What it Means to be a Sister Parish — By Brother Edward, OP

After a visit to El Salvador this summer by a student, two resident parishioners and myself, St. Thomas More Newman Center has taken the next step in becoming a partner with La Inmaculada Concepcion Parish in La Libertad, a port city on the Pacific coast. The parish is staffed by Father Paul Schindler from the Cleveland Diocese who has been pastor for 42 years. The parish has a central church and 24 chapels in the mountains and by the ocean. The actual size of the parish is bigger than the city of Columbia. He is helped by a Jesuit priest and the people of the parish. The Newman Center has made a five-year commitment to be in solidarity with them. The implications of this commitment are as follows:

Spiritual Solidarity: Members of Newman are invited to enter into a prayer relationship with a family in the parish. There will be an exchange of names, photos if you wish and a commitment to pray for each other. The parish does not want any financial help from us. They pay their own way but would welcome help with a particular project to help the people increase their income to live with greater dignity.

Financial Solidarity: Each year Newman will give $300 to the SHARE Foundation to pay for coordinating services. We need people there to help us with this commitment. The Foundation will find economic development projects in the parish that will be effective and sustaining. We are committed to raise at least $3,000 each year to help with a project. These projects are always cooperatives that produce honey, eggs, fruit, Indigo cloth and clothing, coffee, etc. The annual Lenten project will be the focus of this part of our sisterhood. Another possible way we can help is to sponsor a student that the pastor in the parish there will select because he or she has been a leader among the youth of the parish. The general costs are about $2,000 per academic year.

Physical Solidarity: Depending on the level of interest and ability of people to participate, groups of residents and students will go to El Salvador to learn from first hand experience how other members of the church live their faith in a very different context than our Newman community. This will include living with a family and sharing their daily journey. The SHARE Foundation will coordinate these visits.

This new commitment for the Newman Center is a sign of a deepening of our spiritual desire to be faithful disciples of Jesus who is our salvation. It is my hope that the common faith we share at Newman and at Inmaculada Concepcion Parish will be an opportunity to become more catholic, that is, be in contact with the universal mission of Jesus.