World Mission Sunday: Maracay partnership to form new delegation

Categories: Around the Diocese

Oct. 11, 2013, edition
By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor

In the early 1960s, the St. Cloud Diocese began sending priests and religious to a young diocese, the Diocese of Maracay, Venezuela, a relationship that spans five decades.

Since 2000, when the partnership became an intentional and reciprocal relationship, four delegations totaling 36 delegates have traveled to Maracay and the Diocese of St. Cloud has received four delegations with more than a dozen visitors from Maracay.

This partnership has strengthened the bond between the two dioceses and has been a key element in the creation of two sister parish relationships — one between the parish cluster of St. Ann in Brandon, Sacred Heart in Urbank, Our Lady of Seven Dolors in Millerville and St. William in Parkers Prairie with Immaculate Conception Parish in Barbacoas, Maracay, and a second between Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids and Cristo Rey Parish in Brisas del Lago, Maracay.

“Our parish has reached out in a sister parish relationship in response to the gift of God’s wondrous love in our lives,” said Father Ron Weyrens, pastor of Sacred Heart, Sauk Rapids.

“As a parish, we cannot be closed in on ourselves and our own parochial needs, for God’s love calls us to go forth to be in relationship with others, to be witnesses of God’s goodness.”

Gift of shared resources

Another major benefit of the diocesan partnership is the relationship with the priests of both dioceses. Many priests have traveled between the two dioceses, including Father Oswaldo Roche from the Diocese of Maracay who is currently serving the Diocese of St. Cloud for three years, to learn about and help build up relationships within the Hispanic community.

“One aspect for me,” Father Roche said, “has been a desire for the formation of the people in the themes of the Bible, the Christian faith, the mission of the church and the sacraments.

“A great number of our parishioners are not able to receive these teachings because of their long hours of work,” he continued. “I want them to have stability and share the culture and traditions from their respective countries with our faith community.”

New delegation forming

Though the partnership between dioceses is longstanding, there is still much work to be done to broaden the base of those connected as well as to bridge cultural gaps and form community with global brothers and sisters. A new delegation is currently forming with plans to travel to Maracay in July 2014.

“These trips are about making a personal connection between two dioceses,” Elizabeth Neville, director of the St. Cloud Mission Office, said. “We want to help people better understand that through our baptismal call, we are all united in the Body of Christ.

“When you hear things on the news in other countries, you can put a face and name with what is happening there,” she added.

“We are able to make a real connection with real people that we know and love. When they hurt, we hurt and when they celebrate, we celebrate. That is what it means to be part of the global church.”

Preparing for the journey

For many, mission means to go somewhere and build something. While service projects are necessary and valuable, Neville believes that mission means “being” more than “doing.”

“When people are exposed to this sort of sharing of our faith and daily lives,” she said, “it becomes a lifelong commitment and involvement in something bigger than can be imagined.

“It’s about discerning if this is right for you as an individual — the right time, the right place in your life,” she added. “It requires getting to know who you are inside. Are you that person who can walk with someone — and let them walk with you — on your journey of faith? When you get back you will be a voice sharing your experiences with your family, your community and the world.”

The formation process

The Mission Office has established a formation process to take away the fear of “not knowing,” which concerns many who consider applying.

Micki Morrissey, a recent delegate to Homa Bay, felt well-prepared for her trip. (See related story on Homa Bay.)

“The Mission Office staff provided us with talks about cultural differences, how to interact with the people, other differences we might experience,” she said. “They incorporated activities to help us think about what might happen. They also helped us as delegates form a little family before we left so that we could be supportive of each other and share in this experience together.”

The Mission Office held an interest meeting last week for those considering the delegation. Anyone interested in applying should contact the office at 320-251-1100.

Country: Venezuela

Area: 2,708 sq. mi.

Population: 1,588,749

Catholic population: (as of 2004) 1,382,083 (87.0%)

Cathedral: Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Ordinary: Bishop Rafael Ramón Conde Alfonzo