April 29, 2010
April 26, 2010
After five years here, Chile has become home (sorry mom and dad). We feel very comfortable within the culture and don't really notice the differences that once left us puzzled. We have no problem kissing people the first time we meet them and we now set the table for evening tea with the tea cup closest and the bread plate farther away. After all, tea is the most important part of the meal, not the actual food itself. Yesterday, however, I had a cultural encounter that left me questioning, "Wait a sec... what's happening here? Am I the only one who finds this odd?".
Yesterday, I accompanied Fr. Mike to a special liturgy in honor of the year anniversary of the death of a young boy in our neighborhood named Jean. He was around 15 years old when he was stabbed to death last year. The anniversary liturgy was held in his mother's home and I entered the living room to find a large group of his teenage friends. They sat quietly, awaiting the "mass." We began the prayer service with a few words from Jean's mother. She was obviously sad and said that after a year, she found her faith waning. However, it was uplifting for her to see so many of her son's friends show up to remember him. The young girl who read the first reading stated that the most impactful part of the reading was when it said "God will dry all of our tears."
Up until this point, I didn't notice anything culturally different. It was a group of family and friends mourning the death of their loved one. It wasn't until after the prayers, during the social part of the event, that I started thinking, "This is not the way I grew up. This is strange." During the service, I noticed one of the young girls had a baby. Not unusual. Then I noticed about 3 other teens with young children. One was wearing a tank top, despite the cold weather, and slippers instead of shoes. The mother of Jean began chatting with the teens. She was asking questions, trying to figure out who Jean had been dating before his death. She had reason to believe that he had left a girl pregnant before his death and that she now had a 3 month old granddaughter. She went through a list of girls that she thought he may have been sleeping with and questioned each of the girls with a baby about the age of their children. As Fr. Mike and I drove away, we passed by a large group of the teens that had been at the house with us. They were sitting on the street, drinking beer and smoking. Most seemed to be between 14 and 18 years old.
Are these cultural differences? Class differences? Probably a little of both. The one thing that cannot be denied is that the reality here can be rough. Things that would have parents in a rage in the US are both common and accepted here among teens and their parents - sex, drinking, smoking and violence. Sometimes, we get frustrated when the activities in our chapel don't work out. But, then we remember the harsh reality and it makes us grateful for the kids that do participate. The teens here need a radical experience to wake them up, to help them realize that they can build a better life. And that radical experience is God in their lives.
April 20, 2010
We've been in Santiago this week for the bi-annual regional meeting with all of the Columbans here in Chile. This year, the meeting was held at a Jesuit retreat house and the grounds were beautiful. Joshua was amazed by all the green and the walnut trees were in full force. Joshua came in contact with a few new things, like a pine cone, a dandelion and a bird's feather. He loved tickling his face with the flowers and throwing walnuts at the trees. These are special experiences for a boy from the desert! The weather was fantastic all week, until the last day when it rained. Joshua enjoyed this as well, however, since rain is also a novelty. We enjoyed spending time with with our fellow missionaries, priests and lay, who work throughout Chile. It has been almost two years since we have been able to make it to a regional meeting (due to Joshua's adoption, the sudden death of our regional director and travel to the US), so we especially enjoyed getting caught up with the whole Columban family.
We also received some sad news, however. The lay mission house, where we stay when we're in Santiago and also where Chilean missionaries in formation live, has been sold. We call this house "Hanyang" because the first place of Columban mission was in Hanyang, China. Hanyang house has been for sale for awhile, but we never expected it to sell so quickly. During the last five years, we've built up some very fond memories in that house. We had a despedida (going away party) on Saturday and shared some of the memories with our co-missionaries and also with some ex-Chilean missionaries. The Columbans have owned the house for 25 years and it was originally the seminary for young men in formation to become priests. We'll miss the house, but are also looking forward to starting fresh in a new area, closer to the subway line and also more practical for our purposes. With ten bedrooms and six bathrooms, the old house was quite difficult to keep up with!
Here is a photo of Joshua with our regional director, Fr. Derry Healy. He looks so serious because he was coming down with a cold and ready for his nap. Not to mention he had been attacked by mosquitos that morning! Still, a cute picture.
April 11, 2010
April 9, 2010
On Sunday morning, we met with our pre-teen group. They were excited about Easter and really happy not to have to practice for Stations of the Cross any more. So, we had a fun day. Coloring pictures, playing ping-pong and playing a life-sized board game called "The Great Holy Week Game" that we found on the internet. We all went to mass after the group. David and one of the older youth hid chocolate eggs outside for the kids to find. The tradition here is to hunt for small chocolate eggs instead of plastic or real ones. We had the youngest kids hunt for eggs in a separate area. Joshua was really good at finding eggs, stuffing them in his mouth and biting down (tin foil covering intact) before David could get it out of his hand. All of the kids had a great time.
We have been blessed to begin this year with great participation from the youth. Please pray especially for our teens who are newly entering the Christian world. It really is a tough time in their lives and living here in Alto Hospicio, they are up against a lot of scary temptations. It is not easy for them to live a Christian life here and they need all the support they can get.
April 7, 2010
After the two hour Stations of the cross on Friday afternoon, David ran the shared amplification system to another chapel and did another 2 hour Stations of the Cross. Then, he woke up at 6:30 am and took the youth group up the "hill" running from Iquique up to Alto Hospicio for a third Stations of the Cross. The man is dedicated. This "hill" is most definitely a mountain by Floridian definition. And it is composed of soft sand, causing feet to sink down deep with every step. Not an easy trek. Anna, while usually eager to suffer in the hot sun, stayed home with Joshua. Chilean youth in general love a good "caminata" (walk) and were thrilled to participate with the rest of the diocese in the climb. We were going to cancel the usual Saturday afternoon youth group meeting, but they asked us not to. Then, in order to blow us all away with their participation, they prepared the bonfire used in the Saturday night Easter Vigil and stayed for mass. We are still dazed from witnessing their Super Teen abilities.
Geering up with anticipation.
Fr. Mike Howe, a Columban who works with us in the parish, joined the kids. They really like the close relationship they have with the Columban priests. It makes a big difference!
We told you it wasn't a hill...
Sr. Leonor is a Mexican sister who works with us in the parish. She's here with the youth from her chapel.
A group shot near the top.
The kids insist on throwing up symbols with their hands in every photo, so David decided he would try to hang with the cool kids.
Getting down was apparently a lot of fun, including jumping, flipping and sliding down on their rears.
April 6, 2010
We decided to get the kids a little more involved in Holy Week this year. One way was to have our pre-teen group act out the Stations of the Cross. It was a crazy mess trying to get them organized. The night before the event, three kids backed out. So, we had to grab a couple of our "big" kids to help out... that's why Jesus is a few feet taller than the rest of them! In the end, it turned out well. Simple and humble, it reflected the community's best attributes.
Cardboard and Tin Foil at it's best.
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (our girls cried really well).
A shot of Jesus on the cross. As you can see, we did not win the battle of getting him to take the tunic off in front of his friends and neighbors.
We ended in the chapel with Adoration of the Cross and a Communion Service.
April 1, 2010
A Columban priest, Fr. Kevin Mullins was recently interviewed for this video by PBS. He's been working in Juarez, Mexico for the last several years and once upon a time, also worked in Chile. It's terrible to think of all the violence that people there have to live with on a daily basis. For us, it's more proof of the great needs that exist in the world - for missionaries, for respect for life and for God.