Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Church in Montero

Well hello, hello!
It’s been a while since I’ve written, and that’s because it’s been CRAZY!  The Lenten and Easter Seasons have been an incredible time to be in Bolivia.  I gave up English for Lent, which didn’t turn out to be as difficult as I thought.

This email is dedicated to the recent events in the Church in Montero.  About 95% of Bolivians are professed Roman Catholics.  Not all are active, but there are many Catholic churches in Montero, and each of them seem to be filled to overflowing during each Mass, be it Sunday, a Holy Day, or simply daily mass.  There are times when I am convinced that, for many, being Catholic is more cultural that spiritual; however, I have generally been moved by the faithfulness of the community. 

The Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (which run our orphanage, a nearby school and the youth ministry programs in our neighborhood) have a special devotion to masses on Fridays, being the day that Jesus died for us.  So all of the youth in First Holy Communion and Confirmation classes are strongly encouraged (required) to attend mass on Friday evening, along with all of our older girls. This is something that the girls love.  (In my opinion, because there are boys involved; a rare commodity when you live with 120 girls and attend an all girls high school).  I love Friday night mass because it is filled with teenagers on an evening that, without our programs, many would probably be causing ruckus.  It’s really a beautiful thing.

That being said, Friday night masses during Lent were followed by Viacrucis, or Stations of the Cross.  Viacrucis is not your typical stroll around the church.  We walked through the streets of the neighborhood, stopping at little shrines set up outside of homes, each of which had been assigned one of the 14 stations.  This was all done following a truck full of nuns praying and singing with a megaphone (and popular item, you will see).

The masses of Holy Week were extra special, and accordingly, the number of altar boys was increased from the typical 6 or 8 to 18. That’s right, 18.  I’m not even sure that all of them had something to do, but they were all there, being extremely reverent and on cue, everyday from Thursday til Sunday.  The mass on Thursday included the youth acting out the Passion, with a fairly realistic crucifixion with fake blood.  On Good Friday, the service was followed by a special Viacrusis, each station acted out on the back of a flatbed, with at least 500 people walking through the street (2 megaphones were required).  Saturday’s Vigil mass started with a bonfire directly outside of the church.  From there, we entered into the church for a candle-light mass.  Fireworks ensued afterwards.  Easter morning started at 5am for me and the teenagers when we marched around the neighborhood with a statue of Jesus before arriving at the church, while a nun proclaimed that Jesus has been resurrected, with a megaphone.  Easter dinner was followed by a marathon egg hunt that lasted until dusk.

I thought that the 5am Easter stroll was a novelty, until I learned that during May, being the month of the rosary, I would be rising before5am daily to accompany girls as we pray the rosary while walking through the streets, following…guess who!  A statue of Mary and a nun with a megaphone.  Because of this, I know that Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury are currently very closely clustered on the eastern morning sky, an absolutely beautiful sight.  Check it out a good half hour or so before sunrise, when the skyline is a murky blue-green.  And imagine that there are palm trees framing them.  That’s my morning.

Because we are entering winter here, the nights are becoming frigid.  (My opinion of frigid after sweating for months may differ from yours). Anyway, I feel very much like my father, because I’ve been rocking the socks and sandals.  Don’t laugh, it’s not so bad.  And oh so convenient, as I can just take off the socks when it warms up!

I hope that you are all doing well.  Congratulations to the students who are finishing finals, and some graduating!  You can all rest assured that at 5am, I will be praying for you, asking that you are still sound asleep!


1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear from you again, Andrea. Thanks for filling in some of the details of life in Montero, esp. during Holy Week and Easter. God bless you for getting so early--I know 5 o'clock is hard when I have to do it. Grace and peace be with you!