Pastoral Letter: 20 Years of Education and Innovation

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

 

This month marks the 20th anniversary of our Sister Parish Covenant with Parroquia San Antonio in Soyapango, El Salvador. Then-pastors Father Charles Gagan, S.J., and Father Estefan Turcios Carpaño signed the agreement on November 18, 2001, binding our parishes in a relationship ministry and friendship. Much has happened across those two decades, as we have accompanied one another in our faith and supported each other in our service to those less fortunate than ourselves. A primary means of our mutual support has been delegations back and forth, exchanging cultures, faith and resources. 

San Antonio is the only parish in the sprawling, bustling, densely crowded and poor Soyapango, a suburb of the capital city San Salvador. The parish covers a large territory and includes several outlying communities in rural areas. Most of those communities have their own chapel and very active and committed parishioners, to which the parish priests travel to say Mass and attend various other functions on Sundays and during the week. The parish complex is a beehive of activity every day and night of the week: literacy classes, outreach to at-risk youth, ministry to married couples, prayer groups and Bible study, an extremely effective medical clinic and much, much more. All of that is in addition to the usual committees and commissions for finance, worship, administration and so on that you might expect. 

Among those many activities are English classes and three vocational workshops that St. Ignatius currently sponsors in clothing design and construction, artificial flower making, and bakery skills. Over the years, we have supported these and several other projects. We have raised money through our Annual Pancake Breakfast, Silent Auction, and Crafts Sales and through other events to pay instructors and purchase sewing machines, professional baking equipment, materials and supplies. Both parishioners and people of the local neighborhood attend classes where they learn skills that enable them to earn money to provide some of the very basic needs for their families. Some workshop graduates have gone on to open their own shops. 

We also provide full scholarships for 20 young people each year, which enable them to attend local public and private elementary and high schools. Those who attend San Antonio, a private high school where the quality of the education is high and the local gangs have no presence, must meet high standards for admission. (NB: The tuition is just $28 per month!) Each scholarship recipient receives $30 a month, without which he or she simply could not attend this school. While some use it to pay the tuition, most apply their scholarships to supplies, making copies of the textbooks, paying for breakfast and lunch at school and transportation by bus. 

In additional, in recent years, we have provided funds for disaster recovery after a series of tropical storms and for three construction projects, and have helped San Antonio manage some of the challenges presented by the pandemic. 

The work is important, as you can read. Those involved speak to how this ministry (as with any direct ministry with those on the margins) expands their worldview, bolsters their faith, and keeps them grounded in God’s goodness. If you are interested in joining Las Vecinas, please contact Amy Stewart at aestewart2000@yahoo.com

Our primary means of supporting our Las Vecinas ministry is the annual Pancake Breakfast, Silent Auction, and Crafts Sale, which was cancelled last year and again this year. (We expect to hold it in the spring.) In the meantime, we are holding an Online Silent Auction until 6:00 p.m. on Monday, November 22. Our ambitious goal is to raise $10,000 to meet our commitments to Parroquia San Antonio for the first half of 2022. You can view all the auction items here: Las Vecinas Silent Auction - Fall 2021. Youwill note that we have included two special opportunities in the auction: to sponsor a full-year student scholarship for $360 or a teacher’s monthly salary for $100 (scroll to the bottom). Please take a look and consider participating in this important fundraiser, which will help us continue to achieve our goals for this shared ministry of St. Ignatius Parish and Parroquia San Antonio. 

As we approach the Solemnity of Christ the King this weekend, we remember that by virtue of our Baptism, we remain with him, Priest, Prophet and King, always, in service to his people, the Body of Christ.

 

Oremus proinvicem.

 

Fr. Greg