Two months have already passed since I arrived in Guyana, though it seems to me like it has only been a couple of weeks. I don’t want to let too much time pass by without recounting something about the life of this mission.
Everything that is done here, and everything that has been done over the last 20 years, is truly impressive. It is impressive because it is a lot, and I was not aware of it. It is all the more impressive when the mind jumps from here to think of all of the missions of our religious family, which, like Guyana, accomplish so much.
And so here begins a small chronicle with some photos to convey a little bit of what we do in Guyana:
We have two religious communities: one is the “Mission Santa Rosa”, on the Moruka River; and the other is in the city of Charity, on the Pomeroon River. A third community is that of the sisters, also in Charity.
Regarding the mission at Santa Rosa, I am not able to say anything since I have not yet had the opportunity to go there. This mission is about two and a half hours down the river from Charity, where I am at present of which I can speak.
At the parish of St. Francis Xavier, three priests reside (myself included). This is the most strategic setting which enables us to attend to the 9 communities which depend on the parish. It is strategic because we are located right at the junction where the road ends and meets with the river. Four communities are along this route on the coast of the sea, and five are along the river bank. And so, going by car or by boat, depending on where one is headed, in an hour you can reach our most distant communities, whether they are on the river or the road.
Beyond this parish, we are responsible for another parish which is composed of three chapels or centers, which are across the Essiquibo river. This is a great river and not easy to cross, especially because of the tide. In order to celebrate Sunday Mass there, we must leave around noon on Saturday and return Monday morning.
To visit the communities is truly something very beautiful, most especially for the Sunday Mass. The communities along the river have a spectacular “mission” scenery, which, although it is not the most important thing, is something consoling and enjoyable. Arriving with the boat at a dock which is already surrounded by boats, from there can be seen a Chapel raised on wooden beams some meters above the marshy ground. In the chapel a group of twenty or thirty persons recite the rosary, waiting for the priest who will celebrate the Mass. Many draw near for the sacrament of confession during the rosary. These things greatly encourage me and inspire me to give thanks to God and to our missionaries who have worked so hard here.
A great help are those who are called the “P.L.A,” the catechists responsible in each community, who really give a huge hand to their communities, above all leading the “service” or Communion service outside of the Mass, on the Sundays when we are not able to be present; but also organizing activities, giving catechism, visiting the people, etc. We have formation meetings and practices every month.
Another apostolate that we have is the Dormitory for boys. These boys come from the riverside or from the interior (the jungle), and live in what is called the “St. John Bosco Roman Catholic boy’s Dorm” so that they can attend school in Charity. They are about 30 boys. They go to school daily and are able to return home on the weekends. For them, it is almost a cause of pride to belong to the “Dorm of the fathers”, as it is known in the school and in the street. Many are not Catholic, but nonetheless, they are happy to live with us and even ask to participate in our religious activities, as a result, they know well how to help at Mass and to lead the Rosary. From among them, God has given us a vocation who is now in our seminary in Washington DC.
The dining halls
Lastly, I will tell you about the dining halls. We have four dining halls, one in the parish and three others in different communities., many children from the school come to the parish for lunch during their midday break, (or in the communities along the river, lunch is brought to the school). Lunch is served to some 300 children in total, Monday through Friday.
Send our greetings to all; we entrust ourselves to your prayers.
United in the Incarnate Word,
Fr. Joaquín Ibarra IVE