve dealt quite often with Hispanic Catholic immigrants in the US (I also grew up in south Florida, where I used to volunteer as a catechist at the missions out in the Everglades, mostly w/ Central American illegal immigrants; also saw many Cuban Catholics in my city, of course).

    One thing that has struck me about many Hispanic Catholics is the depth of their cultural emphasis on Catholic imagery and the saints, esp. Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is very positive, on the one hand, but sadly it is often accompanied by a deep vacuum of catechesis on Church doctrine, the liturgy, etc. Countless times while praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, often after Sunday Mass, I’ve watched Hispanic immigrants (mostly the women) stand before Our Lady’s statue, touching her feet, kissing her, and praying in obvious reverence. Then they will walk directly in front of the tabernacle as if it were a pretty box on a stand there, completely ignoring it and showing no reverence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist there. This often bothered me (not so much that I blamed them, as I attributed it to ignorance on their parts, but that it seemed to demonstrate a profound lack of catechetical formation that I imagine extended to the Mass overall). A couple of times after seeing this, after leaving the chapel and finding some of these Hispanic Catholics outside, I’ve taken the time to speak with them in Spanish, ask their backgrounds, etc., and have even asked about their beliefs and what coming to church means to them. They all talk about the cultural meaning of church and the Catholic faith, as it has been practiced and passed down to them for generations, and they also greatly value the communal experience with fellow Hispanic parishioners. Many also love praying to Our Lady and to Our Lord, but not once have any of them ever mentioned the Eucharist, the Real Presence, or the sacrifice of the Mass, even when prompted by me. I sense that it’s probably not much on their spiritual radar.

    Granted, these are anecdotes from only a few people, but I have no doubt they represent a significant portion of many of the Hispanic immigrants here, especially those without much formal education and without catechesis. It’s of course commendable to encourage fellowship w/ other Catholics, esp. in immigrant communities, and the cultural ties to Our Lady of Guadalupe and prayers to her are certainly wonderful, but I can’t help but feel sympathy that these people haven’t been exposed to the fullness of the Catholic faith, esp. its summit and the source of all grace, Our Lord in the Eucharist. It stirs me to question what the priests and lay catechists in their home countries are teaching and practicing, i.e., do they show reverence for Our Lord in the Eucharist, preach about it (priests and deacons), and teach it (catechists)? I’ve only ever seen Benedictions and Eucharistic Adoration in Spanish-speaking countries in the context of a special holy day liturgy at local parishes and in the smaller chapels and parishes staffed by priests from Opus Dei and similar orthodox Catholic orders.

  2. John Donaghy says:

    What has struck me since I came here in 2007 is the deep devotion to the Eucharist among the Hondurans, especially those who live in the countryside in this part of the country, the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. Even though many rural villages only have Mass several times a year, the devotion to the Eucharist is wide-spread.

    What struck me also is the number of people receiving Communion here. I’d spent a good bit of time visiting El Salvador before coming here and never found as many receiving Communion as here.

    In parts of the diocese there is a holy hour every Thursday.

    All this takes place in a diocese that also has a very strong social justice commitment. In fact, our bishop and priests are the only diocese that opposed the coup last year.

    I am blessed to be working in this diocese and in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María. The pastor of Dulce Nombre and his associate are committed to evangelization and to the religious instruction of people. The annual parish pastoral plan includes training for catechists as well as a major agricultural project for family gardens.

    And all this in the poorest diocese of Honduras. (Though I must give a huge thank you to St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames for its support for me as well as for projects in Dulce Nombre!)

    • Kevin in Texas says:

      That’s great to hear, John! It goes to show that it’s certainly possible to catechize people well and completely even in the poorest dioceses and among those who may not have a lot of formal education. My guess is that the personal dedication and holiness of the pastor and the bishop there are instrumental in their success, and that God’s grace flows abundantly upon the people there!

      God bless and Godspeed to you, John!

  3. John Donaghy says:

    The bishop has been here for 25 years (and will have to offer his retirement in November 2011), but he has been a very pastoral bishop, visiting throughout the diocese for confirmations, consecration of churches, and pastoral visits – as well as dealing with problems and conflicts.

    A pastoral plan in the early 1990s began the process of formation of base ecclesial communities in all the parishes. There are about 5000 of them in the 41 parishes of the diocese.

    The Second Pastoral Plan and the Third Plan which is now being written continue this emphasis. (By the way, there are no movements like the Neocatechumate or Opus Dei in the diocese; also the charismatic movement is being challenged to work in the structutre of base communities.)

    The diocese also has had diocesan assemblies of the bishop, priests, and lay leaders for the past twelve years. Thus a new bishop will encounter a diocese which is organized and fairly united in its pastoral vision.

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