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By Donna Connell and Julianne Connell Sachs 

Student and teacher, Ixtahuacan resident puts faith into action 

Born and raised in Ixtahuacan, 28-year-old Pascual Tahay Ajpacaja is guided by faith as he balances studies, work, and leisure. Pascual teaches religious education in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and served as parish secretary for six years.  He grew up in a family of four children and recently moved into his own residence in his hometown.

Pascual attended the elementary and middle schools in Ixtahuacan, then traveled to Guatemala City for high school, where he studied philosophy and theology. He recently completed five years of study at the Universidad Manano Galvez in Quetzaltenango. During the next two years, Pascual plans to take three professional exams, complete practicums, and write a thesis. Driven by an urgency to help his people, whom he feels have been marginalized and abandoned by the government, his goal is to be a lawyer and notary.

Pascual said he is grateful to God that he has been able to complete his education, as he has had to overcome the financial hardships of school and travel to Quetzaltenango (about one hour from Ixtahuacan) for classes, while working as parish secretary and weaving to produce fabrics which are made into garments for people of the western region of Guatemala.

His involvement in Santa Catarina Church in Ixtahuacan has been extensive; it includes founding a youth choir and helping lead the religious education program for children. He states that educating young people is of paramount importance to the church, “I firmly believe that through education it is possible to generate a new society, a more humane and conscious generation, and, of course, train people who bear witness to the living Christ.”

Pascual enjoys playing guitar, practicing calligraphy, and reading classical literature. He also finds peace and joy traveling the beautiful countryside and hills of Ixtahuacan. His favorite day of the week is Sunday, a day typically filled with religion, culture, and sports. 

Pascual recently completed a literary work he names, “Passion of Jesus Christ.” It consists of a translation of a 1775 manuscript from K’iche (the Mayan language spoken in Ixtahuacan) into Spanish. The manuscript contains a discourse on the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, written by Fray Domingo de Vico. Pascual said, “It is selfless work that is lovingly dedicated to Fr. David Scott Baronti, a missionary whom I knew very closely, in honor of more than four decades of pastoral and social commitment to the parish of Antigua Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, especially for instruction in the faith by promoting and rescuing our mother tongue.”

“Faith in God has shaped me in every way,” Pascual said. “We must live the Gospel in our daily work and in our interpersonal relationships. Today, through faith, I am more empathetic with the ailments and needs of my fellow men because Jesus Christ calls us daily to bear witness to the Good News.”

“I am deeply grateful to the people of Spokane for the unconditional and constant support of the religious education program,” he said. “God bless each of the benefactors.”

Funds from people in Spokane stabilized and upgraded the program building and continue to sustain the program, which meets every other week. Detailed reports of activities and use of funds have been sent to the Guatemala Commission.

A group of people sitting in a room

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Pictured is Pascual teaching children in the religious program.

A group of people posing for a photo

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Pascual, kneeling in front right, is pictured with children and other teachers in front of the religious education building during remodeling.