Posted by: Honduras Mission Team | June 15, 2014

Friday – Day 7

Today is the feast of Saint Anthony! It’s a big, big deal here in Honduras as evident by the fireworks starting as early as 2AM….and 4AM….and 5AM…and… well, let’s just say it’s anything but silent.

Today’s breakfast was celebrated with the nuns at the elderly home. They presented us each with a gift to show their appreciation for our being there. The jovenes played their guitars and sang songs for us prompting everyone to break out in dance right there in the kitchen.

A quick group photo and we were off to begin our day. Margarida, Jane and Dana passed out rosaries and prayer cards to the elderly. Then, part of the team went to the prison while the rest prepared for the day at the orphanage.

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The prison visit was unscheduled, having only received the invitation 36 hours prior. Yet, Fr. Brian felt passionate about being able to serve the prisoners by celebrating Mass for them. Although the prison is served by a couple of different orders of nuns, it is rare that a priest is able to come say Mass.

We had to turn over our passports upon entering the prison and were not allowed to take any items in except for the Mass kit. Mass was held in an open area with an elevated stage and table that served as an altar. The congregation of prisoners sat in plastic chairs, filled to capacity, while many others stood around the perimeter. There was even a choir, made up of inmates, that sang and played the guitar.
Of all the Masses I’ve attended this week, this one seemed the most meaningful. The gratefulness and reverence displayed by the prisoners to be able to attend Mass and receive Communion was overwhelming.

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After Mass, we were given a tour of the prison. This prison is supposed to accommodate only 300 inmates, however, there were over 600 presently incarcerated. This made for very crowded conditions and limited basic necessities. The facility itself was not like any of us expected when we envisioned a jail. Normally, you would expect to find individual cell blocks with limited interaction amongst the prisoners. Here, the inmates were all out in the open area and we were able to walk amongst them and interact with a handshake or a hug. The main area was similar to a open air market place. Many of the prisoners were practicing a trade to earn money. For example, some were making hammocks, fishing nets, and furniture. Others were cooking food on a small hot plate to sell to the other inmates. Some of the prisoners were engaged in leisure activities such as playing cards, pool and soccer.

In the evenings, they retire to their sleeping areas. These are rooms no bigger than six feet wide that have bunk beds stacked four and five high, sleeping 23-24 prisoners. They are dark and dank, brightened only by the handmade curtains that allow each bunk a small amount of privacy. There are also a few individual bed areas where prisoners who can afford to pay for them stay.

Fr. Brian also met with a man who had been spending a couple of days in solitary confinement.
One of the inmates expressed his gratitude for our visit. He explained that when visitors come it’s as though they get to experience a little bit of life from the outside. It gives them a small sense of freedom.

We exited the prison, leaving behind a donation of several cases of toilet paper—a basic necessity that they often don’t have enough of.

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On the way back to the orphanage, we made another unplanned stop to the Baby Orphanage ran by the Sisters of Charity. Many of the toddlers and babies only live here temporarily until their families can find a way to support them. The conditions of the orphanage were refreshing. The rooms and courtyard were bright and clean and in good repair. We stayed awhile and played with the children before heading back to the girls’ orphanage.

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Later we took a stroll to the Catholic University to witness the weeping Mary statue and, as a team, prayed the rosary for many special intentions both in Honduras and back in the States.

In honor of the feast day of St. Anthony, Sor Velma insisted on washing Fr. Brian’s alb before Mass. She did such a meticulous job, Fr. Brian was contemplating ways of instituting some sort of foreign religious exchange program. He decided it would be less red tape to teach Justin how to iron.

Fr. Brian concelebrated Mass with the Bishop at the orphanage. The chapel was filled with surrounding residents of Santa Rosa; the beautiful voices and music spilled out into the street echoing throughout.

After Mass, Fr. Brian was pulled aside by an English-speaking woman wanting him to hear her confession. In keeping with his mission to serve, he obliged even though it made him late for dinner with the Bishop.

The evening concluded with everyone dancing in the courtyard—including Fr. Brian and Monsignor Darwin.
We said our long good-byes to the girls with plans to return again in January. Many hugs later, daily reflection and late night packing and we were ready to call it a short night until tomorrow.

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A Final Thought:

Imprisonment comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s physical—like the inmates incarcerated behind the four walls of a locked cell yearning to taste the freedom that comes on the other side. Or perhaps it’s in the gnarled and arthritic hands of the elderly who struggle to open the packaging of a gift presented to them.
But sometimes imprisonment is in our hearts and minds. When we fail to forgive—others or even ourselves—we bind our hearts so tightly we don’t give Jesus the chance to come in.

When we forgive like Jesus has forgiven, we can be like the prisoners who find a glimpse of freedom with each visitor who treats them like a human being worthy of redemption. Or, the woman who received the sacrament of Reconciliation merely because she asked.

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