"The Bread of the Church"

by: fr. Rich Rome, OFM Conv.
On our third day in Bogota, we went down to the city center to walk through the streets and see the capitol.We visited a museum honoring those who were killed or disappeared during the civil war, two cemeteries where those killed were buried, and then past several of the major government buildings, and about a half dozen churches.The churches were all grand: many altars, many statues, many candles, beautiful ceilings.And at the door of every church were those begging.
On our fourth day, we went to the south part of the city, which is one of the poorest areas.When many of the older people were born, this part of the city didn’t exist.It was created by the influx of those from the countryside fleeing from the violence between the FARC and government.The city didn’t build the houses, or the roads, or the pathways.The people who lived there built them.They maintained them.They still maintain them – the city will sometimes provide materials, but not always. The pa…

"Escuchame Vecino"

by: friar Alejandro Arias, OFM Conv.
“Escuchame vecino!” “Listen to me, neighbor!” were the words of supplication that I heard in the Transmilenio on our way to Guacamaya, a poor town in the south of Bogota. “Escuchame vecino” this person keeps repeating with supplication and sadness. “Escuchame vecino” he repeated one more time begging for food and not for money. I will give my “chala” and kneel just for food. This words pierced my heart with sadness.
My sadness came from seeing the poverty of this Venezuelan family poverty that attack them with violence a poverty that perhaps this family will never thought of experiencing.“Vecino, escucheme” I heard one last time and this is when my heart melted with a deep sadness. I didn't have money to give this family the only thing I had was my lunch bag. I decided to give them my lunch bag and when the lady received the lunch bag she was grateful and in her eyes I can see her sadness but also her gratitude.  But the most important thing that …

To Heal Wounds

by: friar Jaime Zaragoza, OFM Conv.
In Bogota, we went one morning to serve communion to the homebound in the parish the friars run.At one of the stops, I heard a story of abuse within the family.In hearing this story, I realized that even though the abuse happened years ago and the abuser had long since died, there was still a lot of suffering and pain that needed tending to.I witnessed another friar care for that situation of pain by listening and praying with the family; it was the first step to helping mend the wounds of violence within the family.
As I was spending time with this family, I realized that this family was a microcosm for the violence experienced throughout Colombia, the violence of the past that is still being dealt with.I began to see it as an example of what Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas called in his pastoral letter “a problem that is rooted in the past that has either been ignored or concealed.”[1]It was a problem that needed to be spoken of, a “symptomatic fa…


Considering and Contemplating the Conventual Franciscan Charism Through the Witness of Saint Oscar Romero
by: fray Sidifredo de La Cruz, OFM Conv. (Colombia)   & fray Erick Marín, OFM Conv. (Central America)
We, the Franciscan friars of Colombia and Central America welcome our brothers from the United States to Latin America. Our houses of formation in Bogotá, Medellín, and San Salvador are happy to host our combined Franciscan group of friars of the Americas, in our learning and experiencing what it means for us to embrace the lepers of today, the poor crucified Christ, and to be embraced by Him in return.  Our religious structures and striving for personal holiness can too often lead to adopting a comfortable lifestyle that numbs consecrated religious. In this state, we too often fail to hear the cry of the poor who seek justice to find peace, and thereby risk missing the compassion that moved God to incarnate his Word in the reality of an oppressed people.
Pope Francis, who co…

"The Forest is More Than the Trees..."

by: friar Rich Rome, OFM Conv.

It looked like a scene out of Stranger Things.We had come to the top of a mountain, which had been the site of a strip mine in the 1990s and somewhat returned to forest.It had been raining the entire time we had been in Kentucky, and while it still was raining, there was a brief reprieve in the intensity.Stepping off the main trail, we walked through the exceptionally green brush, made so green this year from the copious amounts of rain, until we came to the site: a circle of burnt orange about 50 yards in diameter containing about 40 black-trunked trees within the circle, the tallest of which were over 30 feet high.These were loblolly pines, very familiar to me since they are one of the most common trees we have in coastal Virginia.But here, they seemed out of place.
The circle of orange was the accumulation of all the pine needles they had dropped as they had grown over the last 15 years as part of an experiment by a professor from the University of Ken…

God's Garden

by: friar Jaime Zaragoza, OFM Conv. In Kentucky, I heard a phrase that stuck with me: we are co-gardeners in God’s garden.And the garden is being destroyed.I was realizing while climbing the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky to help plant new trees, that I was being a co-gardener with God.My role was to plant the seed, do the work, and put in the necessary time, to once again be a church for social justice, to not partake in harmony that governs nature itself, but to listen to what is needed from me.

For myself, it was interesting and transforming knowing that there are places still needing a lot of attention in the US.I will strive to become a better co-gardener, a better caretaker of the earth and to cooperate with Mother Nature.I have also learned that once a seed is planted it takes time to develop; as it is true in nature, so is it true in our spiritual lives. At Our Lady of Good Counsel in Hazard, KY, the windows of the church are based on the five themes found in the Appalachian p…

"You Visited Me"

by: friar Angel Garcia, OFM Conv.
In my previous post, I wrote about North Carolina and the vibrancy in a community of recent immigrants. Now I turn my attention to a different group of invisible people, federal prisoners in Kentucky. 
While I did not personally encounter the prisoners themselves, except seeing a few prisoners being put into a van for transportation, we friars did meet with an amazing woman who regularly participates in a program that matches local people with prisoners for visitations (Prisoner Visitation & Support Program). When we asked her why she has been a part of this program for so many years, she responded that it is because of her faith and done through the American Friends Service Committee. She is a Quaker. As a member of the Community of Friends she believes that she has a responsibility for helping to build the “kingdom of God on earth.”
She sees the inmates are part of that "kingdom" even though they have committed crimes. They are children …