Eighth annual Guatemala Mission Celebration planned for September

By Donna Connell

Eighth Annual Guatemala Mission Celebration Planned For September

All are cordially invited to the eighth annual Guatemala Mission Celebration, planned for Wednesday, Sept. 16, at Barrister Winery. The event is hosted by the Guatemala Commission and Father Esequel Xicay, past rector of the minor seminary, Seminario Menor Señor San José, has been invited as the special guest. Father Esequel now serves as pastor to a parish in the Solola/Chimaltenago Diocese. Of course, this event will only take place if coronavirus-related conditions allow. Please watch for further updates.

Early reports from the mission during the COVID-19 pandemic indicate that the people of the Guatemala Mission are experiencing some of the same effects of the pandemic that we experience in the Spokane Diocese, but with more limited resources. The sisters in the convent are healthy and not taking visitors. Local markets are closed, thereby affecting the economic welfare of many people in the communities, as well as the flow of food for everyone.

Schools, including the Catholic school in Nahualá, the minor seminary in Sololá, and Our Lady of the Highway Preschool, are closed. Some students are receiving classes online, but in the rural areas (most of our mission), teachers send homework by text message to the few who have cellphones, although most have no internet access.

In early May, Father Nicasio, pastor of Santa Catarina, Ixtahuacan, reported that everyone is staying at home, and Masses are closed to the public.

Nawal Estero, the radio station, continues to broadcast from the main station, but has lost revenue due to the lack of remote broadcast opportunities since events, processions, and celebrations have been cancelled. Thankfully, they are able to broadcast to more people because of the donation of new equipment (from a donor in the Spokane Diocese) which allows the transmission to reach further than previously possible.

Dr. Jose Miguel, director of the medical clinics, reported on May 1  that there were 30 to 40 new COVID-19 cases in Guatemala each day (a total of 703 on May 3), although only a few had been identified in Santa Lucía, Nahualá, and Ixtahuacán. He said there are probably many more cases, as they do not have enough tests The medical clinics are open in the morning but fewer people are coming for treatment because they are afraid to leave their homes.

At the clinics, the medical staff are taking safety measures, allowing only one person to enter at a time, wearing face masks, and educating people about the virus. The clinics may need to close temporarily if the situation gets worse and if there are insufficient supplies to protect the health workers at the clinics. Dr. Jose Miguel has purchased more protective equipment, such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves, and medicines; however, the prices are much higher than normal, and there is a shortage of supplies. For example, N95 masks were unavailable, and the surgical face masks he was able to purchase cost eight times what they did before the pandemic. By the beginning of May, non-budgeted coronavirus-related expenses totaled $2,000.

And yet, through all of this, our Guatemalan partners in mission continue to pray for us—a reminder that we need to pray for them! Correspondence from the mission consistently expresses gratitude for your prayers and support.