Tag Archives: mercy

hoping in the sand


Miriam Marivel Campos Perez, a thirty-year-old mother, and her six-year-old daughter Maria live in Cuyamel, not far from the city of San Pedro Sula in the north of Honduras. Their village is built around a life of fishing and farming. The small village is often victim to flooding. 

Cuyamel used to be one hundred meters away from the sea; however, as a result of a massive earthquake in 2009, the    seabed has sunken by 60 cm, and this, combined with rising sea levels caused by climate change, means the  village is now prone to devastating flooding. ‘I have maybe a few months left in my home,’ says Miriam. ‘We are hardly living there these days because every time there is bad weather we have to evacuate.’ When the floods come the alert is sounded and the villagers have little time to get ready as the water comes very fast. 

In school, six-year-old Maria learns the traffic light system. Green means everything is ok. Orange means the weather is starting to turn and they must start to get ready for the floods. Red means they must run fast as the water is coming. Mother and daughter grab hold of each other and run. 

Maria says that she shouts ‘let’s go, let’s go’ to her mother because she is so afraid. They must run fast as the water brings with it timber and other debris; if you are hit you could get badly hurt. On returning home, flooding is another trauma. ‘It’s really sad when I come back and see how my house looks. I want to run away and never return. The sea brings sand and is full of garbage that gets washed here.’ The family spends days cleaning their home, which is now damp and mouldy. Miriam says that her daughter has nowhere to play as the land is filled with debris and rubbish. It also gets covered in salt, so people can’t grow food.

Trócaire, through local partners, is supporting Miriam, Maria, and their community by supporting the emergency response teams. We are creating safe routes for people to move quickly away when the flood is coming. Together we are providing food, shelter and training for local people.

                                                 (Courtesy of Trocaire's Lenten Campaign Material 2017)


With Maria in Cuyamel, Honduras (November 2016)


Last November I had the chance to visit Honduras with Trocaire to see some of the work that is done in that country. As part of our visit, we met with Miriam and her family, including Maria (with me in photo) and it made it very real for me.  Truth told though, I could walk away from the reality - that’s not an option for Miriam, Maria and those   living in this village.  Neither is it an option for Trocaire, whose workers are so committed to supporting this community and many other needs that present themselves, not just in Honduras but throughout the world.  Trocaire literally means “Mercy” and it was clear to me that mercy is at the heart of all work done in our name by the staff and associates of Trocaire.

Sharing a journey and sharing vision - Trocaire supports this Youth Group

We visited many of Trocaire's work sites and met with a wide variety of people over our days in Honduras. Groups varied from a Youth Club where boys and girls learn to be respectful and appreciative of one another.  Violence against women is a major problem in Honduras and, in this initiative Trocaire (and its partner agency) offers a way to help boys and girls grow in awareness of each other, learn from one another and journey together, as equals.  It was clear to us all that the work is having a positive effect.  The young people and their leaders spoke movingly about how much this club means to them.  We met a group of women who are farming as a co-operative and, once again, Trocaire's presence and support were clearly evident and acknowledged.  There was a Community Group that is trying to claim back rights to a local river - rights that have been taken over by a large company.  One of Trocaire's partner agencies, with Trocaire's support, is offering assistance and guidance to this group.

"On the one road" because there's only one road.

The village where Miriam and Maria live is accessible only by one road.  We travelled this road for many hours and the conditions were treacherous.  The village (as mentioned above) is by the edge of the ocean. In another setting, the location could be classed as idyllic but not here because the homes are too close to the ocean and the buildings are of a very poor standard.  When the ocean rises and winds become storms, these homes and their occupants stand no chance.  Here Trocaire is involved in the development of a man made canal that will allow people escape via the river since the one road, we had travelled, quickly becomes impassable.

Flowers of hope on the edge of the ocean

Holiday album material as you look to the sea

A family's home - a stone's throw from the shoreline

There is a photo that remains with me, it's of Maria playing "X+0's" with Alexis (one of Trocaire's Team in Honduras).  As I watched, I could see that Alexis was doing all he could to let her win.  I couldn't help but wish that she would - not just the game in the sand, that would be washed away in the next visit of the tides, but in life and for life.

Apart from memories of people and places we visited, I think my abiding memory is the dedication of Trocaire to the people in its care.  I had a real sense of very good people wanting to make a difference in very difficult and challenging situations.  It struck me that the Trocaire Staff we met were well grounded people, focused and committed.  I could not help but think they could have chosen easier paths in life, 9-5 jobs (not that they don't have their challenges too) where coming home in the evening meant switching off and relaxing.  My real sense of Trocaire is that "switching off" isn't an option but that readiness to be with people is the driving force.

For some more photos and an overview of the visit with Trocaire to Honduras, please click here

For some more photos and a few thoughts around Trocaire's work in Honduras please click here 

My name is Vincent Sherlock, a priest of the Diocese of Achonry and Diocesan Communications Officer.  I had the opportunity to visit Hounduras last November and am pleased to be able to share here and through the links given some of the stories and people we met along the way.  I hope that this year's Lenten Campaign in the diocese will assist Trocaire's work and with Fr Gerry Davey (Trocaire Rep for our Diocese) encourage your support in whatever form it may take.

Trocaire's website is www.trocaire.org 

God Bless the work.  God bless the world.

Trocaire Visitation Group with Bishop Michael Lenihan, Bishop of La Ceiba, Honduras

Celebrating Religious Life

Earlier today (Sunday February 1st) the Religious based in our diocese joined with Bishop Brendan and a number of our Diocesan Priests to celebrate Evening Prayer for the Vigil of The Presentation in the Temple. It was a very pleasant gathering and was intended to highlight the ministry of the Religious in our diocese. Sisters of the Mercy Order, St Louis Community, Ursulines, Marists, St John of God and one priest of the Holy Cross order were in attendance. Each Community brought forward a symbol associated with the Religous Community and spoke about the particular charism of the order. Each spoke too about what gives joy in the living of the Religious Vocation. Bishop Brendan read and spoke around the Gospel Passage of the Presentation in the Temple

HOMILY:  [Gospel: The Presentation in the Temple (Lk 2:22-40)]

Simeon was ‘righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him…’

Anna ‘was of great age…a widow…84 years of age; she never left the Temple, but worshipped there with prayer and fasting night and day…’

When Mary and Joseph brought their infant to present him to the Lord in the Temple, they met an elderly man and an elderly woman, Simeon and Anna. She was a widow of 84 years of age, and about Simeon, we know ‘it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death till he had seen the Lord’s Messiah’, and when he had seen the child Jesus, he exclaimed ‘Now Master you may dismiss your servant in peace…’ so we presume he too was well on in years, preparing for death.

They clearly were very ordinary people, truly belonging to God’s Anawim: simple living, poor and utterly trusting in God, their lives centred on the Temple, the house of God. Anna ‘never left the Temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day’. Two people, utterly open to God, therefore wise and prophetic. What a climax to a life, what a maturity! Wilfrid Harrington says of Simeon: ‘There are still Simeons (and we can say also Annas) in our midst – many more, indeed, than we might think. They are not demonstrative people and do not get involved in controversy; they form no pressure group. Their piety is unobtrusive, but it is very real. They can live with sloppy liturgy and gimmickry because they can see beyond it. They can bear patiently and charitably with the foibles and failings of clergy. They can adapt to change. Though largely unnoticed, they form the backbone of a community. And the Holy Spirit works in them and through them’. (The Drama of Christ’s Coming’. 1988. Dominican Publications). Simeon foresaw what the infant, and his mother Mary, would go through:  Anna we are told ‘told of the Infant to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem’. Having met the Word of God incarnate, she spoke of him to others, shared what she had seen and recognised (her heart, in other words). A missionary without going beyond those she met – or came to see her.

These two old people had come to know the truth: they found it incarnate in the tiny child and we can taste most of all in this story their profound joy. Simeon – ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, according to your promise…my eyes have seen your salvation…for all nations…the light to enlighten all people…the glory of the people who believe’…

And Anna…praising God and speaking about the child to all who had ears and hopes…!

Two old people left in a state of absolute joy… what a gift they must have been to their community, and to the whole world since then down to ourselves today…

There are great temptations as we grow old and are not able to keep up with things, to give in to the critical, our questions are more persistent, our hopes bruised by what we see or can’t see… the seeming non-future of the consecrated life we chose with such youthful enthusiasm and ideals.

That’s why this Year from Pope Francis for Consecrated Life is such a surprise…Powerful affirmation that Consecrated Life is as central to the Church of the 21st Century as in any other, as foundational for the future of the Body of Christ as are Simeon and Anna to the story of Jesus from the beginning.

The Holy Father asks us to celebrate this year of Consecrated Life by looking at the past with gratitude, by living the present with passion, and by embracing the future with hope. It’s all about attitude, a way of looking at things, the constant and ever new call of Jesus to conversion. What is clear from his message for this year, but also from so many of his utterances, is that Pope Francis wants us most of all to check ourselves honestly against these standards. If I look on the past with gratitude, then I will be free to live the present with passion (happy now with all I can’t, as much as in the seeming little I can, do. – ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’, as St Paul said. And finally I will then look to the future with hope…

What the Holy Father gives us is a recipe for joy. ‘Where there are Religious’, the Holy Father says ‘there is joy’. And its true. There was joy in preparing this little evening with you, and there is joy in your presence here today. That joy is sourced on choices made in youth, in the fidelity and repentance that you have practiced in lives of total service.

‘It is not by proselytising that the church grows, but by attraction’ the Pope says in Evangelium Gaudii, and ‘our effectiveness lies in the eloquence of our lives’

Let me end with a witness to the truth of that statement, and to the power for the Gospel we acquire in old age and when weakness takes pride of place in our lives:

David Neuhaus is a Jesuit priest in Israel. Last year he spoke at the Knock Novena. This week last year he was with the Bishops for our Retreat in Knock. He’s a wonderful scholar of the Old and New Testaments, and priest for the Hebrew speaking Catholic Community in Israel. He is also a Jew, whose family fled the Holocaust and was brought up in S Africa. At the age of 15 he was sent to Jerusalem to receive the best possible Jewish education. I’ll let him speak for himself

Father Neuhaus: I arrived in Israel at the age of 15 with a passion for history, and went off in search of a Russian princess who I knew had moved to Jerusalem. I was a Jewish adolescent and the scion of the Russian Empire I met, Mother Barbara, was almost 90, a Russian Orthodox nun for more than 50 years.

We spent hours together, talking about the last days of the Russian Empire, the revolution and its aftermath. In the course of our conversations, I noticed that this very old and frail lady shone with joy. I found that very strange as she was almost completely bedridden, confined to a small room in a convent and the only prospect she was facing was death.

One day, I plucked up the courage and asked her: Why are you so joyful? She knew I was a Jew and she was hesitant at first, but then as she began to speak of the great love in her life, the words came tumbling out and she became ever more radiant. She told me about Jesus Christ, about God’s love expressed in him, about her life of joy with him in the convent.

I was struck and know today that in her radiant joy I saw the face of Jesus for the first time.

The rest is history, we might say.

But what a history. And what a history we have here today. And the power of the Consecrated life you have chosen and lived is more powerful now potentially for the Church and the people of God in Achonry and the world than at any time before.                                               

More than that, on this first day of Spring, Lá Fhéile Bríde, your continuing faithful living of the call of this moment of your existence as Consecrated people is planting tiny mustard seeds in the soil of God’s good earth that will bear fruit we know not in times when we are long forgotten.