(Please see various other photos in the Photo Gallery)

Hola Folks

As I promised with my last update that I would send you all on another one after the official opening and blessing of our new parish church on the 10th of January last well here it is.

Since the last update we have celebrated our first holy communion in the parish on the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas day. WE had 110 children and adults making their communion and because of the numbers we had three cermonies one on the Saturday evening and the other two on the Sunday morning. Great crowds attended and each person have their godparents present too unlike ourselves in Ireland the godparents are not necessarily the same ones from baptisms. It seems to be their custom here for any celebration be it in church or graduation from school or marriage that they have "padrinos" as they call them here.

WE also celebrated Christmas masses in the different areas of the parish four in all and one of them was celebrated outside because of the numbers. For the nine days before the 25th the custom here is to have a novena or a posada-where people visit a different house every night with the statue of the baby Jesus and say prayers and sing hymns and share some food and refreshments too. It is an opportunity for the people to meet up and chat and visit each other and prepare also for the Christmas mass too. The majority of the masses are on the 24th of December and they have thier family meal at midnight on the night of Christmas eve-bear in mind though that it is a very simple meal of rice and chicken or pork for those who are lucky to have it the important thing for them is to gather together as a family and the chance also to spend some time with each other. After all the masses here in the parish we shared out hot chocolate and Christmas bread(special recipe) which the locals do every year too. Thanks also to your generosity we were also privileged to be able to share out Christmas toys to many of the children of the parish which was only achieved with all your help too.

New Years eve is very different here too-many families make up dolls of many sorts for example Barneys and Michael Jackson lookalikes and place fireworks inside them and at midnight each family burn their own doll(viejo) so as yo can only imagine there is some amount of noise around the neighbourhood it is not a night to be tired and in bed before 12 beacuse the noise level is unreal. The thinking behind it all is that the burning is leaving all the bad stuff behind us and starting afresh again.

And so we came last Sunday to the blessing of the new parish church our rainy season finally arrived during the week before so we were praying for a dry morning and we were lucky as we had monsoon rains on either side of the celebration but the sun shone for the procession and mass. One of the local bishops here in Guayaquil performed the blessing Marcos Perez and was very impressed with the bamboo style structure of the church and more impressed with the fact that the majority of the fundraising came from Ireland for the building of the same. I have to admit that the cermony and the blessing of the church is one of the highlights of my priesthood so far there were ten countries represented at the mass given it a great missionary effect obviously Ecuador Colombia Peru Australia United StatesScotland Spain Italy Germany and of course Ireland. I have often said before that the whole story of mission is one of a team effort and all of the work being done out here could not be achieved without your great support and prayers. After the mass as is customary here the young people performed drama and dances and sang songs to round off a great day. The church out here is very much a young one with many young people involved and the establishment of the parish has encouraged many children to get involved and right now we have over 350 children receiving catechesis for communion and confirmation. Our confirmation ceremony which will be the first one ever in the parish takes place on the 21st of February next.

I will close for now wishing you all Gods blessings for 2010 we are well and truly into our rainy season monsoon falls and powercuts are the norms of the days out here now for the next couple of months so as always may God reward you all for your great generosity to the mission here in Ecuador.

Amigo siempre Colm (up Tipp)