As Cristina and I have shared in the past, we owe a great deal of our lives and faith (not to mention having met each other!) to the time we spent serving as long-term missionaries in Comayagua, Honduras with our community, Missioners of Christ.
Missioners of Christ is a Catholic Christian Community centered in prayer and united by a Covenant that evangelizes, disciples, and sends forth youth and young adults on domestic and foreign missions to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.
This video, although a little dated, is by far, the best short-explanation of what we do in Honduras:
As Missioners of Christ, our community provides ministry opportunities in the US from youth retreats to Catholic Underground events to intercessory prayer groups among our commited members. But, the greatest expression of this covenant is our John Paul II Center for Evangelization in Comayagua, Honduras, which houses roughly 20 long-term missionaries (both Honduran and non-Honduran) who volunteer for 2+ years at a time.
Cathedral of Comayagua (Original Capital of Honduras)
John Paul II Center of Evangelization
By the Grace of God and under the permission of the local Bishop of Comayagua (and the support and guidance of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, CFR) we are blessed to live-out a intense life of prayer and ministry, including a rigorous prayer life of daily Mass and Eucharist Adoration within our Two-Hearts Chapel.
Two Hearts Chapel
Our Servant Leader in Honduras – Carol Restaine
We frequently collaborate with the Missionaries of Charity, who happen to also live in our neighborhood in Comayagua
We also frequently collaborate with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal CFR, who happen to live next door!
Among many many ministries (from feeding the poor, hosting various American medical brigades alongside the CFRs, gang-ministry, prison-ministry, youth ministry, scholarship and financial sponsorship, etc.) that our long-term volunteers are blessed to live-out, the Lord has slowly led us to a focus on pure evangelization. While we live and work with our neighbors in our neighborhood on the outskirts of Comayagua (a growing agricultural city infused with a metro feel) we are very committed to serving the priests of the mountain parishes or “aldeas” where the villages are so many and so spread apart that they are only able to be visited by clergy once a year or two. As you’ve heard, Latin America is still deeply rooted in Catholic culture….it’s the Catholic Faith that has been rocky. Various factors have caused a giant gap between formed Catholics and cultural (sometimes innocently superstitious) catholics…..which has only enabled the somewhat convenient mass-conversion of Latinos to different faith traditions and churches, especially those brought down through the thousands of American missions that go down each year, with good intention, to help the poor and bring many to Christ (even though they were already with Him, they just need some formation, encouragement and resource! Sigh….)
Towns and streets are named after Saints and feast days……children are named after the Holy Family and little girls carry the name of Our Lady in her various apparitions, namely “Fatima”, “Lourdes” and “Guadalupe”. I’d have to say, the most bizarre encounter was during a house-to-house visit to a newly converted protestant family in which the mother, named Fatima, tried to convince me that Our Lady was “no good” and that it was a waste of time to even think of her. Sadly, this is motivation for us who have been blessed with so much, to go and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) …. for to those who have been given much (US!) much will be required. (Luke 12:48)
Here’s an example of just how important Catholic Feast days are to Hondurans: (Yes, that is a wooden box with a bull-skull strapped to the front of it….and those are REAL roman candle fireworks strapped to the side. And yes, those Roman Candles are pointed towards the crowd!)
As I mentioned above, the communities are humble and prayerful but lacking in formation and the tools to defend their faith. Add in to the equation a healthy amount of folks that can’t read or write and you can only imagine what might happen if a foreigner from another church arrives with a different message…..claiming that the only way to salvation is through reading “the Word”. I’m not bashing or criticizing the attempt to spread the Word of God….that would be ridiculous. But, the memory of an elderly mountain villager in Honduras telling me –
“Andrew, my whole family has left the Catholic Church for another church down the road that was built by very loving missionaries….but now my son tells me that unless I learn to read and learn the Word of God in the Bible, I will not be with Jesus and go to heaven. I’ve gone to mass my whole life and I pray the Rosary and receive Jesus in His Body and Blood….but I’ve never gone to a day of school in my life and I can’t read or write. How will I get to heaven?”
Now, that is an extreme example….and I can’t say honestly that in the last 8 years of serving on-and-off in Honduras that I’ve encountered that situation again….and I realize that the protestant missionaries didn’t teach them that perverted theology…..but the point is that through good intentions, there has grown a mass confusion about how to love God and even more profoundly, how to worship Him. So, as you can see, it impacted me….and through this man’s (and the vast majority of the Hondurans) simple approach to prayer and Christ Himself, my love for the Sacraments grew ten-fold. Which is why this mission is ESSENTIAL….to bring priests – to bring the Sacraments – to those who are without.
A typical house in the mountains of Honduras
Fr. Ken with 3 generations, Daughter, Mother, Grandmother! They lived in one of the most remote villages we have ever visited….and said that it was the first time they had ever seen “white Catholic missionaries” They fed us the little and last of what they had….as if we were kings.
I could spend hours upon hours explaining what God has asked us to do in Honduras…..but you truly have to see it to believe it. We’ve learned that it’s really ALL about the relationships….that we can’t arrive to Honduras as “intelligent” and “well-formed” foreigners ready to “make a change” or “do good for the poor”…..but rather do as Mother Teresa felt called to do in Calcutta – to live and pray as the people did, walking together as brothers and sisters.
This is exactly what we aim to do (although we fail, often) – to raise up leaders in Honduras. The funny thing is that while we spend all of our energy in forming, “discipling” and evangelizing in Honduras, we always end up receiving and learning MUCH more from them than what we give them. This is the beauty and blessing that is, what us Missioners of Christ call, “The Mission”. Coming face to face with Christ Himself and learning to love Him while He strips away our selfish, materialistic, superficial “1st-world” selves so that we can allow Him to love us.
One of the remote villages in the mountains where a priest is only able to visit once a year
Hiking from house to house in the mountains of Honduras
Currently, I’m blessed to serve as the Coordinator for all of our Missioners of Christ adult missions to Honduras throughout the year. Currently, we are preparing to send down a group of 25 adults on December 27th for a 10-day evangelization mission in the mountains.
Our preparation incorporates an intense 7-week formation program based on “Redemptoris Missio” or “MIssion of the Redeemer” by the late Pope John Paul II as well as various cultural and logistical lessons that we’ve learned in the over 10 years that we’ve lived in Comayagua.
Please contact me at Andrew.Pocta@missioners.org if you are interested in knowing more about our missions throughout the year, or if you’d like to just know more about our community and how you could get involved by sponsoring one of the many children in our neighborhood in Honduras.
Check out a video we put together in celebration of 10 years of having lived in our neighborhood. You’ll see clips of each “class” of long-term missionaries that lived and worked with us throughout the years: