Our main day to day work here in the field is the work of evangelization. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines evangelization as “the proclamation of Christ and His Gospel by word and the testimony of life, in fulfillment of Christ’s command.” Evangelization is also part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Matthew's gospel: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Notice that the commission Jesus left us does not only ask us to baptize the nations, but to make disciples of them and to teach them to obey everything He commanded. For this reason, we undertake a two-fold evangelization in our area. One aspect is to continue to effort of firmly planting the Gospel among the Cabecar indigenous people so that they will be baptized and made disciples. The second is the formation and discipleship of the faithful in rural Costa Rican communities of our parish.
One aspect of the life of the Church in poor countries that can always use support is adult faith formation. Whereas the devotion and deep commitment of many adult Catholics is heroic, often their understanding, appreciation and ability to articulate the basic tenets of their faith is lacking. The priests who serve them are heroic too in their efforts to preach, prepare and form their flocks, but as anyone can tell you, it is not a task they can complete on their own, especially in rural areas where they are often responsible for a huge amount of souls spread out over a wide geographical territory. And without continued formation and discipleship, the Catholic faithful at the ends of the earth are at risk. First, there is a risk that they will not find the understanding, motivation and sense of belonging they need to live in obedience to the Catholic Church's teachings. Secondly, there is the grave danger that a faith based simply on cultural devotion, while it is a testament to the last-lasting traditions of our faith planted so many years ago by the earliest missionaries, will not stand the questions, doubts and cynicism of the next generations who are increasingly enticed and influenced by secular culture. For this reason, we are consistently seeing a need to enliven and strengthen the faith of the faithful in traditionally Catholic cultures as well as to re-evangelize the younger generation to give them a deeper understanding of their faith and the teachings of the Church. This need is prevalent all over the world, in the wealthiest, most well-organized parishes as well as the poorest third world missions. But the poor Church lacks man power and the sheer challenge of geography makes the work even more difficult to accomplish.
|San Martin Chapel|
For this reason, we have made the ministry the teaching, formation and discipleship of adults in our widespread parish a large part of our ministry. In word and by the testimony of our lives and friendship, we hope to give our brothers and sisters new eyes with which to see their faith and to allow them to "be transformed by the renewing of their minds" so that they will "not be conformed to the patterns of this world" (Romans 12:2).
The main way we are taking on this task is by circulating through our communities using our projection equipment to show quality Catholic movies like For Greater Glory (which is pertinent to our communities since the central church of parish houses a relic of the finger bone of Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio below the altar) and facilitate a short discussion or teaching on it. These raise interest and bring something new to the catechism efforts previously undertaken in our area. It also offers us a way eliminate the language barrier issue and go far deeper thematically than we could on our own. We follow the "movie night"event in each community by introducing them to the Catholicism Series by Fr. Barron. We then return to the communities to show the series and facility the discussion over the course of a couple of months. While these types of outreaches are effective in many places and parishes, imagine the effectiveness of this type of outreach in places where the nearest movie theater is two and half hours away and many of the people have never even been to the cinema before. It is fun and exciting for them in addition to being educational. Thanks to modern technology, we can follow Pope Francis'exhortation, "Dear young friends, Christ has confidence in you and he entrusts his own mission to you: Go and make disciples!". by going out to the poor in remote places and bringing them more fully into the fold of the universal Church.
One community we recently visited with both For Greater Glory and the first episode of the Catholicism Series was the small pueblo of El Progreso. El Progreso is home to our friend Don Oscar (not this Don Oscar, more on him later). Don Oscar is a faithful Catholic man with a radiant smile and a love and zeal for his faith that bubbles over into warm hugs and contagious enthusiasm for every single Mass, Holy Hour, or activity that ever occurs in the chapel just across the dirt footpath from his home. Don Oscar is battling colon cancer and weakening by the day. Each time we go, we arrive early enough to go to his house and visit, thinking surely he will be too weak to come down to the chapel for the presentation. And each time he surprises us by telling us he is going to get ready to come.
The last time we visited El Progreso, Don Oscar's son-in-law carried him to the chapel on his back like a child. He sat gingerly in his wheel chair and looked pain. But still he smiled his radiant smile. And we talked about cancer and praying for healing and death being the ultimate victory is eternal life is our goal. We hugged. We cried. His faith community lifted him up and encouraged him as we sat in that chapel together waiting to begin the first episode of Catholicism. Then the lights went dim and for a brief hour, Don Oscar got to travel to Rome and the Holy Land and see the birth places of his wife. He got to see the faces of his brothers and sisters from far way places. And he learned about what we mean when we call Jesus Messiah and how He is the fulfillment of thousands of years worth of Biblical promises. And, I hope, in that brief time, that three things happened: one, that he was happy for a while, resting from the mental, spiritual and emotional battle with his own mortality and the physical battle with pain, and second, that his hope in heaven, his real faith that this will be his ultimate cure and greatest victory when the moment comes was enlivened, that his thirst for Christ whetted and his knowledge that he is loved and supported by a cloud of witnesses felt deeply.
This is what it means to evangelize, to make disciples. At the end of the day, it is an exercise in love. An opportunity to go out, meet our brothers and sisters where they are, an offer them the three things that abide: faith, hope and love. To Don Oscar and so many of our brothers and sisters like him, who need someone's strength to see the struggle in hear and now through the lens of eternity.
|Pray for Oscar? That's him there in the white shirt.|
You can help us in this outreach by making a monthly subscription to cover the fuel expenses of getting out to these remote communities regularly. You can set up your paypal subscription on the Saint Bryce Foundation web page. Also, donations of quality Catholic media presentations and movies that are available in Spanish are welcome. Contact us at stbrycemissions AT gmail DOT com if you have an item you would like to donate.