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

Encuentro del Sur y Caminata de Solidaridad en El Salvador


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


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.

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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


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


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

Tamales and Solidarity – St Joan of Arc activities between delegations

St Joan of Arc Catholic Community hosts a number of events each year between delegations to involve more people in the Sister Parish relationship.  The focus is on reflection, fun and family-friendly activities.

Tamalada – October 5
A tamalada is a traditional communal event where people gather to share the work of making lots of tamales. Our intrepid team assembled over 100 tamales in preparation for the Sister Parish-sponsored Guatemalan dinner and movie night. Everyone had a task, from washing banana leaves and cooking masa to assembly-line preparation and wrapping of the tamales. Who knew that making tamales is almost as fun as eating them?

Guatemalan Dinner & Movie Night – October 12
But eat them we did! Over 60 people gathered at SJA the following week to dine on delicious Guatemalan tamales and watch the animated film Coco. Adults shared fellowship and kids brought their pillows and stuffed animals for movie-watching. One attendee, Katharine Malaga, shared her perspective of the event.

Preparing tamales for the dinner and movie night at St Joan of Arc.

Making corn dough for tamales with Maseca.

Solidarity Walk – October 21
On a recent sunny Sunday morning, parishioners gathered for a high-energy Solidarity Walk in the St. Joan of Arc neighborhood with several stops for reflection and prayer. We lifted up our almost-25-year relationship with our Sister Parish in Tierra Nueva Dos (TNII), Guatemala, and we carried a banner covered with parishioners’ signatures and well-wishes collected after both masses. Our time together was filled with remembrances of our TNII family, mindful discussions about “who is our family,” and joyful songs with beautiful trumpet and guitar accompaniment.

Music brings people together – Solidarity Walk 2018.

Stations for reflection along the Solidarity Walk route.

St Joan of Arc Solidarity Walk crew – 2018.

Annual Sister Parish Retreat – September 29
Members of the Sister Parish committee gather annually to reflect on the meaning of their long-term relationship with Tierra Nueva II in Guatemala.  This year the half-day retreat included guest speaker is Dr. Bernie Evans, an esteemed educator and author who spoke of “Christian Hope in Challenging Times”.

Retreat attendees with guest speaker.

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Llamados a vivir vidas de acción


Presentación en Sta Juana de Arco sobre la delegación de agosto de 2018
por Sarah Gant

Mi nombre es Sarah Gant, y he asistido a Sta Juana de Arco durante los últimos cinco  años. Empecé a asistir a esta parroquia debido a su espíritu de inclusión y su impulso para  conectar los valores fundamentales del Evangelio de manera relevante en nuestro mundo. Después de las elecciones de 2016, me sentí consternado por los crecientes incidentes de un discurso de odio y la retórica racista en nuestro país, particularmente por aquellos en el poder. Como maestra de escuela primaria en un distrito con muchos estudiantes inmigrantes e hijos de inmigrantes, la idea de que estos estudiantes recibieran el mensaje de que eran menos, o no deseados, que su país no les pertenecía a ellos era una molestia particular. Sentí el deseo de abogar por mis alumnos y sus familias más allá de las paredes de mi aula, lo que me llevó a unirme al Ministerio Bienvenido al Extraño aquí en Sta Juana de Arco. Allí aprendí más sobre el hermanamiento entre SJA y Tierra Nueva II.

Dinámicas con los jóvenes becados y el grupo juvenil.

Fui uno de los nueve delegados de SJA que viajamos a Guatemala en agosto. Pasamos nuestros días en Guatemala en la comunidad de nuestro hermanamiento, incluso participando en su clase de aeróbicos para mujeres, donde nos enseñaron Zumba, y les enseñamos el “Baile del pollo”. Nos recibieron en los hogares de los feligreses, algunos de los cuales habían visitado previamente a Santa Juana de Arco como miembros pasados ​​de las delegaciones de Sur a Norte. Durante la semana, tuvimos la oportunidad de explorar el bello país de Guatemala y tuvimos la bendición de contar con dos miembros de nuestro hermanamiento que se unieron a nosotros en el viaje entre semana. En la ciudad de Guatemala, visitamos la Casa de la Memoria, que contó la historia del genocidio y la resistencia de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala desde la colonización hasta el reciente conflicto armado y la desaparición de líderes indígenas y comunidades enteras por parte de su gobierno y militares. El tiempo que pasamos en este museo nos impactó a todos, en particular a los miembros guatemaltecos de nuestro grupo que visitaron el museo por primera vez.

La misma tarde que visitamos el museo, recibí inesperadas noticias de la casa de la muerte de un miembro de la familia. Cuando nos reunimos esa noche para reflexionar sobre nuestro día, me sentí muy conmovida tanto por mi pérdida personal como por la frustración del privilegio no ganado que significaba que de manera tan fácil pudimos visitar sus museos y aprender sobre su historia cuando tantas personas en su propia comunidad nunca han tenido la oportunidad. Las emociones de la noche se profundizaron cuando los miembros guatemaltecos de nuestra delegación compartieron sus experiencias durante la guerra. Cuando nos abrazamos a través de nuestras lágrimas, ya no estaba segura si lloraba por mi pérdida o por su pérdida o por una combinación de las pérdidas que todos enfrentamos como miembros de la humanidad. Las líneas entre nosotros y ellos se habían difuminado, de modo que ya no estaba segura de dónde terminaba nosotros ni dónde empezaban ellos, y fue en ese momento que realmente experimenté el poder de lo que significa estar juntas como hermanas en hermanos en solidaridad.

Excursión entre semana acompañados por miembros del hermanamiento.

Aprendí en Guatemala que la gente de la comunidad no necesita las ideas, la mano de obra ni ningún tipo de “salvación” de la gente de los Estados Unidos. Pasamos diez días conectándonos con activistas inspiradores, grupos de mujeres, sacerdotes, maestros, jóvenes y familias, y agricultores que enseñan métodos agrícolas sostenibles, todo con el objetivo común de crear un futuro mejor para su país. Mi capacidad limitada de hablar español me obligó a escuchar más que a hablar, y lo que escuché de la gente estaba lleno de esperanza y fortaleza. Lo que la gente de nuestro hermanamiento realmente necesita es nuestra amistad, amor y solidaridad, dones que también necesitamos de ellos, y que yo y los demás miembros de nuestra delegación tuvimos la bendición de recibir durante nuestro tiempo en su comunidad.

Les animo a que hagan de este año el año en que salgan de su zona de comodidad y prueben algo nuevo. Mi tiempo involucrado en los ministerios de fe y justicia no siempre ha sido cómodo, pero descubrí que generalmente es en estos momentos en que me siento más incómodo o a la defensiva que tengo mi mayor aprendizaje.

Al final de la exposición en la Casa de la Memoria en Guatemala los visitantes pasan por un espejo con la cita “Tú también eres protagonista de esta historia”. Participar en los ministerios de Santa Juana de Arco me ayuda a recordarme que estamos llamados a vivir vidas de acción, ya que cada uno de nosotros juega nuestro pequeño papel en la historia de la construcción del reino de Dios en nuestro mundo.

Sarah y dos lideresas del Grupo de Mujeres.


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

The call to live lives of action


Pre-mass speech at St Joan of Arc Catholic Community
by Sarah Gant (delegate in 2018)

My name is Sarah Gant, and I’ve been attending SJA for the past five years. I was drawn to this parish because of its spirit of inclusivity and its drive to connect the core Gospel values in relevant ways to our world. After the 2016 election, I was dismayed by the rising incidents of hate speech and racist rhetoric in our country, particularly by those in power. As an elementary school teacher in a district with many immigrant students and children of immigrants, I was particularly bothered by the idea of these students receiving the message that they were less than, unwelcome, that their country did not equally belong to them. I felt a desire to advocate for my students and their families beyond the walls of my classroom, which led to my joining the Welcome the Stranger Ministry here at St. Joan of Arc. There I learned more about the SJA sister parish relationship. I was one of nine SJA delegates who traveled Guatemala in August.

Our days in Guatemala were spent in the Sister Parish community, even participating in their women’s aerobics class, where they taught us Zumba, and we taught them the “Chicken Dance.” We were welcomed into parishioners’ homes, some who had previously visited Saint Joan of Arc as past members of South to North delegations. During the week, we had the opportunity to explore greater Guatemala, and were very blessed to have two members of our Sister Parish join us on our travels. In Guatemala City, we visited the Memory Museum, which told the story of the genocide and resistance of the indigenous people of Guatemala from colonization through the recent Civil War and the disappearing of indigenous leaders and entire communities by its government and military. We were all very impacted by our time in this museum, particularly the Guatemalan members of our group who were both visiting this museum for the first time. The same afternoon we visited the museum, I received the unexpected news from home of the death of a family member. As we gathered together that night to reflect upon our day, I was feeling very emotional from both my personal loss and from the frustration of the unearned privilege that came from us so easily being able to visit their museums and learn about their history when so many in their own community have never had the opportunity. The emotions of the night deepened as the Guatemalan members of our delegation shared their experiences during the war. As we embraced through our tears, I was no longer certain if I was crying for my loss or their loss or some combination of the losses we all face together as members of humanity. The lines between us and them had blurred so that I was no longer sure where I left off and they began, and it was at that moment that I truly experienced the power of what it means to be together as sisters in brothers in solidarity.I learned in Guatemala that the people of the community do not need the ideas, manpower, or any sort of “saving” from the people of the United States. Our ten days were spent connecting with inspiring activists, women’s groups, priests, teachers, youth and families, and farmers teaching sustainable agricultural methods, all with a common goal of creating a brighter future for their country. My limited Spanish speaking abilities forced me to listen more than to speak, and what I heard from the people was full of hope and strength. What the people of our Sister Parish truly need is our friendship, love, and solidarity, gifts that we also need from them, and that myself and the other members of our delegation were so blessed to receive during our time in their community.

I encourage you to make this the year that you step out of your comfort zone and try something new. My time involved in faith and justice ministries has not always been comfortable, but I’ve found that it’s usually at these moments when I am feeling the most uncomfortable or defensive that I am doing my greatest learning.

The Memory Museum in Guatemala ended with a mirror that guests walked by that had the quote, “Tu tambien eres protagonista de esta historia” (“You are also a protagonist in this story.”) Participating in the ministries of St. Joan of Arc helps to remind me that we are called to live lives of action as we each play our small part in the story of building the kingdom of God in our world.


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