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

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.

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Re-thinking mission

Within Sister Parish, we are often looking for resources that help explain our model to new people.  As we try to recruit for delegations or share our experiences with friends and family, it can be hard to explain.  Sometimes we do not know how to respond to the questions, “How was your trip?” or “But what do you do on a Sister Parish delegation?” when people are expecting to hear about a more traditional mission model.

Below are a number of articles about re-thinking mission trips and delegations.  The articles challenge our thinking and invite us to further reflection.  The authors encourage us to place relationships at the center, to receive as well as to give, to acknowledge our privilege and responsibility to others, and to learn from and support movements for justice in the countries we visit and at home, while recognizing how interconnected we are.

Long-term relationships are the heart of Sister Parish.  We also believe that reflection before, during and after a delegation is an essential part of the transformative experience. We hope these articles will be helpful in bringing in new people, as well as in supporting a process of further reflection for those already involved.

Things No One Tells You About Going on Short-Term Mission Trips
“Developing countries do not need short-term heroes. They need long-term partners….Please don’t stop taking short-term missing trips, but do consider helping your team understand that how we do short-term mission trips may, in fact, matter more than what we do.”

American Rabbis Visit Guatemala to Support Human Rights Advocates
“I am bringing back a sense that what happens here matters at home—and what happens at home matters here,” said Rabbi Michael Knopf of Temple Beth El in Richmond, Virginia. “We’re intertwined on levels we don’t fully appreciate or understand. And because we’re interconnected, we have a deep responsibility to one another.”

Rethinking that mission trip to Guatemala
“Let’s not merely offer our thoughts and prayers. Let’s offer solidarity and advocacy that give feet to our prayers. Let’s rethink that mission trip.”

The Cost of Short-Term Mission
“Short – term missions are expensive…But short – term missions can be worth every penny if they mark the beginning of a long-term relationship. Money invested in learning about the causes of poverty in developing nations – and what can be done – is money well spent.”

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Encuentro del Sur y Caminata de Solidaridad en El Salvador

English

En diciembre, miembros de las comunidades centroamericanas de Iglesias Hermanas se reunieron para compartir sus experiencias, recibir capacitación y hacer planificación para el futuro.

Los miembros se reunieron en San Salvador para visitar los sitios históricos, incluyendo la catedral y el Hospital La Divina Providencia, donde San Romero vivió y fue asesinado mientras celebraba la misa.

Después del recorrido, las comunidades de Guarjila y Los Ranchos recibieron al grupo para un fin de semana de talleres sobre migración, gestión de proyectos y estrategias para fortalecer nuestros hermanamientos.

Les agradecemos a todos los que hicieron posible este Encuentro del Sur. Los encuentros son una parte importante de nuestro trabajo de fortalecer los hermanamientos y asegurar que son de beneficio mutuo. Los encuentros brindan oportunidades de aprendizaje y de viaje a los miembros del sur, crean una comunidad más allá de las fronteras y aseguran que las comunidades del sur participen en las decisiones sobre el futuro de la organización. Estamos especialmente agradecidos a las comunidades anfitrionas Guarjila y Los Ranchos, a los donantes individuales y a International Partners in Mission (IPM) por sus aportes al encuentro de este año.

Posted in caminata de solidaridad, El Salvador, Encuentro Sur, Español, Guatemala | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Southern Encounter and Solidarity Walk in Central America

Español

In December, members of the Sister Parish Central American communities gathered for fellowship, training and organizational planning.

The members met in San Salvador for a tour of the historical sites there, including the cathedral and La Divina Providencia Hospital, where Saint Romero served and was assassinated while celebrating mass.

After the tour, the communities of Guarjila and Los Ranchos hosted the group for a weekend of workshops on migration, project management, and strategies for strengthening our sistering relationships.

Thank you to everyone who made this gathering possible. The encounters are a central part of our organization’s work to maintain healthy, mutually beneficial relationships.  The gatherings provide learning and travel opportunities for southern community members, create community across borders, and ensure that the southern communities participate in building the organization’s future.  We are especially grateful to the host communities Guarjila and Los Ranchos, individual donors, and International Partners in Mission for their contributions to this year’s gathering.

Posted in El Salvador, Guatemala, Solidarity Walks, southern encounter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

People of Hope hosts Sister Parish Board

by Bruce Sherman

Chilly Weather greeted the Northern Board of Sister Parish when we met for our November meeting. In spite of the weather, we received a warm welcome from the members of the People of Hope church in Rochester, Minnesota.

I’m a member of Wallingford United Methodist Church in Seattle. Our sister relationship for the last 19 years is with Guarjila, El Salvador. I am starting my second year on the board, and so the mission and work of the board is becoming more clear.

People of Hope took us on a tour of the land behind the church that has a guided nature walk and talked to us about their efforts at environmental preservation and education.

We met in a meeting room at People of Hope Church on Friday morning, beginning with prayer and reflection from Pastor Dan. Nancy Wiens lead us through our planned agenda and we approved minutes from the last meeting before turning our attention to Carrie Stengel. Carrie, our Executive Director, lives in Guatemala and is the beating heart of our organization.

Carrie shares with us the state of the organization. She talks about how Sister Parish has done, and how she expects it to do over the next year and beyond. We also hear about our wonderful local representatives. While we converse throughout the year, our in-person board meetings are our best opportunity to understand the organization.

After Carrie we hear from board President Maria Van Der Maaten. Maria has taken over the board president position from Nancy, and is doing a great job of leading us, finishing her PhD, and having a baby, all since she joined the board. The rest of us check in with our various areas of responsibility. Development, Finances, Human Resources, and Strategic Planning. There were others too, even on just the first day of our meeting.

We took a break for a tasty hot lunch prepared by members of People of Hope Church, and joined a regular Friday lunch fellowship. A highlight for all of us is meeting members of the local churches who belong to Sister Parish. Their support of their own linkage, and Sister Parish overall, is impressive, but we also get to have a look at the more local missions of the church. I really enjoy this aspect of being on the board, and I think it’s important for all of us.

Friday afternoon continues with committee report, and discussion of our future travel plans and the Special Fundraiser that is just concluding. We have scheduled Skype appointments with both of our staff members, which were informative and went well. The days meeting was closed with prayer, and we adjourned to dinner at the People’s Food Cooperative followed by an invigorating walk in downtown Rochester.

Saturday’s business was more focused on future planning. Luis has led us through a Strategic Planning process over the last year as we focus our energy and grow our organization.

People of Hope Lutheran is located on a sizable plot of land, which includes a stretch of wooded hills behind the church. We gingerly climbed the hill through the snow and got a tour of the church’s work in restoring the hillside to a more natural flora. Such a pretty place and knowing more about it made it even better.

We spent more time in afternoon in calls to Southern Directiva representatives. Skype does make it easier to say in touch. Saturday evening was capped by a fabulous dinner out in the countryside at the home of church members. Their huge dining room accommodated 20 or so people from both Sister Parish and the church. The food was delicious and plentiful. Once again, the fellowship with People of People of Hope was a highlight of the weekend.

While the temperature dipped below zero overnight on Saturday, the warmth of our welcome melted any possibility of cold. We met in fellowship, doing the work of Sister Parish.

We worked with SP staff and volunteers, and worshiped with the People of Hope on Sunday morning before going our separate ways. Once again, Sister Parish promotes harmony between North and South, but even more, Sister Parish focuses us in our missions right here at home by bringing us together.

A community dinner with Sister Parish supporters.

Sister Parish Board of Directors – Mike, Carrie (Executive Director), Nancy, Cathy, Bruce, Maria and Luis.

Just like on our delegations, board members stay in homestays during our board meetings.

People of Hope’s Open Table ministry delivers delicious burritos to numerous locations in Rochester.

The board participated in the weekly Bible Study at People of Hope.

Board meetings give us the opportunity to re-connect with old friends.

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Nurturing Relationship from Afar

by Danville Congregational Church Sister Parish Committee, originally published in  church newsletters.

The Sister Parish Committee continues to nurture our relationship with The Catholic Community of San Antonio in the Quiche region of Guatemala. While a challenging political climate in both Guatemala and the US makes it difficult to visit each others’ communities in person this year, there are many activities we can embrace that will help us to stay connected.

DCC’s visit to San Antonio is 2016.

Second hour presentation between services

DCC’s Outreach Commission and Sister Parish Committee are honored to sponsor a special 2nd hour presentation on Nov 4 at 11am. Our guest speakers, Zuleika Godinez, Policy Coordinator for the Ensuring Opportunity Campaign and Linda Reeve, West Coast Director for The Aid and Education Project, Inc. will share the work they are doing at home and abroad to create opportunities to lift communities out of poverty.

The Ensuring Opportunity Campaign is a long-term effort to cut poverty in Contra Costa County by raising awareness and addressing the systemic and structural causes of poverty. Ensuring Opportunity is a joint initiative of the Family Economic Security Partnership, the Contra Costa Safety Net Task Force, the Human Services Alliance, and the Multi-Faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, working collaboratively with concerned community members to promote a common mission to reduce poverty in Contra Costa County. Together, these four coalitions represent more than 100 public and private agencies and 50 congregations, which collectively serve thousands of Contra Costa residents.

The Aid and Education Project, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to promoting Education, Health, and Cultural Preservation in indigenous communities in Guatemala and Mexico. The organization has no political or religious affiliations. Education and cultural preservation programs include Scholarships, Maya Cultural Education / Vacation School, development of Maya themed educational materials, and Special Programs for Women and Girls. Health programs include Vitamin Program and Checkups & Medical Care for Students with Scholarships.

Student care packages

As our Deacons prepare to send care packages for DCC’s college students, they’ve expressed interest in a similar effort to provide care packages for graduating middle school students in San Antonio. It’s both an honor and a challenge to continue on to high school in Guatemala, so it would be a wonderful outreach for DCC to recognize those students. More will follow in the coming weeks on that effort.

Christmas cards

Last year, we sent Christmas cards to families in San Antonio, and this outreach was very much appreciated. Our friends there are encouraged to know that we are keeping them in our prayers. It’s never too early to pull out your extra stash of cards from last year, write a few notes of encouragement (messages in English will be translated) and drop off the unsealed cards at coffee hour. We’ll make sure they get packaged up and sent on to San Antonio.

Alternative delegation

Finally, while the folks in San Antonio are not able to host a delegation from Danville this year, we are exploring other options for meeting at an alternate location closer to Guatemala City to spend time together in community.

By putting ourselves in the reality of others and by building an interdependent community of brothers and sisters within and among countries, we will promote mutual respect and dignity for all people, advocate for human rights, and work for social and economic justice for all.

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Se celebra la canonización de San Romero

English

En El Salvador, las comunidades celebraron la canonización de San Oscar Romero el 14 de octubre. Miles de personas, incluyendo los representantes de Iglesias Hermanas, se reunieron en la plaza central de San Salvador y en todo el país para unirse a las celebraciones.

En una homilía en San Salvador antes de la canonización, el Padre José María Tojeira dijo: “No veneramos a un cadáver, sino a alguien que está vivo”. Enfatizó que seguir los pasos de San Romero implica seguir luchando hacia la transformación de la sociedad hasta que todo ser humano tenga acceso al agua, la vivienda, la educación, la salud y el trabajo.

Representante de Iglesias Hermanas en El Salvador, Julieta Borja, escribió: “Querida familia de Iglesias Hermanas, no hay palabras para expresar todos los sentimientos y la alegría que sentimos, cuán grande es esto y cuánto significa esto para finalmente encontrar justicia y paz en nuestro país. Gracias por ser solidarios y por ser testigos del amor y la luz que San Romero nos llama a seguir “.

Abajo se encuentran fotos compartidas entre representantes de Iglesias Hermanas durante las celebraciones.

 

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Saint Romero celebrated in El Salvador

Español

In El Salvador, communities celebrated the canonization of Saint Oscar Romero the weekend of October 14.  Thousands, including SP member communities, gathered in the central square in San Salvador and throughout the country to join in celebrations.

In a homily in San Salvador before the canonization, Father José María Tojeira said, “We are not worshiping a cadaver, we worship someone who is alive.”  He emphasized that, to truly follow the example of Saint Romero, people must continue to work toward transformation to create a society in which all people have the right to water, housing, education, health, and work.

Sister Parish staff in El Salvador, Julieta Borja, wrote, “To all in the Sister Parish family, there are no words to express all of the feelings and the joy we feel, how big this is and how much this means for finally finding justice and peace in our country. Thank you for being in solidarity and for being witnesses of the love and the light that San Romero calls us to follow.”

Below are pictures and video shared by Sister Parish representatives during the celebrations.

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To be seen

by Katharine Malaga

The aroma of fresh tamales and apple pie filled St Joan of Arc’s Hospitality Hall for the annual Sister Parish dinner and fund raiser.

“Its so good to see you!” said many of our fellow travelers to Guatemala said.

“It’s good to be seen,” Ross said after three bear hugs.

I piled Ross’s plate with two tamales de elote (corn tamales), rice, black beans, and cole slaw. Every bite brought memories of Guatemalan families and the homes where we had stayed. As he ate, several parishioners came to our table. “We remember the wonderful retreat you led.” That was in March of 2010, a month before his stroke. “We still recite the prayer you wrote.” That was also in March of 2010. “We remember the talks you gave,” they said.

Here, in this hermandad, this relationship of solidarity, between St Joan of Arc in Minneapolis and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guatemala, Ross is not an invisible person walking with a cane and struggling with speech. They “see” him. This is the value of solidarity with others: we see and are seen.

Katharine and Ross with Eluvia and Paty from Tierra Nueva II in 2015.

Posted in Guatemala, United States | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment