North Carolinians Visit Guatemala

Donna Smith Around the Province

RALEIGH, N.C. — Eight parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi Church here visited Guatemala last month and participated in  a centuries-old  Mayan Indian celebration.

On Jan. 10,  parishioners Richard Derrenbacher, Michael Gould, Marybeth Kiszely, Joanne McVerry, Kitty Shanahan, Meg Smith, Angela and Daniel Rice, traveled to Las Margaritas II, Ixcan, Guatemala representing St. Francis of Assisi’s Sister Parish Ministry and participating in a tradition that is over 450 years old:  the Feast of Cristo Negro. This feast is a traditional Mayan Indian celebration of culture and faith, and it was a tremendous honor for our parish to celebrate with them. They returned eight days later on Jan. 18.

Pastoral council member Kitty Shanahan shared her views of the experience: “this was my second trip to Las Margaritas.”

Kitty added,  “In 1999, I traveled by plane to the village. This time, we took the 10-hour trip by SUV for safety reasons. Traveling by land was a real eye-opener.  I have a much better understanding of the difficulty presented to our brothers and sisters, in Guatemala, by the poor infrastructure that they live with every day. To bring corn to market is contingent upon whether or not the roads are passable. If a child gets sick, and needs medical attention, he must be taken by mud roads for at least an hour. ”

“The Guatemalan government is callous in regard to the well-being of its own citizens.  By simply traveling the rough terrain to the village, I have more empathy and understanding of the daily challenges our parishioners in Las Margaritas II face. It’s a wonder and an inspiration that our brothers and sisters are so deeply and spiritually grounded in their faith. Please pray for them.”

The St. Francis Sister Parish ministry is organizing a teen delegation to travel to Las Margaritas, Guatemala from June 20 to 28. Eight youth and two adults will spend the week with other youth from this indigenous culture.

   — Donna Smith is liturgical  communications  specialist at St. Francis of Assisi.