Colm Hogans Spring 2010 Update from Ecuador

Hola Folks

Ecuador calling again here and for the last time from myself here in the parish of El Bautismo de Jesus Guayaquil. I will be leaving here towards the end of May to return back to my diocese of Killaloe and take up an appointment in early August. Since my last update we have had the first celebration of confirmation in the parish with the first Afro Ecuadorian bishop to serve in Ecuador Bishop Ivan. We had 35 young people who made their confirmation on the 21st February and the ceremony was a splendid occasion the confirmation candidates are older than those in Ireland the majority are 15 years of age and older.

We are still in our rainy season which means that the untarred roads are very mucky and slippy and can lead to plenty of getting stuck episodes in the car- many of the minor roads are just impassable some so full muckthat it is even very difficult to walk. One has to remember toothat the local people are so poor that the quality of their footwear is very bad too which makes getting from A to B very hard for them. Many sectors are surrounded by floods and no help come for these abandoned people from the city council as our parish is not even registered on the city map. Schools close for their holidays during the rainy season as it can be impossible sometimes for them to remain open during the monsoon rain period so holidays from school are usually from the middle of January to the beginning of April. The parish school run by the Colombian nuns will reopen again during April and there will be up to 90 children attending the school this year. It costs just over $150 dollares a year to educate a child so sometimes when a family may have up to four children some may drop out during the year because they simply cant afford to send all the children to school- people often ask me how they can help to support a child out here with their education and perhaps an idea is to sponsor a childs education for the year. The fact that the nuns are qualified teachers ensures that all the children in the parish school will get a proper education unlike many other schools in the area that have non qualified teachers. The three Colombian nuns are an absolute Godsend to the parish not alone with their school work but also with the great work they do in the parishfrom visitation to catechesis for the children in the parish preparing for Holy Communion and Confirmation.

We have just celebrated Holy Week and Easter and as always the locals here love processions and we had processions on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The Good Friday procession began at 7am in the morning and involved walking form one end of the parish to the other and lasted three hours- the idea of having the procession early in the morning is to avoid the real hot part of the day as what happens in the rainy season is that we have about 8 hours of real intense heat followed by heavy monsoon rains. The procession included dramatising the stations of the cross and was very moving and well attended. After our Holy Saturday vigil as is the tradition here we all shared bread and hot chocolate together bringing a great sense of unity to the parish and also a great sense that all in the parish were taking part in the real message of the resurrection of Jesus by sharing very simply our lives with each other.

As I mentioned beforethis is my last update and one of the most recent projects is to establish a playground/multisports area in the surroudings of the church most of that project is now complete thanks again to your great generosity and what needs to be done now is to lay down a proper playing surface something that cant be done until after the rainy season is well over. As I return home this project and many more needed social/health and church projects will be left in the hands of my diocesan colleague from Terryglass and former priest in Ennis Fr. John Molloy who is taking over from me and who arrived here in late March. It willl be great for me personally to have contact with the parish through John and also to be able to support him and the parish in the future.

As with leaving my two previous parishes Roscrea and Shannon it will be again be difficult to leave the parish here in Ecuador leaving people behind that I have grown to know so well is never easy. However I can honestly say that I have no regrets about spending the best part of three years in South America and no regrets to come home either. I can also say that I have received a lot more than I gave not only from the very poor people I served with here but also from you my family and friends who have supported me so well and generously during my years here on mission. I will be forever endebted to you all and thank God for such overwhelming kindness and love. The challenge of returning home to the Irish Church presently too will be a huge one however with blessings and guidance please God we will all come through this very difficult period.

I close now with that lovely Irish blessing prayer which I have also translated into Spanish to leave with the local people here as I leave in May:

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Amigo siempre

Colm Up Tipp and will see many of you soon for the championship pg