Mariannhill Missionaries, are living here in Bogota, diocese of Soacha, in the
area of the future parish to be entrusted to us people are always asking when we
are going to start with the parish. As the official day when the Bishop will
entrust to us the parish has been postponed, we answered the cry of the people
and decided to celebrate Mass in the close and fenced compound where our house
is located. We did it more as neighbors than as future parish priests.
When the time for
Mass arrived we went, with more expectation than devotion, to the community Hall
that is in each fenced compound. As we enter the community Hall we realized
that everything was ready, a table with altar cloth, flowers, chairs and
religious pictures were all there but not even one person. Suddenly we were
shocked by the sound of the Siren that is activated only when an emergency
happens and we went out to see what the happening was. What we saw were other
people, even the police, looking around and asking what the danger was. To the
surprise of all, even of us, the person in charge of security said that as
there are no bells to call people to Mass he used the Sirens instead.
When people realized
that it was not a joke, they hurried up to get ready while announcing others
community Hall, that can accommodate hardly 100 people, was soon packed. No waste
of time asking people to stand up for reading or signing, they came upon their
own offering themselves. All was ready and soon Mass started. The time of
preaching was more a time of information and sharing of our plans for the
future than of explaining the Gospel’s day.
After Mass there was
time for more talking and greeting; people showed their happiness for having
Priests among them. At the time of departure an old lady approached us with
tears in her eyes apologizing for not bringing along some money for the
offering, but we told her that her tears are the best offering she can made…and
her face changed to an smiling one.
This was a good
preparation for us before taking charge of the Parish, officially done on
Sunday when the Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord.
The Bishop came
early in the morning to our house and picked us, Fr. Marco Saavedra and myself,
and together we went to the place where the future parish will be. Some friends
of Mariannhill and one of our candidates accompanied us too.
People were there
and as we entered the tiny chapel people looked at us with such expressions on
their faces that it was difficult to guess what was going on in their minds.
Bishop started Mass and after the liturgical greeting he greeted again the
community in a more human way. The Bishop being aware that in areas of this
kind usually appear fake priests that take advantage of the deep religious
feelings of people and celebrate Mass and sacraments in order to get their
stipends and benefits, told the people that he - as Bishop- brought today here
two Priest who will be entrusted with the pastoral care of this place and the
people of this area. You people can be secure and you can trust them; they do
not come here by themselves but they are brought here by your Bishop. He then
spoke about the Missionaries of Mariannhill and asked each one of us to
introduce ourselves. Applauses followed and people’s expressions were as many
and different as themselves.
The tiny chapel
can accommodate at the most 300 people and the Bishop told them that in the
boundaries of the parish can live more than 100 000 thousand. But it is not the
number that counts, what counts are the serious need of more Priests and
invited the people to pray to the Lord for more priests. He took him- he said-
three years until everything was settled down to bring the two Missionaries of
Mariannhill to his diocese and considers it a great gift of God. Now, you
priests and community have to work together and united to the Diocese in order
to live and preach the love of God to everyone living around the parish.
At this moment,
looking at the people around us we easily imagined the realities of their lives
and of the lives of the people living in this area. The majority of them are
displaced people chased away from their villages who reached the city to find
security and work. Both things are very precarious. They brought along what
they managed or what were allowed to carry; some of them even brought along the
religious statues of the chapels of their villages that are now a kind of
store-decorating article in this chapel. Many of them live in very small,
simple and poor houses. These physical conditions affect the normal relation of
the members of the family, vey extended one, living there.
The young people
who do not find work soon get involved in drugs and prostitution or get
abducted by violent gangs. The old ones who cannot work anymore have to remain
at their houses because outside they get lost, find no place where to go and
have no other people to trust to. Loneliness and fear are for them the most
common companions in their life. The Church can be for them they only place
where they find themselves at easy.
When Mass was
over, people waited for us outside. In front of the Church some people were
selling hot coffee and small things to eat in order to get funds for building
the Church. One has to make an effort to understand and accept that people who
have not enough to eat still save some money to build a Church. The reason
being that the Church is for them a place where they meet with their brothers
and sisters and all with God. Only in this relation they can find the peace
they miss and need.
They went home
filled with happiness promising to come for Mass next Sunday, the Sunday of
Pentecost. We also went hope filled with expectations, promising them that we
will be here next Sunday, the Sunday of Pentecost to celebrate Mass and to ask
for the Spirit that we will need to serve these people as they deserve.
May the Holy
Spirit come and guide us.