In July, a delegation of St. Francis parishioners traveled to the far ends of Guatemala to make a visit to Las Margaritas II, a rural village of about 100 indigenous Mayan families. 25 years ago, Fr. David McBriar and a handful of parishioners established this partnership in conjunction with the organization Sister Parish, Inc. to foster awareness and understanding of the plight of many in Central America for the sake of greater solidarity, justice, and peace in our world. Through shared prayer, mutually supporting each other in a variety of efforts, and exchanging visits, this “sister parish” linkage has allowed us to put ourselves in the reality of others and, thus, experience the profound gift of human solidarity across the many kinds of borders that divide us. Experiencing a real and profound connection of brotherhood and sisterhood is one of the most treasured gifts we can encounter in our lives.
This anniversary delegation provided an opportunity to deepen our walk of solidarity and love with Las Margaritas II, and as the reflections and pictures below reveal, this journey deeply affected our parishioners. Whether it was encountering the natural and wild beauty of the Guatemalan landscape, playing “football” (soccer) in the village, learning about the grassroots recovery in response to the recent volcano irruption, sharing a meal of tortillas and beans in a host family’s home, or celebrating mass together, our parishioners could not help falling in love with this country, its culture, its land, and especially its people. Indeed, with this particular “sister parish” relationship, hearts were opened, expanded, and filled with awe and gratitude and love. This is the gift of this ministry.
Austin Maher (father): Being part of our sister parish delegation really challenged me. I was in a different country. I was a member of a new community. I didn’t speak the language. But more importantly, I was brought face to face with questions that often seem philosophical but were also quite concrete. Who is my brother and sister? What does it mean to live in poverty? What can I do to promote social justice and to assist the poor? These are not new questions, but being part of this delegation brought them back to me and gave me a fresh perspective on them. Participating in the St. Francis delegation to Las Margaritas broadened my horizons, took me out of my comfort zone and gave me a new perspective on my life as a Christian.
Austin Maher (son): For me, this journey was a personal one. I was born in Guatemala and left the country at a very young age, so part of it was just to revisit and learn about my homeland. Not only that, but my internal journey that had hit a bit of a roadblock. I think it’s easy for us to get stuck, stressing over things at work or school, with friends and colleagues. Sometimes we just need that little push to get us back on our feet, whether it be the inspiration of a new landscape, or the kindness of a stranger. Some of us need to let go and get lost in the world. Some of us are lost and need to be found. This was an eye-opening experience for us all, and a big part of my personal journey.
Liz Mosler (mother): Our family has been connected with Sister Parish since we first hosted delegates in our home in 2005 and then again a few years later. Now having visited the village twice with two of my children I feel even more connected. This particular trip was especially impactful as I felt like we were sharing life’s experiences, the good and bad, on an even deeper level. We laughed together, cried together, and prayed together, and no language barrier could ever taint the genuine exchange of emotion that was being shared. I struggle to put into words the many ways in which this time with LMII has impacted me. Each time I spend time with them, I am humbled and my perspective on life is forever altered.
Josie Mosler (daughter): When our delegation first arrived to Las Margaritas II, the sun was fading from the sky, and I was so anxious to be there. When our van pulled into the community, there were tons of families lined up waiting for us, the children chased the van with American flags, and when we finally got out, we were met with the purest welcome you could possibly imagine. The complete and utter joy I felt to see our brothers and sisters is overwhelming. I don’t think that there was a single moment during the days where we didn’t have at least ten children hanging on to each of us. The excitement from these children was overwhelming in the greatest way possible. The feeling that this gave me has been one of the things I will cherish most from this experience, giving me a feeling that I will never forget.
Trevor Thompson (father): I’ve traveled quite a bit, even living overseas for many years, but this journey to Guatemala was like no other trip I’ve taken. The opportunity to share life for four days within a family home of a rural indigenous Mayan family was incredible. The vulnerability, even awkwardness, but amazing grace of sharing life was an unparalleled experience of solidarity and love. I feel humbled, knowing I take far too much for granted. I also hold many stories in my heart now of those children and families who are showing up at our borders (and in our news). I now carry far great understanding and solidarity for their plight, their sacrifice, and their dreams. I’m incredibly grateful to have shared this time with my daughter; it is a memory we will continue to unpack over many years.
Sophia Thompson (daughter): The most meaningful thing to me was how much warmth and love we experienced from the kids, and everyone else in the village. They were thrilled and honored to have us. We are so different in so many ways, but we are also alike as well. We both share love and joy in having a community and family that loves us and takes care of us. We both share corn and coffee, music and dance, and especially faith. This is the main reason we visited the village in the first place, celebrating 25 years of love, journeying together with faith in the same God and Spirit, all together as family.
There’s already conversation about another journey to Guatemala next year!