Por: P. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
February 21st, 2021
A late-night rain fall has just ended here in Hosororo, and with it a busy weekend. Being as it is Sunday, I thank the Lord for the “sweet exhaustion” that comes over me right now. By the grace of God, we visited five different chapels in the mission territory to celebrate Masses for the First Sunday of Lent. The visits also bore the fruit of 39 baptisms and 31 First Communions.
Compared to some of our other parishes in the Province, these numbers might not seem all that noteworthy. But here in Region 1, they are considering all the circumstances that surround their fulfillment.
First, as I have said before, all of these sacraments have been on hold for almost an entire year. Second, traveling in Region 1 is not always easy. Paved roads are practically non-existent. Only a few months ago did they begin to lay cement roads in some parts of the area. The “normal” roads around here are red dirt roads full of potholes. Additionally, the parish does not have a functioning vehicle, so I am dependent on taxi drivers everywhere I go…and when those are not available, walking is the only option.
Third, the means of communication in Guyana are not like they are in places like the US or Canada. Cell phone service is reliable, but ensuring that people have enough credit to call or enough electricity to charge their phones is hit or miss. And even if all of these factors work in one’s favor, a situation like the one we had today in White Water village could still present problems.
Three weeks prior to today, we agreed with the faithful in the area that on today’s date we would hold a Baptismal instruction for parents and godparents at 2:00pm in the afternoon and then administer the baptisms during a Mass at 3:00pm. The date was set. Parents, godparents and catechists went home happy that the long-awaited day was finally on the horizon. The 24 candidates for baptism would finally see the day of their rebirth.
Fast-forward to today. It’s February 21st. We arrived at White Water at 1:30pm in the afternoon after already having celebrated two Masses earlier in the day: one at Kumaka and one at Wauna. At Kumaka seven children were baptized and four young ladies received their First Holy Communion. Meanwhile in Wauna, seven infants were reborn in the waters of Baptism.
Back at White Water, we found the chapel already open, but no one in sight. After a little investigation we discovered that word had spread among the community that the Baptisms were moved to the following day—Monday—at 1:00pm in the afternoon. Where that information was taken from remains a mystery. Grapevines don’t grow in Guyana (at least as far as I know), but somehow misinformation traveled down it fast in White Water over the past couple of days.
Given certain circumstances, returning on Monday was not an option. Thus, the decision was made that with the help of a few of the faithful nearby we would try to contact as many of the families as possible and wait to see if they would arrive. After roughly an hour’s wait 19 of the 24 possible candidates did in fact arrive.
A fourth general difficulty which was certainly felt at White Water today was the rain. As soon as I began the instructions for the parents and godparents, a heavy rain began to fall. Talking over a heavy rain is difficult enough, doing so in an open-air building, with a tin roof and no microphone is about near impossible.
Looking back now, I can only say “thank you” to God for the “sweet exhaustion” I feel from all of this weekend’s missionary work and its difficulties.
I thank God the Father first and foremost in Christ His Son. Being here as a missionary is ultimately His gift to me. This is a lesson no missionary should forget. Our work is not our own: it is Christ’s first. Christ alone is the Redeemer of man! If we do anything in the mission field, it is because Christ has given us a share in His work of redemption, and for that we must be eternally grateful.
I also want to thank God the Father for all of those who have had a hand in today’s missionary work. I simply came to complete a task. There were many others who began the work. The Jesuit priests who began the missions here. The religious sisters of various congregations who have been a constant presence since the missions’ beginnings. The lay people who have kept many of these communities alive in the faith in the midst of so many adversities. But I am also thinking of my parents, godparents, hometown priests, catechists, formators, and many others. They too can lay claim to a share in today’s work.
Great is the work of the missionary! But great as well is the work of those have formed them!
As much as I want to use this chronicle to continue to speak to the hearts of young men and women themselves who God is calling to the mission field, I also want it to speak to those whose task it is to form the next generation of missionaries. Don’t lose sight of the nobility of your work! To form a future missionary for Christ and His Church is the most important task in the world besides missionary work itself. Wherever the missionary goes in the world you will go with them. Whomever the missionary saves through God’s grace, you will save with them. Whatever the missionary accomplishes for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, you will accomplish with them.
Long live Christ!
Long live the priesthood!
Long live the missions!
Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE