Our parish, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, began exploring the establishment of a parish-to-parish relationship in Guatemala in 2009. This was an outgrowth of the sister Diocese relationship that the Diocese of Metuchen has had with the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Guatemala since 2004.
This is an Invitation to Join the Guatemala Partnership ministry team: Our diocesan partners in Santa Rosa, Guatemala have requested the support of St. Bernard parish to implement a water project in the village of Nueva Candelaria. Might you be interested?
- We are looking for people who are open to learning about water, the environment, and cultural issues (high school and above).
- Spanish or use of Google Translate is helpful.
- Time commitment is approx. 2-3 hours per month; one hour to SKYPE with Guatemalan partners (water engineer in Guatemala, Santa Rosa diocesan team for the project, community leaders); one hour to meet with St. Bernard team members; other time to put documents into Google Translate & share.
Please contact KarenCastellon@optonline.net or text to 908-240-9941 if you are interested in learning more.
Background: The Guatemala Partnership has been in place since 2010 when the first travel team visited the diocese of Santa Rosa. In August, Karen and Ted Castellon visited Nueva Candelaria and met a team of village representatives who said, “Water is a vital liquid for us. None of us gets water to our home. In fact, we (the women and girls) have to carry it from a central point in town and many of them cross the highway to get the water back home. It is dangerous and takes a lot of time.”
A second focus of the Water Project is Indigenous Culture. This community is inhabited by persons who were displaced by the internal civil war that ended in 1996 in Guatemala. As a result, the residents are from 4 different indigenous communities and they want to retain and pass on their cultural heritage to the next generation. However, the problem is their cultural roots are deteriorating as the children resist learning and are often made fun of for expressing their heritage in their clothing and celebrations. The community leaders expressed a deep and abiding interest in passing on their cultural traditions and keeping them alive in their present day community. Getting water more quickly and efficiently will allow the villagers to turn their attention to building pride in their heritage.
Pope Francis says, “Do you think for the poor, feel the poor, do something for the poor? Ask them to give you wisdom?”
This is an opportunity to do just that.
In December, the Advent Stewardship Tree has some ornaments to support the
Guatemala Scholarship Program.
In 2008, the youth of the diocese visited Guatemala and moved by the circumstances of the children and families, began a scholarship program to promote education as a long-term investment in the community. The parishioners of St. Bernard currently sponsor 10 children and their families in the diocese of Santa Rosa, Guatemala, as part of the diocesan relationship with the diocese of Metuchen. Thank you to everyone who also supported the Scholarship Program by purchasing a Fair Trade product: Guatemalan scarf, table runner, nativity set, coffee, chocolate or other goodies. For more information, contact Karen via email at KarenCastellon@optonline.net or at 908-240-9941.
If you chose an ornament from the Advent Giving tree for the Guatemala Scholarship program, please make checks payable to “St. Bernard” or to “Catholic Charities” with a note – “Guate Child.” Checks may be placed in the basket in the Narthex or in the collection baskets.
If you want to mail a check directly to Catholic Charities, the address is: Catholic Charities / Guatemala Scholarship, 56 Throop Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Alternately, Guatemala Scholarship donations can be made electronically at: http://ccsolidarity.org/donate. In the drop-down box, choose “Catholic Charities Solidarity Team” and in the notes section, “Guatemala Scholarship”.
Thank you for your generous support of these children and their families, whose brief bios and Christmas cards will be featured at Donut Sunday on December 21st. Feliz Navidad!
Several St. Bernard parishioners traveled to Guatemala in the summer of 2008 with the diocese of Metuchen Youth Ministry. Inspired by their visit, these pilgrims invited our parishioners to sponsor some very poor children in Santa Rosa and provide them with school supplies, food and clothing so that they could afford to attend school. Our Sunday catechism classes were also actively involved in a service project to benefit Guatemala.
In 2010 St. Bernard was represented by delegations of parishioners in March and in December to meet with the people of Cuilapa, the capital of the region of Santa Rosa in Guatemala. Among other things, they met the people of El Sauce, a village within Cuilapa, which was identified as a potential partner that we could support in building a permanent and healthy water source system. They also had discussions and shared a potluck dinner with the Parish Council of the Cathedral of the Holy Child (Catedral El Nino Dios) in Cuilapa.
St. Bernard’s participates on the leadership team of the diocesan-wide Catholic Charities Solidarity Team (CCST), which has a mission “to engage Metuchen parishes, institutions and individuals in the work of global solidarity, comprehensive immigration reform and human development.” For more information, see www.ccsolidarity.org
The current vision for this parish to parish relationship includes mutual support and partnership that, God willing, will lead to both an immediate and long-term transformation of people and the world in which we live.
What is next?
The current vision for this parish to parish relationship includes mutual support and partnership that, God willing, will lead to both an immediate and long-term transformation for people in Guatemala and in the world in which we live. We are still committed to developing and sustaining a relationship with the people of Holy Child Cathedral in Cuilapa and, as an extension, El Sauce or one of the other villages located close to Cuilapa.
What are we doing right now?
Through the contributions of many St. Bernard parishioners, we are currently sponsoring six children to attend school by providing supplies, food, clothes and medicine. Those sponsorships were provided by responses to the Giving Tree during Lent, and Advent as well as collections by the children in our catechism program. The sponsorships are $350 per year. The parish also created a fund, with a percentage from the monthly social concerns collection, to be used for a project to improve the lives of people in one of the villages of Cuilapa.
What can I do right now, right here?
- Pray for our brothers and sisters in Guatemala
- Learn more about the Partnership at http://www.ccsolidarity.org
- Sponsor a child’s education
- Explore the Catholic Relief Services website at www.CRS.org
- Participate in the activities of our parish catechism classes
How can I learn more about this partnership?
Contact Deacon Gerry Sims at 908-725-0552, extension 805
or Karen Castellon at KarenCastellon@optonline.net or 908-393-6913.