By Angelle Hall
“We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.”*
As we enter into Lent, our parish returns to our Lenten Project. Since 2013, our parish has sistered with a community and a Catholic Church in the area called Puerto La Libertad, El Salvador. We may wonder, “Gardens, again?” or “Training youth, again?” Just in case it may seem like the same old, same old project, I thought I would share what makes it different year to year for the people in our sister community.
The area we sister with is comprised of 22 different communities. In the seven years we have sistered, gardens have been planted in seven of those communities. They have made a tremendous impact. Families now have fresh food (especially if they can’t cross rivers during the rainy season), and they can sell the extra and save money for their families. However, there are 15 communities who still have not seen gardens at all.
Youth from the larger area of Puerto La Libertad can receive training, but as we know all too well at Newman, the youth just keep on coming! Even when you train up the teens and college-age students, there are new ones coming behind them. We continue to also give money to the church for vocational scholarships (college, seminary, computer training, trade school). The training and vocational scholarships provided to the youth are very important to practically show how to navigate their lives and avoid becoming connected to gangs.
We have an opportunity this Lent to make all the difference for one more community. This includes several families, empowering them to a healthier life. There are new seeds to plant.
We also continue to water seeds already planted. In 2014, I went to El Salvador (and I’ll be returning at the end of March). Then, the Chilama 2 community that hosted our group shared of dreams for a more permanent Church. The current structure was open to the elements, with a half wall and a roof. They had the donation of land, but the land had to be titled in the Church’s name.
While many of us wanted to do what we could right then and there, Fr. Paul shared that it was the community that needed to work on it. I am thrilled to share that in my communications with Dina, truly a sister in Christ to me, they are building their Church! She told me, “We may not have a table and chairs yet for you to sit on when you come, but we are getting there! One day we will have a holy place for God.” (See the photos in the bottom left.) When I asked her if she needed anything for the religious education of the children (she coordinates sacramental preparation), she said that they did not but emphasized how much they rely on and appreciate our prayers.
We do not just give money or gardens or training. We share our prayers and our friendship and most importantly, our faith. To give every community in our sistering area a garden, it will take 15 more years. However, we can pray for all of them now and know that they pray for us and care for us a great deal.
“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.”*
Join us this Lent as we continue to make a difference, year by year, in Puerto La Libertad.
*(Prayer by Ken Untereiner, attributed to St. Oscar Romero)
To learn more or to donate to the Sister Parish Lenten Project this year, see the display in the Gathering Space or visit www.comonewman.org/lent.