By Rev. Joseph Uecker, C.PP.S
ODESSA. On February 6 at 5:12 a.m. six people from the Catholic Churches of South Odessa took off from Midland for Houston and San Pedro Sula, Honduras for our first contact with our sister parish: La Exaltación de la Santa Cruz en Baracoa. We arrived around noon and when we cleared immigration and customs, there were some 10 people in two trucks to welcome us and take us to Baracoa, which is some 40 miles north of San Pedro Sula.
Luz and Alicia Gomez and Diana Madero stayed in the upper room of one home, while Robert Olivas, José Díaz and Fr. Joseph Uecker, C.PP.S. stayed with another family. Immediately after arriving in Baracoa, we were treated to shish-kebob and rice at the parish center, a small, rented building next to the parish church. The hospitality was supreme. We could not have received a warmer welcome had we been in the entourage of the pope.
The parish is divided into four sectors. The day after our arrival we began to visit the sectors. Travel in that part of Honduras is an adventure. Usually there were 10-15 people in the truck. The roads are so bad that Fr. Melvin Cantarero said that he has to buy new tires for the truck every 3-6 months. When we arrived at an aldea, the people would be gathered and they would give us a warm welcome and tell us about their community. Then we would also speak so they could get to know us a little. After that we would celebrate the Eucharist on most occasions. For them, this was their monthly Eucharist because there were 53 small communities and the priests could get to each community only once a month.
We had the opportunity to be with Bishop Angel Garanchana. On Saturday we went to San Pedro Sula for the ordination of four transitional deacons. It was a joyous diocesan celebration that filled the cathedral to overflowing. Then on Sunday morning, the Bishop came to Baracoa for the confirmation of 57 young people. That too was a joyous celebration. There were probably as many people outside as inside for that celebration.
It was during the Confirmation Mass that Bishop Angel announced to the people that the Parochial Vicar, Fr. Tadeo, was about to be moved to a different parish. He had been ordained in October and had spent his diaconate year in Baracoa. Evidently Fr. Melvin and the people trained him well because the Bishop had confidence in him to give him more responsibility.
The plan for the future is for a seminarian to reside in Baracoa and help in the pastoral ministry. This young man has finished his studies. He will then be ordained deacon in February of 2008 and a priest later that year.
On Monday we had some time off and went to the sea. Some friends had a home there and we were able to take advantage of it for a few hours. The sea is a beautiful blue, salty and warm. That evening the people gave us a warm send-off, making us promise to return. We all hope we can keep that promise and return in the near future.
During our visit, we were always referred to as the missionaries from Texas. And that defines the reason for our visit. We were sent by the people of the Catholic churches of South Odessa to be the pioneers in the new relationship between our communities. Several times we said: “Thank God for Hurricane Mitch. Not that we want the Honduran people to suffer the ravages of the hurricane, but thank God for the good that has come of it. Had the hurricane not happened, there would probably be no relationship between San Angelo and San Pedro Sula. But as it is, friendships have been formed and we are already thinking about when the next visit will be and who will go.
It is very evident that the Churches of San Angelo and San Pedro Sula are different and that is to be expected as we are different peoples. But our one faith and one worship unites us on the deepest possible level, whether in Baracoa or in Odessa. We hope to learn from each other and to help each other according to our means and according to our needs.
We encourage others to take the plunge and become associated with some parish in the Diocese of San Pedro Sula.