Our trip to Guatemala was a great success! For starters, we made the acquaintance of the new pastor Father Paráclito and Father Francisco, who have taken the helm of Immaculate Conception Church in Chicacao, the town nearest to the village of San Pedro Crutzan at whose school we gave out the uniforms to First Communicants. Padre Francisco it turns out was born and raised in San Pedro! A native priest is a critical connection for all of us.
The pastor and his associate will handle our monetary gifts which, this year, in addition to the bequest for food and medicine, will go toward outfitting the village school for the rainy season—to avoid the interruption of classes; and give Maria Elena, Goods of Conscience’s lead backstrap weaver, a roof for her workshop so that the rains, due in July, won’t interrupt her vital work either. Fr. Paraclito channeled the gift of two crisp dollar bills, the equivalent of a day’s pay in local wages, toward Maria’s workshop making additional pouches for the children. We had 130 children in one of the many schools to distribute the 50 filled satchels we brought down. We divided them up and everyone had something.
We also made some progress toward the overarching goal of Goods of Conscience, that of bringing our two countries and cultures ever closer to together in the context of a genuinely intimate global economy. An initiative both practical and symbolic, Maria Elena agreed to begin using some of our fabric to create simple wallet-like school ID holders attached to straps, for use by the students in San Pedro Crutzan.
This modest production—which also features a smidgen of our trademark reflective thread—marks the first time that Guatemala’s premier cotton fabric will stay at home for the benefit of local consumption! Allow me to put it somewhat grandly: It is a first step, if you will, toward creating a local economy based on the use of quality material and engaging the country’s poorest citizens as both producer and consumer.
That is the real joy and highest purpose of these mission trips—to create ever deeper bonds between Guatemala and the US; to demonstrate that both our nations are part of the Americas, a single entity, famously baptized as such by Blessed John Paul II when he convened the Synod for the Americas! Goods of Conscience is a small player on this grand stage, but—with your steadfast support—we are making a difference, making slow but steady progress to connecting the old and the new worlds, the poor and the rich.
The trip was also another opportunity to meet with our host and benefactor, Dutch-born Mario van Blerk, who as usual gave us a generous welcome and treated us to a great time, including a speedboat tour off the Guatemalan coast that afforded a peak at a darker dimension of the proximity of our countries: the rows of multi-million dollar villas, tucked away along the rugged coast line, belonging to drug smugglers depending on El Norte for their bloodstained livelihood. It stands in sad contrast to Guatemala’s strikingly American spirit, what with the people’s love of jeans and Texas-style cowboy hats, and the predominance of old US school buses in use for mass transit, to mention a few visual clues.
Mr. Van Blerk’s daughter Karen is married to Jaime Abascal, whose family hosted our group for three nights on their farm in Chicacao. Mr. Van Blerk’s daughter Astrid, by coincidence, is married to Joe Bachich. Joe's brother Mike Bachich was a parishioner during my time at Holy Trinity. At the time, Mike was dying of cancer. Through my time spent with Mike, I got to know the extended family. I had just come back from a retreat in Guatemala and had the idea for Social Fabric. Astrid spoke to her father who began to make the connections... and so the story began, a story we are continuing to write, together; it is a glorious tale that is driven by your support!
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