Our Blog

This blog is a place for our staff, members and supporters to share news and reflections about Sister Parish.  You can sign up for our e-news to receive updates or contact us to submit a piece of your own.  See blog archives.

Blog en español.

Posted in Español, General

“Nuestra relación es como un anillo al dedo” – TN2 visita Santa Juana de Arco

Dos representantes de Tierra Nueva 2, Guatemala compartieron sus reflexiones sobre el hermanamiento durante la visita a Santa Juana de Arco. Se puede leer sobre las actividades de cada dia en el blog de Santa Juana de Arco.

English

Participantes en el retiro de cierre.

Alba Rivera:
Este año, celebramos 25 años de la relación entre Santa Juana de Arco y Tierra Nueva 2 en Guatemala.

Cuando llegaron las primeras delegaciones de Santa Juana de Arco nos visitaron en nuestras casas. Nunca habíamos tenido esta experiencia de recibir a alguien que no fuera familia. Creció nuestra amistad, hablamos sobre lo que podríamos hacer juntos y nos enamoramos.  Incluso hicimos anillos de compromiso.

Recordamos cuando venimos aquí, vimos cómo las mujeres de Santa Juana eran líderes activas en la iglesia. Vimos cómo hablaban en público y nos inspiraron. Recuerdo que Auri me dijo: “Necesitamos aprender a hacer eso”.  Tuvimos la oportunidad de que Mindy de Santa Juana fuera nuestro público en la preparación de un tema.  Con el tiempo, nuestra relación se profundizó y empezamos el proyecto de las mujeres para capacitar y formar a las mujeres en nuestra comunidad. Mujeres que estaban deprimidas, algunas que no salían de su casa, ahora vienen al grupo de mujeres. Las que recibían los talleres hace años ahora son las lideresas del grupo. Ahora vemos a las mujeres de nuestra comunidad sirviendo en la iglesia y hablando en público como yo.

Presentación durante la misa.

El hermanamiento nos ha ayudado a crecer en nuestra fe. Tenemos los compañeros en oración y la reflexión compartida. Sentimos alivio al saber que ustedes oran por nosotros y que nosotros oramos por ustedes, estamos conectados a través de la oración y la presencia de Jesús en nuestras vidas. Esta semana cuando fuimos a la misa en la mañana, era tan íntima.  Nos sentimos muy cerca de Dios y de todos ustedes. No entendimos todo lo que dijo el Padre Jim, pero la misa fue como tomar un café bien rico, o comer un plato de tortillas con frijoles y crema: no es mucho (no era muy larga la misa), pero es delicioso y justo lo que necesitábamos.

Esta semana vimos como a las personas aquí les interesa lo que sucede en el mundo. La gente levanta su voz por todos nosotros en la marcha por la paz en el puente.  Nos reunimos con la pastoral Bienvenido al Extraño y salimos en el camión de Panes Móviles. Escuchamos más historias de lo que pasa en la frontera entre EEUU-México. Queremos concientizar a los jóvenes sobre la migración y queremos dar pan a los hambrientos en nuestra comunidad también, y ahora tenemos más herramientas e ideas.  Nuestras experiencias aquí nos dan fuerza para trabajar más en nuestra comunidad.

Miriam Vasquez:
Quiero compartir que, en este viaje, lo que más nos ha impactado son nuestros momentos de compartir oraciones y compartir nuestras vidas. Junto con nosotros, ustedes entran en nuestro dolor y nuestra alegría. El esposo de Alba, Juan Carlos, falleció hace 3 meses y aquí hemos llorado juntos. Así es cuando alguien muere en nuestra comunidad, sienten el mismo dolor, y nosotros igual. Recordamos con mucho cariño a Padre George Wertin, Bob Heberle y Efrain Juarez y los otros que ya no están.

Con nuestras familias hospedadoras, sentimos una cálida bienvenida. Querían darnos lo mejor. En las familias siempre hay dificultades, pero podríamos ver cuánto amor tienen el uno por el otro y sentimos su amor también. No nos sentíamos extraños, sino personas que se habían conocido antes, que se conocían desde hace mucho tiempo. No sentíamos que estábamos lejos de nuestras familias.

Miriam con su familia hospedadora, Daymond y Valerie.

Miriam y Alba con Jeff.

Nuestra relación es como un anillo al dedo. Nos hemos adaptado con nuestras debilidades y vulnerabilidades, con mucho respeto. Como en todas las relaciones, hay desacuerdos, pero siempre hemos sabido cómo manejarlos. Así es como el hermanamiento ha durado 25 años. SJA nunca dijo, son pobres, solo haremos lo que queramos. En cambio, nos enseñaron que podemos tomar nuestras propias decisiones y que tenemos el derecho a hacerlo como seres humanos. El hermanamiento no se trata de servirnos. No es que uno sea mejor que el otro. Nos complementamos. Lo que uno no tiene, el otro dará con mucho amor, como un matrimonio.

Creemos que esto es lo que Dios quiere de cada uno de sus hijos, que nos amemos y que este amor nos acerca a Dios. Dios nos da un toque a cada uno de nosotros hacia la acción. Tal vez no siempre lo hacemos, pero él nos toca nuevamente para que volvamos a vivir como él quiere. Dios quiere que cambiemos el mundo en que vivimos ahora, un mundo con tanta impunidad, violencia y pobreza. Ustedes están haciendo su parte aquí y nosotros hacemos nuestra parte en Guatemala. La esperanza para un mundo más justo está en cada uno de nosotros. A través del hermanamiento nos damos cuenta de que no somos pobres. No estamos solos. Somos uno. Somos parte de un todo.

Gracias por estos 25 años de compartir.

Sirviendo comida con la pastoral “Panes Moviles”.

Reconociendo a las cuatro personas de TN2 que no recibieron una visa para participar.

Retiro espiritual al final de la delegación.

Juegos y diversión son parte de cualquier delegación.

“No más violencia en contra de las mujeres indigenas.” – Mural en Minneapolis.

Somos uno.

Posted in Aniversarios, Delegaciones, Español, General, Guatemala, sur al norte, United States | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

“Our relationship fits like a ring on a finger”: TN2 visits St Joan of Arc

The following was shared during mass at St Joan of Arc church in Minneapolis, MN on the last day of the South to North delegation visiting from Tierra Nueva 2, Guatemala. Read the St Joan of Arc blog for a day-by-day account.

Español

Retreat participants at the end of the delegation.

Rita Nohner:
Good morning.

My name is Rita Nohner and I am a long time parishioner at St. Joan of Arc. Since my husband Jeff and I first traveled on delegation to Guatemala in 2006, we have been actively involved in this very powerful ministry, which is grounded in solidarity.

This solidarity fosters mutual understanding and a commitment to peace and justice among people in the United States and Central America. Delegation travel to the North and South with home stays is an essential aspect in enhancing awareness and understanding, and nurturing closer relationships.

This week we have been experiencing a South to North delegation with the women you see before you. Miriam and Alba, our delegates, will share with us their experiences from this past week, and Carrie Stengel, our amazing Sister Parish director, who lives and works in Guatemala, will translate for them.

We are sure their story will inspire and move you.

Alba Rivera:
This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the relationship between St Joan of Arc and Tierra Nueva 2 in Guatemala.

When the first delegation from St Joan of Arc arrived, they visited us in our homes. We had never had this experience, having someone who was not family visit us. Our friendship grew, we talked about what we could do together and we fell in love. We even made engagement rings.

We remember when we came here; we saw how the women of St Joan of Arc were active leaders in the church. We saw how they spoke in public and they inspired us. I remember Auri telling me: “We need to learn how to do that.” At one point, Mindy from St Joan of Arc volunteered as our audience to prepare for a presentation. Over time, our relationship deepened, and we started the women’s project to train women in our community. Women who used to be depressed, some who did not often leave their home, they now come to the women’s group. Those who received the workshops years ago are now the leaders of the group. Now we see the women of our community serving in the church and speaking in public like I am today.

Delegates speak about their experiences during mass.

This relationship has helped us grow in our faith. We have prayer partners and our shared Bible study. We are comforted to know that you pray for us and that we pray for you, we are connected through prayer and the presence of Jesus in our lives. This week when we went to Mass in the morning, it was so intimate. We felt very close to God and all of you. We did not understand everything that Father Jim said, but the mass was like having a very good cup of coffee, or eating a plate of tortillas with beans and cream: it is not much (mass was not very long), but it is delicious and just what we needed.

This week we saw how people here care about what is happening in the world. People raise their voices for all of us at the peace march on the Lake Street bridge. We met with the Welcome the Stranger ministry and we served with the Mobile Loaves food truck. We heard more stories about what is happening on the US-Mexico border. We want to raise awareness with our youth about migration and we want to give bread to the hungry in our community too. Now we have more tools and ideas. Our experiences here give us strength to continue working even harder in our community.

Miriam Vasquez
I want to share that on this trip, the most powerful experiences have been our moments of sharing prayer and sharing our lives. Together with us, you enter into our pain and our joy. Alba’s husband, Juan Carlos, died 3 months ago and here we have cried together. When someone dies in our community, you feel the same pain, and we feel the same when someone here passes away. We fondly remember Father George Wertin, Bob Heberle and Efrain Juarez and the others who are no longer with us.

With our host families, we felt such a warm welcome. They wanted to give us their very best. In families there are always difficulties, but we could see how much love they have for each other and we felt their love. We didn’t feel like strangers, but like people who had met before, known each other for a long time. We didn’t feel like we were far away from our families.

Miriam with hosts, Valerie and Daymond.

Miriam and Alba with host, Jeff.

Our relationship fits like a ring on a finger. We have adapted to our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, with a lot of respect. As in all relationships, there are disagreements, but we have always known how to handle them. This is how our relationship has lasted 25 years. St Joan of Arc never said, “They are poor, we will just do what we want”. Instead, you taught us that we can make our own decisions and that we have the right to do so as human beings. The relationship is not about serving us. It is not that one of us is better than the other. We complement each other. What one lacks, the other will give with all our love, like a marriage.

We believe this is what God wants from each of his children. God wants us to love each other and to let this love bring us closer to God. God gives each of us a nudge towards action. We may not always do it immediately, but he nudges us again so that we go back to living as God wants. God wants us to change the world we live in now, a world with so much impunity, violence and poverty. You do your part here and we do our part in Guatemala. The hope for a more just world is inside each of us. Through our relationship we realize that we are not poor. We are not alone. We are one. We are all part of one whole.

Thank you for these 25 years of sharing.

Four people were denied visas to participate in the delegation. They were present in other ways throughout the week.

Delegates serve food with St Joan of Arcs Mobile Loaves ministry.

Closing retreat at the end of the delegation.

Fun and games are also part of any good delegation experience.

“End violence on indigenous women” – Mural in Minneapolis.

We are all part of one whole.

 

Posted in Anniversaries, Delegations, Guatemala, South to North, United States | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

On the importance of accompaniment

Their happiness is our happiness, their sorrow is our sorrow
by Julieta Borja

I would like to share a story that speaks to why Sister Parish relationships are so important.  Our relationships help people on both sides grow together in solidarity.  One example of this is accompaniment through long-term illness and grief.

This is the story of Marta de Monge, Beto Monge and their son Gilberto. They live in Potrerillos, El Salvador.  Marta and Beto have been community leaders and both have been very active on the Sister Parish committee that partners with the First United Methodist Church of Decorah, Iowa.  Throughout their lives, this family has given themselves to others to improve their community and to show people how to help others.

Marta and Beto – a picture from the early years of the relationship with Decorah.

Marta was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago and passed away on March 22 this year.  Marta was a loving wife, a loving mother, a community leader, a woman of faith, an incredible advocate, and a great example of how to live for everyone who knew her.

Throughout her illness, Marta received prayers and messages of support from the Sister Parish group in Decorah.  I know this meant a lot to her and was of great help to her as she battled cancer.  Sometimes people ask themselves why these relationships are important because they think that they have nothing to offer. They think that if they don’t offer a material gift or money, they are not supporting people in a valuable way.  But in reality when we say, “We are praying for you,” or “We are holding you in our thoughts and prayers,” we are giving the best gift we can offer to people we consider friends.

This is why Marta, Beto and their son Gilberto expressed their gratitude. They felt accompanied by the Decorah community throughout Marta’s illness and in their grief after she passed away. They expressed this many times when I visited Marta the week before she passed away and again when I attended her funeral and prayer services.

For Marta and her family, their brothers and sisters in Decorah are not just people they met once.  Over the years, they have become friends.   This is the way that other people in Potrerillos see them too and we hope it is the same for people in Decorah.  We don’t need to be close physically – we are close because we know that there are people who care for us, who pray for us, who feel the same way about us that we feel for them.  We learn from each other. We love each other.  Their problems are our problems, their happiness is our happiness, and their sorrow is our sorrow.  This is true friendship.

This is what Sister Parish is about, coming to the realization that we are not alone in the world, that we are one big family. This is a movement that should be expanded so that more people know about it and, in this way, can contribute to positive change in the world.  Please let us continue praying and working together to keep our sistering relationships alive. Let us share all of the gifts we have been given.

Posted in El Salvador, United States | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Congratulations to LM2 on their new church

Congratulations to Las Margaritas 2! The community is more than 80% done with the construction of their new church. The project began several years ago, a long-time dream of the Catholic Community in LM2.

For years, all of the church members have worked extra hours to harvest and sell corn beyond what was needed for their family to raise funds for the new church. The community also received support from their Sister Parish partners at the Catholic Community of St Francis in Raleigh.

January 2020 is currently set for the inauguration of the new church.

LM2 community with members of St Francis delegation in 2018.

 

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Meet one of the scholarship students from San Jose la Montaña

Trinity Episcopal Church and their partner community San Jose la Montaña started a scholarship program for university students in 2018.  Diana is one of five students in the program. The small projects proposed by southern communities in Sister Parish and supported financially by the churches in the U.S. have a big impact on individual’s lives and help grow the relationship as well.

by Diana Carolina Casco López

I was born on March 9, 1998 in the municipality of Las Vueltas, in the state of Chalatenango in El Salvador at 2:24 p.m.  My parents are Rosa Miriam López and Víctor Manuel Casco.  My mother and my father are very hardworking and honest people.  I am an only child.

I have lived my entire life in the community of San José de la Montaña.   For pre-school and elementary school, I went to the public school here in the community. I went to middle school and high school in the town of Las Vueltas.

Middle schools and high school were difficult because of the distance. Las Vueltas is 2km from San José (and that can be a long ways away given transportation).  My parents have always had a difficult economic situation, like many families in our community.  My mom has worked with numerous community organizations but her work has not been paid.

In high school, I participated in plays, dance, speech, special events, youth groups, and our locally elected community council (the ADESCO).

In 2015 I started at the University of El Salvador in a degree program that was not my first choice.  I wanted to start studying and thought I would just switch degrees later.  I decided, however, to transfer to a university closer to home in Chalatenango for both economic reasons and safety considerations.  I am now studying Legal Sciences, which fascinates me.  I would like to defend and help people who need legal services.

I am in my first semester of the Legal Sciences degree at the University of Doctor Andres Bello in Chalatenango.  Sometimes it is hard; sometimes I barely have enough money for a meal and bus fare.  But I am very happy that I have started and I have good grades so far.  I hope I will be able to graduate.  I know it will not be easy but my hope to become a professional and my attitude will help me succeed.

I am also a member of the Network of Defenders of Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights.  I am working to reduce pregnancies at an early age.

Posted in El Salvador | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

St Thomas organizes community breakfast fundraiser for Sister Parish

The Sister Parish committee at St Thomas Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Indiana is fundraising for the next South to North delegation. They hope to invite members from Chichipate, Guatemala to visit in 2020.

The group has found successful ways to combine fundraising, raising awareness, and fun.  In March, the group organized a breakfast fundraiser at the church.  They provided language-matching game sheets, an arts and crafts activity for children, and a display table about the relationship with Chichipate.

The committee regularly includes updates in their church newsletter, including an update about this breakfast event.

Thank you St Thomas for your creativity and dedication!

Typical Guatemalan breakfast, with labels in Maya Q’eqchi’, the language spoken in Chichipate.

Arts and crafts activity for children and youth – make you own quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala.

Breakfast fundraiser at St Thomas.

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FUMC Downers Grove hosts Sister Parish Board

First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove, IL  hosts Sister Parish Board

by Bruce Sherman

The Sister Parish Board members each found their own way to Downers Grove for a 3 day weekend of meetings. We meet in person twice each year because we strongly believe in face to face, and interpersonal relationships. In a way, that face to face dynamic of our board matches the mission of our organization; that establishing long-term friendships between faith communities is very important.

On Thursday evening, Ina and Ray Osborn hosted the group at their house. I wasn’t there yet but spent a lot of time over the weekend as Ina and Ray were actively supporting our schedule and activities. Thank you so much to the two of you, as well as the other congregation members who hosted us as guests.

Gathering with Sister Parish board and members in Downers Grove.

Except for the snow that fell Saturday afternoon and evening, the weather was quite nice, and the folks at the First United Methodist Church made us feel very welcome. We had a nice meeting room with large windows and a good setup for our meeting.

Our SP Board supervises Executive Director Carrie Stengel, and we sure are fortunate to have Carrie with us at Sister Parish. We always look forward to hearing from her as she talks about the health and running of the organization. Past boards have done an amazing job of setting up the structure of Sister Parish, and that makes it easier for everyone to properly track both our financial and human business.

My previous post after our November meeting last year details the work of the board so I won’t repeat that again here.

Twice a year, we meet at churches that have a Sister Parish linkage. I’m beginning to realize that this is more than just a convenience but is essential to the ongoing Sister Parish mission. An SP board meeting is like a three day delegation visit for we board members. We stay in your homes and meet your kids and pets. We reminisce about past delegations and share pictures of our homes and families. We tell stories to each other. We pray together and cry together.

Discussion of documentary “500 Years”.

While we were in Downers Grove, the recent decision by the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church was announced. Most hearing the announcement on Sunday morning were disappointed by the ruling, which likely spells the end of the United part of the Methodist Church. We are disappointed that so many in the United Methodist Church are voting to exclude rather than include. They fight for the old ways and the old rules, rather than embrace a more complete understanding of gender and sexuality.

Doesn’t this turn out to be the Sister Parish Mission as well? We fight to include, not to exclude. We fight the ways of genocide, slavery, and subjugation, and work for humans rights, dignity, and honest well-paid work for those who can. We take care of the sick and the elderly, and fight for justice in all its forms.

After each Sister Parish Board Meeting, I feel like I’ve come back from a delegation. We renew our mission and renew our energy to help Sister Parish grow and thrive. I wish each of you reading this could experience some of that energy in your own lives.

Actually, I do have an idea for one way you can experience this for yourselves. From November 14-23 2019, Sister Parish will host an open delegation to El Salvador and Guatemala.

This will be a great opportunity to see several of the Sister Parish Communities in Central America and help to support Sister Parish as well. The open delegations are set up to be different than a regular delegation visit. I’ll be going this November, and any of you reading this are welcome to join us if you can. For details, visit this link Open Delegation.

Sister and brothers in both the North and the South, I hope we meet on a future delegation, whether a formal one, or simply a warm gathering of Sister Parish folks.

Posted in General, United States | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Week in Sister Parish communities

Sister Parish communities celebrated Holy Week this year with processions, decorative carpets (alfombras), and time with community and family.  Here, we share pictures from a number of our member communities.

Chichipate, Guatemala

Procession through the center of Chichipate community.

Procession through the center of Chichipate community.

Procession over a sawdust carpet in Chichiapte.

Tierra Nueva I and II, Guatemala

Stations of the cross in Tierra Nueva I.

Dying the sawdust for the traditional carpets in Tierra Nueva II.

Carpets for the processions in Tierra Nueva II.

Carpets for the processions in Tierra Nueva I.

Zaragoza (ACOMUJERZA), El Salvador

Procession in Zaragoza.

Carpet in Zaragoza.

St Joan of Arc, Minneapolis, U.S.

Easter carpet in front of St Joan of Arc. “Let’s build bridges, not walls.”

Carpet crew at St Joan of Arc.

Las Margaritas 2, Guatemala

Easter vigil in Las Margaritas 2.

Easter vigil in the new church in Las Margaritas 2.

Fryeburg, Maine, U.S.

Easter carpet designed by church youth.

Posted in El Salvador, Guatemala, United States | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2019 Women’s Day in Guatemala

On March 8, International Women’s Day, members from women’s group in Tierra Nueva I and Tierra Nueva II participated in the annual march in Guatemala City (see picture album).

The march provides a space to advocate for women’s rights and demand an end to violence against women.  Groups participating in the march in Guatemala cover many issues, including labor rights, ending domestic violence and femicide, LGBTQIA rights, denouncing state violence against women, and the link between environmental justice and women’s rights.

This year, March 8 also marked the 2-year anniversary of a fire in a state-run shelter in which 41 young women burned to death, and 15 others were injured, while locked in a room.

Early in the morning on March 8, the offices of the well-known women’s organization Sector de Mujeres were raided, in what the organization has denounced as a clear act of intimidation.  The march changed routes to pass in front of the office as an act of solidarity.

In addition to participating in the march, the members of the women’s group in Tierra Nueva I and Tierra Nueva II look for ways to reach people in their community directly.  This year, they read this poem at mass (Note: the poem contains intense language and images of violence against women).

Reading at mass in Tierra Nueva II.

The women’s group in Tierra Nueva II is supported by their sister church St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community.

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Guatemala members gather for fellowship and learning

In February, Sister Parish members in Guatemala met in Tierra Nueva I and II for the bi-annual representatives meeting. See all photos from the meeting.

Guatemala representatives and staff who participated in the meeting.

During the weekend, representatives learned about the dream of a new land that the founders of Tierra Nueva I and II  had and also about how they have faced recent challenges like violence and a 2015 landslide that destroyed many homes.

Site of the 2015 landslide in the Loma Linda community in Tierra Nueva I.

We also had the chance to worship together, stay with families, and talk about ways to improve our sistering relationships.  Conversations focused on how to improve communication with U.S. churches, as well as communication between the different Guatemala communities who are geographically spread out all over Guatemala.

Walking tour of the communities.

The representatives meetings are a central aspect of Sister Parish, providing learning and travel opportunities for southern members and ensuring that southern members play an active role in the Sister Parish organization as a whole.

Posted in General, Guatemala | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment