St. Vincent Ferrer Parish
Ecuador Mission Notes:
Chris Eggleton, OP (St. Martin)
GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR — Our parish sits at the base of two large hills where the concrete and tin roofed houses of our parishioners sit proudly together one connected to the other. The people are mostly living week to week on their meager finances; there are some families who are living a more middle level economic standard. Most of our parishioners are economically poor. The inside of the homes are for the most part unpainted so that the grey concrete blocks leave an unfinished sense in my mind when I visit these humble homes. However, the outside of 90% of the homes boast an abundance of paint in varieties of colors. It is as if a giant artist had an equally colossal box of crayons with a 100 different shades and mixtures of the rainbow of colors and went about splashing crayon combinations with abandon! Brilliant and a delight for the eyes.
Guayaquil is a growing port city with hills, the very wide River Guayas, and a people predominantly Catholic who are forever in search of any reason to sing and dance. There is a public government plaza right in front of the church building and there is usually a band from a school or a theatrical offering going on esp., in the late afternoons and evenings. It is an alive and thriving place!
Arriving here on the 14th of November of 2006, I have been increasingly immersed in a culture richly endowed with the native peoples of the Amazon, or Eastern portion of Ecuador, the peoples of the mountain sierras, and the people of the coast. Some of the native peoples have no Spanish blood in their ancestry, while some do. Our parish too has a variety of Ecuadorans from these varieties of backgrounds. I feel especially blessed to be a part of it all. The people have been so very accepting and hospitable.
These first couple of months have been months of noticing and learning from the ways of going about life here in this culture, including the ways in which the faithful practice their faith. Here’s an example: Every Monday we celebrate ten Masses at least because Monday’s have become the day when one of our Dominican saints, Saint Vincent Ferrer, a great preacher and healer, is venerated in prayerful devotion. After each Mass, the faithful from all over the city and surrounding areas come up to the altar rail (at times by the hundreds) to receive a blessing with water blessed earlier in a large outdoor fountain. This sprinkling goes on until all have been thoroughly sprinkled, while all the time the people sing a song remembering the works of St. Vincent. Immediately following this water blessing, the priest, with a small relic of the saint in hand, encased in a kind of mini monstrance, proceeds to place the relic on each person’s forehead. The faithful also bring holy cards, candles by the hundreds, and water jugs to also receive the touch of the relic. I move back and forth behind the altar rail blessing heads, cards, candles, water bottles, and whatever else these devoted Monday pilgrims may bring. One Monday a man pulled out from under the back of his shirt a large rabbit-eared TV antennae — perhaps he was searching for a better signal via St. Vincent’s intercession. There is some work to be done in catechesis here, but using the depth of faith the people are already in possession of.
I continue to learn of the richness of the traditions in culture and faith and feel like I’m becoming by God’s wisdom and grace like a new wineskin to hold the new wine of the goodness of God and the goodness of the people here in Guayaquil. ”New wine, new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)
There are 3 or 4 underfunded clinics and hospitals in our immediate area. There is a clinic for those living and dying with AIDS. I have been honored with being able to pray and celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick with several patients recently. The patients, all of them, extremely thin and wasting away, light up with hope and joy when their priest and their family is present for prayer, Sacrament, and conversation together. All are transformed to some significant degree by Christ’s Good Shepherd presence with all of us together in faith. The patients’ and their loved ones’ faith offers solace, comfort, and hope in Christ’s own suffering. Again, I experience God’s blessings in these powerful moments.
We have the enormous Galapagos turtles nearby which I see every day, giant colorful iguanas by the hundreds in parks, esp., at the central business district in the city, and a multitude of grillos (crickets) which are like a plague here after every rain. It’s something to behold. The come out in the millions. The other morning as I walked into the church for the morning Eucharist, the noisy and crook-legged critters carpeted the stone floor. When I walked into the chapel the crickets formed a veritable moving sea; they jumped and parted out of the way of my feet as I stepped gingerly along…now I know what Moses must have felt like!
So much more to relate to you as in the processions we have had at Christmas processing through the streets evangelizing by singing, praying the rosary together, and offering prayers of intercession for the people.
Know that you are well thought of here and how much I miss you each one! Thank You for all the generous and thoughtful sendoff’s you offered me and please, let us keep one another in prayer. You are in my thoughts and prayers here in the Southern Hemisphere.
God loves us one of you so much. I just wish He’s cease sending us the grillos!
Contact Chris at:
Iglesia Santo Domingo de Guzman
110 Y Plaza Colon
Barrio Las Peñas
Casilla 09 01-7148