Herald Journal Columns
Aug. 30, 2004 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

It is power to serve, for God is love

By Father Robert Mraz, Holy Family Catholic Church, Silver Lake

Forty-two individuals from Silver Lake, Winsted and Lester Prairie, including four churches, Catholic and Protestant, returned Aug. 12 from a mission trip to the New Ulm Diocese’s mission at San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala. The mission has been staffed and supported by the New Ulm Diocese and the people of Minnesota for the last 40 years.

This may seem a small space in time in the history of the parish. The church of St. Luke (San Lucas) in the village of San Lucas Toliman was built in 1594, a mere 102 years after Columbus discovered America in 1492, 182 years before the founding of our country in 1776, and 26 years before the coming of the pilgrims to Plymouth rock, in 1620.

I was pondering all that happened there in those 410 years – all the people who lived in that parish, those who served, the faith that was shared from one generation to the next for over 400 years so that people still came to that church today, the service and love shared by many whose names are forgotten by time, who changed the lives of the people for generations to come, before we from Minnesota came to San Lucas.

I pondered the work done over the last 40 years by the staff and the many volunteers who came giving their talents, some long term, such as doctors coming for several months, and others short term, such as our group who came for 10 days to give labor to help in site preparation for new houses and a park.

I pondered how we all, in these 40 years, each doing what they could with the talents given them, have changed the future of the people for generations to come.

Forty years ago, there was no resident priest in town and hadn’t been for over a hundred years; there was no memory of any vocations to the priesthood coming from this community, and now there are two ordained from the parish, one ordained a deacon who will be a priest next year, and three more in the seminary to share the faith with the people of Guatemala.

Forty years ago, there was one school in town and a 5 percent literacy rate. Now, there are six elementary schools and four high schools, with 3000 students and a 95 percent literacy rate.

Forty years ago, people were, essentially, surfs living in corn stalk shelters with dirt floors and grass roofs, working the estates of 17 land-owning families who owned most of the land in the country. Now, over 1500 families have one- to three-room homes to live in, with electricity and simple plumbing to keep them from disease, farming three acres of their own land to feed their families and to make an income, or having the ability now to choose other occupations to serve because of their education.

Forty years ago, there was no doctor in town; now, there is a hospital.

Forty years ago, there was not much hope to get out of poverty, to have a chance to live past infancy to an old age, to have self respect and dignity. Now, people are in charge of their lives, they find dignity and hope for the future even in a country with 53 percent unemployment, because individuals from Minnesota and other places gave a helping hand, shared their God given talents, taught the local people how to be in charge and deal with their own problems, and, most of all, shared the faith and love of Jesus with them as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.

The people there love Minnesota because it has given them hope. People from clergy, to professional people, to students and senior citizens have shown them that they are important enough for them to come down to that distant land.

We come and share because we love them and we have much to share, which Christ has given to us in talents, abilities, and time, to give a helping hand to get them started on a road to hope by faith and love shared.

While in Guatemala, a hymn kept running through my mind and I thought how true these words are: “Pan de vita (Bread of life), Cuerpo del Senior (Body of the Lord), Cup of blessing, Blood of Christ, the Lord. At this table, the last shall be first. Poder es sevir (It is power to serve), Porque Dios es amor (For God is love.)”

We all felt the power of love in service change the lives of the people there, as well as change our own for the better. Let us pray that this power of God’s love in service will change the people for the better not only now, but that its effects will touch future generations for the next 410 years of the parish. All those who volunteered to go to help over the past 40 years, as well as those, here, who chose to contribute goods and money to give hope and love, have, thereby, given God’s love in a very real way to these wonderful people, to bring them hope for years to come.