By Br. Santos Cecilio Hernández Carranza, O. Carm.
During our break in classes at the University of Central America, I had the opportunity to share the experience of Holy Week in the municipality of San Luis del Carmen, Department of Chalatenango, in El Salvador.
The community I was in was called Santa Cruz. The patron saint of the community is San Sebastián. Together with the pre-novice Miguel Ángel Guerra, we spent most of Holy Week and Easter Sunday with this community.
Within what we found was a Catholic community with few members. It is an area where many of its inhabitants are older adults and it is difficult for them to participate in activities of the parish.
Another element that is found there is the presence of many families that are members of religious denominations. But perhaps the largest percentage of people are indifferent to anything that is related to religion. They have many reasons for their lack of practicing the faith. Some are unhappy with the local pastors, be they Catholic or Evangelical. Others have not been brought up in a faith and feel no need.
San Luis del Carmen is on the banks of a lake created by a large dam which belongs to an electric company. The villagers say that they long for their old homes where they lived before the energy company bought them at a very low price their houses to build the reservoir.
Many tourists come to San Luis del Carmen, enjoying many of the water activites that living on a lake provde. But the tourists are not generally people who participate in the activities of the Holy Week.
The citizens of San Luis del Carmen live on the fishing and farming. They are peasant people who do not have luxuries, although it is worth noting that they do not live in extreme poverty.
Holy Week is the time when more people participate in the activities of the Church. Yet is is somewhat discouraging that at most 20 people who will be participating.
The community is attended by Mrs. Yolanda, who is a simple, kind, relatively poor woman. Mrs. Yolanda lost her husband 27 years ago and had to support her family. In 2007, her daughter decided to travel as an undocumented immigrant to the United States. But for reasons that Mrs. Yolanda does not know, her daughter never reached her destination nor did she return home. She is still waiting for her daughter to return.
What is clear to me is that despite her suffering, she continues on. I could say that, because of her faith in the community of Santa Cruz, the place is still alive. She is loved within her canton (neighborhood) and that allows her to work to insure a Catholic presence in Santa Cruz.
My week at San Luis del Carmen was an experience which helped to reaffirm my vocation as a professed religious. I am used to sharing Holy Week with many people. Being in a place where the faith is so poor, provoked questions within me and challenged me. This is what I really want to do with my life. And with that experience, I once again reaffirm that God gives me all that I need in order to respond each day.
I am grateful to the people of San Luis del Carmen who open the doors of their homes as well as their hearts to Miguel Ángel and me. I am sure that God will continue to act within history, making us recognize his salvific action in our world even in small communities of his faithful.