By Amy White
The Texas Catholic
On Saturday, Nov. 11, Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Plano is hosting its 4th Annual Hope for Honduras 5k, which will take place at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. The event is a fundraiser for POP’s sister parish, La Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes (The Parish of Our Lady of the Mercies), located in El Progreso, Honduras.
“Honduras is a place where true miracles happen,” said Linda Waggoner, co-head of the Sister Parish Ministry at Prince of Peace with her husband, David.
Las Mercedes addresses significant needs in the city of El Progreso—including malnourishment and abandonment of children—through both its orphanage and nutrition center.
“The miracles that God is performing — I can’t even describe them to you,” Waggoner said. “There’s one after another after another after another.”
Waggoner recalled a story of a child whose mother attempted to drown her in infancy. A passerby overheard the infant’s cries and took her to the hospital, where the doctor said she would not make it through the night. After receiving care through the ministries at Las Mercedes, that child is now seven years old. This story is one of many tragedies turned victory stories in El Progreso.
The Las Mercedes orphanage, called Hogar Suyapa, opened in 2004. Hogar means “home” and Suyapa refers to “Our Lady of Suyapa,” the patron saint of Honduras.
At the orphanage, around 40 children—from infants to 20 years old—are currently receiving care.
“There are nannies around the clock, of course,” Waggoner said. “The kids are all off to school in the morning and to church on Sunday.”
Las Mercedes also has a nutrition center in Honduras.
“It is a place where parents can bring their children that are malnourished and get them back up to nourishment standards,” Waggoner said. “They’re fed and played with and clothed and bathed until we reach the end result, which is that they’re fully happy and healthy. Then, they may go home.”
The nutrition center also educates parents on how to care for their children in order to avoid malnutrition in the future.
“For these kids that are at the hogar and the nutrition center, they’ve got a real shot at a decent life of growing up, being able to take care of themselves, and earning money,” Waggoner said. “It’s such an amazing, amazing thing to see that a child that was put out on the street… is now going to be studying to be a lawyer, CPA, or doctor.”
Funding the Mission
Prince of Peace Catholic Church has been sister parish to Las Mercedes for the past 24 years. During that time, the Plano parish has supported Las Mercedes, in part, by contributing monetarily to the Honduran parish’s charitable efforts.
“Every month, we send a check down for them to meet expenses for medicine, doctors, food, clothing, school supplies, schooling costs, nannies’ costs, you name it,”
Waggoner said. “Every single cent goes to the kids.”
In order to provide this support, Prince of Peace organizes fundraisers like the Hope for Honduras 5k. Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas hosted the event for the first-time last year and will host again this year.
“We started working on getting connected to Honduras, and we got the cross-country team involved in the 5k that [Prince of Peace] had been doing. Last year was the first year we hosted it here,” said Molly O’Sullivan, assistant principal of student academics at Jesuit. “It’s a powerful thing that you just want to be a part of.”
As a precursor to the event, students at Jesuit spoke in Spanish to children at the Hogar Suyapa Orphanage over Skype.
“They did a lot of questions back and forth to each other, like what kind of foods they like or what sports they like or what their favorite subject in school is,” O’Sullivan said.
“We always thought that getting children involved with helping other children was a really good thing,” said Alan Thiebaud, a parishioner of Prince of Peace Catholic Church who led the Sister Parish Ministry for about 20 years.
This year, organizers of the event hope to raise $30,000, all of which will directly support the Hogar Suyapa Orphanage and Nutrition Center. Last year, more than 100 participants attended the event; this year, more than 200 are expected. The event is open to everyone.
“It’s pretty electric,” Waggoner said. “We’re going to have bikes; we’re going to have wheelchairs; we’re going to have strollers. We’ve got people coming out in force.”
“It’s a fun community-building event,” O’Sullivan said. “We have people who can finish it in 16 minutes, and we have those of us that take much longer…It’s about awareness, getting to know a little bit about the parish down there and these services that they provide.”
“Participants can walk it, they can run it, or they can watch it,” Thiebaud said, “but it is a way of supporting some children who really need help and love. It’s just a really good thing to do.”
Those interested in registering for the Hope for Honduras 5k may contact Linda Waggoner at firstname.lastname@example.org or may visit https://www.popplano.org/hopeforhonduras for more information.