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'Touching down on the soil of Central America, the land of so many martyrs, was a profoundly moving experience for us.'

The Benedictine Monks of
Weston Priory
Highlights From the Fall/Winter 2003 Bulletin

Life Together in One Heart Chronicle

MORE FROM THE FALL/WINTER 2003 BULLETIN  •  PREVIOUS CHRONICLES

February & March 2003

    Dr. Edward Mahoney, director of Graduate Theology, and professor of moral theology at Saint Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, led our community in two days of study, giving an overview of the rapidly developing areas of genetics and bioethics, and the moral questions these developments pose.
     
    At the end of February, we traveled to Mexico, for a time of exchange with our Benedictine sisters there. We have been in association with our Mexican sisters for more than half of the history of our community. It was, therefore, natural that we would give thanks for the gift of our mutual friendship during our days in Mexico.
     
    Aztec dance
    Sisters perform Aztec dance during anniversary Eucharist.
     
    For months, the sisters planned a daylong celebration, which began with a two-hour outdoor Eucharist, incorporating Aztec dance, a procession, and the telling of the story of the growth of our relationship as a gift of God. A festive dinner was highlighted by a group of Mariachi musicians, who accompanied us as brothers and sisters danced for nearly three hours! We brothers were moved to tears of amazement and gratitude; our words seemed so inadequate to express the love we felt that day, humbled by the sisters' outpouring of affection. Having walked, risked, laughed, and cried together for more than twenty-five years, the linking of our communities continues to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
     
    As February became March, we took the short flight from Mexico City to Guatemala City, making a brief stop in San Salvador. Four years ago, our Mexican Benedictine sisters, at the invitation of the Benedictine sisters of Ferdinand, Indiana, assumed responsibility for the Monasterio Reina de Paz, located in Cobán, Alta Vera Paz, in Guatemala's north-central highlands.
     
    Touching down on the soil of Central America, the land of so many martyrs, was a profoundly moving experience for us. From Guatemala City, we traveled the seven-hour journey to Cobán by bus. Expecting the lush green of the highlands, we saw instead a land suffering from a severe drought. The dry, brown landscape was a terribly apt visual metaphor for the suffering of Guatemala to this very day.
     
    The monastery, in the city of Cobán, serves as a house of formation for sisters who have made their first profession. The small community is international, with sisters from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the United States.
     
    Singing at Liturgy
    Sisters, brothers lead singing at the liturgy.
     
    The sisters introduced us to what Latin Americans call la realidad, the actual situation in the country. While peace accords have been signed, officially ending the thirty-year long civil war, the accords have not been implemented. Under the guise of a civilian government, the military and wealthy landowners continue the repressive policies of the past. Attempts among the people to organize for change have been effectively stopped, and now a cloud of despair and apathy hangs over the country. Death squads continue to operate with impunity, while some civilians turn to gangs and vigilante justice.
     
    One of the deepest joys of our visit to Guatemala was the presence of Felipe and Elena Ixcot, Guatemalan refugees who live in sanctuary here at the priory. While the country is not yet safe enough for them to return permanently, they are involved in a number of projects among their Maya people, which involve occasional visits to their homeland. We have often dreamt together of the day when we might experience them in their own land. This year, the opportunity arose. Felipe and Elena (who were already in Guatemala, coordinating their Midwife Project) came from their home village to Cobán, and we shared some days together with the sisters.
     
    Sisters at Cobán
    Sisters in Cobán community, Guatemala.
     
    The sisters' monastery is located near a community of Benedictine monks, a foundation of Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota. The monks received us warmly, as we joined them for Eucharist and supper one evening. Some of the monks offer pastoral care to remote villages, hours away from the city of Cobán. One of these is a resettlement camp for refugees who have returned from exile in Mexico. The camp's location is more than remote, since it also lacks water and electricity. The people have next to nothing. During a visit to the camp, we met with the people, listening as their leaders told the story of their exile, return, and the harsh struggle for life. The visit concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist in their small chapel.
     
    Nuevo Porvenir camp
    Nuevo Porvenir resettlement camp community members.
     
    An afternoon with the Dominican friars in Cobán was an immensely rewarding experience. The Dominicans have established a center whose main work is the inculturation of the church into the reality of the majority Maya population.
     
    Near the end of our experience in Cobán, the sisters surprised us, after the Sunday Eucharist, with another celebration of our fiftieth anniversary — this time, with musicians from the area playing two marimbas.

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