ALBANY – For Father Foster Antonio Cerda Granados to visit during Lent was appropriate. His parish in Honduras has benefitted greatly from the generous almsgiving of Catholics here.
Through March, St. Mary Parish families hosted the priest, who took great satisfaction in meeting those who have helped lift up his parish community in Comayagüela, near the capital city of Honduras. Parishioners happily jockeyed for a turn to host the friendly priest for dinner and sightseeing trips.
“This is a community of faith with people that are very grateful for God and very committed to their parish,” Father Granados said. “ I can see Catholics that live their faith in a daily basis and work together as a community. The generosity my home parish receives from the community here in Albany has been key for us to be able to move on and build our church.”
In 2009, St. Mary’s staff established a sister relationship with the Honduras parish, which serves a community plagued by poverty in a country with the highest per capita homicide rate in the world.
Since then, the Albany parish has sent $26,000. Some funds were used to rebuild the community’s church, which was destroyed when Hurricane Mitch leveled the country in 1998. Catholics in Comayagüela had never been able to afford to rebuild a church where they could worship as one community. That changed after their friends in Albany reached out.
Their new church was complete in time for Holy Week Masses one year ago.
“These people lost everything but they never lost their faith,” Father Granados said. A Salesian priest for 28 years, Father Granados speaks Spanish, French, Italian and an African dialect he learned over many years as a missionary overseas. He was keen to hone his English language skills during the Oregon visit.
During one parish event, Father Granados shared a slideshow with photos of his parish. Many of the images were of the children of community. Currently, the parish is collecting money for the “Seats, Not Streets” campaign, to help keep children in school. Albany Catholics hope to raise $15,000 to help the Comayagüela parish establish a parochial school where children can take refuge from violence and poverty.
Each donation of $1,200 pays for a child’s education, food, books, uniform and other needs for an entire year. Albany parishioners were encouraged to stash a few dollars every day throughout Lent, perhaps in lieu of buying a soda or mocha, and bring their collection to church on Holy Thursday or Easter Sunday.
Kathleen Poole and her husband Tim hosted Father Granados for part of his stay. They were also part of a parish delegation that visited Honduras in 2011.
“The relationships has been very enriching because it gave us a chance to see what people experience in other places,” Kathleen said. “What we found were people just like us, but who live in very dire circumstances and are trying to survive the best they can.” Working on a common cause has also united St. Mary’s Anglo and Hispanic communities, Kathleen said.
During his visit, Father Granados was overjoyed to see the spirit of the Hispanic community at the Albany parish. He celebrated Spanish Masses on Sundays and listened carefully to the stories of the people in the pews, many of them immigrants who had left behind wives, children and parents in other countries.
“This Lenten season has been a time for me to think carefully about the value of family,” Father Granados said.
Early on in his visit, Father Granados challenged each parishioner to bring one person to the following week’s Mass. The next Sunday, the church was packed.
The help from the Oregon parish has been a blessing from God,” Father Granados said. “That is why I decided to come and visit and experience the community of faith here. I had been so blessed to meet so many people over this few weeks. I’m very grateful.”