By Deacon Charlie Stump
Special to the Texas Catholic
One of the top subjects in today’s news media is immigration, especially when it comes to “caravans” journeying out of Central America. However, this is not a new subject for the Church of Trujillo, Honduras. The relationship with our sister Diocese of Trujillo has been built on the issue of migration and how to help the church develop a plan so the poor will not have to leave their communities or country in order to survive.
In 2001, three years following Hurricane Mitch at a request of the bishops of Texas, a team from the Diocese of Dallas went to help rebuild the church of Trujillo. Destruction and loss of lives followed Mitch in this part of Honduras due to flooding in valleys where forests had been stripped for lumber and all agriculture destroyed. A people with a fourth-grade education that had once lived off the land, along the northern coast of Honduras known as the Banana Republic, were no longer able to provide food and clean water for their families.
For our team, this was the first time we witnessed communities filled with children suffering from malnutrition, who lived in homes made from sticks and mud with palm branch roofs and only the ground on which to sleep at night. The diocese relationship was focused on helping build hope for a long-suffering people by providing Catechesis through parish to parish missions, Medical assistance through medical missions, and the future of Honduras is in educating the next generation through youth missions from our Catholic schools.
From 2004 to 2012 the various missions were established and operated until the U.S. State Department issued a “travelers warning” for the country of Honduras and the Dallas relationship with the Diocese of Trujillo was put on hold. In 2018 the State Department reclassified the security levels giving Honduras a level 3 rating, meaning a higher level of caution should be taken while traveling in the country. The Diocese of Dallas interpreted this rating as applicable to adult missionaries only.
Dallas had continued supporting Trujillo financially through the annual collection taken the first Sunday of January for Central America. Even though travel into Honduras had stopped, parishes in Dallas continued to help develop the future of Honduras by supporting the construction and development of Catholic education in the Diocese of Trujillo. In 2005, St. Rita Catholic Church participated in opening a Bilingual Catholic School campus in the city of Sonaguera. St. Jude in Allen has recently witnessed the opening of a bilingual Catholic school in the community of Saba with over 100 students registered at its opening. This was the fourth Catholic school in the Trujillo diocese. Using skills obtained by helping the Dallas diocese get the Sonaguera school built, the Trujillo Diocese approached other sources for funding and established catholic schools in the cities of Trujillo and Bonito Oriental. Now Bishop Luis Felipe Solé Fa of Trujillo is moving towards establishing a Catholic School system in his diocese and has tentatively approached the Dallas diocese for assistance in building a school in Tocoa.
With the approval of Bishop Edward J. Burns, a team including two doctors recently visited Bonito Oriental, the site for the previous medical missions, to evaluate the parish campus and the equipment/supplies previously donated to determine if the medical mission can be resurrected. For the first time in seven years, the Diocese of Dallas is preparing for a combined medical and dental mission in the community of Bonito Oriental, Honduras, scheduled for Feb. 29 thru March 6, 2020. The mission would be helping those people from the mountains surrounding Bonito Oriental that have never seen a doctor or dentist because they don’t have the funds to prepay for the service.
The Dallas medical mission team is looking for volunteers. If you would like more information about the Medical/Dental Mission, you can contact me at the Pastoral Center by calling 214-379-2800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deacon Charlie Stump is the director of pastoral services for the Diocese of Dallas.