Bottom line: What you sow in trust today will bring a good harvest.
My name is Fr. Phillip Bloom. I am pastor of St. Mary of the Valley Parish in Monroe and I also serve as president of the Mary Bloom Center. It is a medical clinic and education center, named for my mom, that aids people in Southern Peru. I am here to thank you for your support of the Mary Bloom Center through your Faith In Action Team (F.I.A.T.). In addition, Fr. Nathe has asked me to say something about your sister-parish project in Peru.
I wish to put my presentation in the context of this Sunday's Scripture readings - not just because this is a homily, but also because today's Gospel gives us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on trust in God. Jesus tells about a sower who goes out to sow. The man tosses the seed with abandon.
You are a parish that has great needs right at home. You have many people who are feeling the effects of an uncertain and struggling economy. You have a parish school whose challenges I know only too well from my years at Holy Family in Seattle. And you do your part to respond to the needs of the Archdiocese through the Annual Catholic Appeal and the universal Church through Peter's Pence. Now you have a guy in front of you asking to take on something else - a sister parish in the Andes Mountains of Peru. You might rightly ask: How can we do it?
On a human level I do not have the answer. I can only repeat what Jesus says in the Gospel, "A sower went out to sow." He took the seed he had and cast it with abandon. He trusted the Lord, like the prophet Isaiah in the first reading: Just as rain comes down from heaven, makes it fertile and does not return void, so it is with God's Word. God calls us to make an act of trust - and leave the rest to him.*
I can assure that it is worth planting a seed in Peruvian soil. I served in Peru for seven years and have returned each year since 1994. In the last two years I took small delegations, including parishioners from Queen of Angels: Dan and Annie O'Rourke, Janet Lawler and Rodger Hardin. They can join me in testifying to the needs. When we visited homes, we observed that the children had no place to do their homework. One of the delegates suggested a project of showing them how to make lap desks. With the direction of Roger Hardin, a master carpenter from here in Port Angeles, we worked with the children to make individual lap desks as well as night stands for each family. It was a small, but lovely project. More important than the lap desks and night stands were the bonds of affection and prayer between the children and our delegates. It was like placing seeds on eager soil.
I had an experience when I was a missionary in Peru that epitomizes why you should make this connection with people in Peru. It was 1989 and I was returning home after two years in Peru. A woman approached me carrying her baby on her back. She said, "Padre, I am in a terrible situation. My husband has abandoned me. I have three other children. I don’t have money to buy the older girls notebooks, pens & shoes so they can go to school. We don’t have decent food or enough blankets" (the parish was 12,500 feet above sea level so it got real cold at night). She continued, "One of my girls is sick and I can’t buy her medicines. I am in a terrible situation." Then she took her baby from her back and said, "Father, I know you are going to the United States. Please, take my baby."
I held that baby in my arms, a beautiful baby boy. I said to her, "Yolanda, there are so many couples in my country who would do anything to have this baby. They would give him all he could ever want materially, but it is so much better that you keep him and we will try to find a way to help you."
Thanks to the generosity of people here we were able to aid Yolanda. When I left Peru to come back to the Archdiocese in November of 1994, Yolanda and her four children came to say goodbye. It was a feeling of satisfaction to have helped her send the girls to school. It takes about $20 to buy basic school supplies - and another $30 for uniform and shoes. With some additional donations, Yolanda was able to start a small business buying and selling potatoes.
Yolanda's children of course are now grown - and I have lost track of them. But the seeds planted will bring a harvest - not only materially, but spiritually. We never simply handed things out, but always tried to see the deeper person and to spend time in prayer.
That is the great advantage of establishing a sister parish. You will not only be helping people in their material needs, but also forming a spiritual bond. God will bless you in ways that will surprise you. As you can see in bulletin, Mazo Cruz is one of the most unique parishes in the Western hemisphere. After Mass I will be happy to talk with anyone about what this bond could mean - and how it can increase in the future. I know something about Mazo Cruz because I often celebrated Mass and other sacraments there when I was stationed in Peru.
Today Jesus invites us to trust God and to trust him: A sower went out to sow. Just as rain comes down from heaven...
Your deacon, Peter Flatley, will now explain the practical details of the collection for this sister parish project. In the name of Jesus, I can assure that what you sow today with trust will bring a good harvest. Amen.
*In his newly released Autobiography, Mark Twain has a wonderful illustration of trust in God:
"It is not to be disputed that in matters of charity the English are by a long way the most prodigal nation in the world. Speaking of this, we now and then, at long intervals, hear incidental mention of George Müller and his orphanages; then they pass out of our minds and memories, and we think that they have passed out of the earth. But it is not so. They go on.
They have been going on for sixty years, and are as much alive to-day as ever they were. George Müller is more than ninety years old, now, but he is still at his work. He was poor when he projected his first orphanage for the sustenance of half a dozen waifs; since then he has collected and spent six or seven millions of dollars in his kindly work, and is as poor to-day as he was when he started.
He has built five great orphanages; in them he clothes and teaches and feeds two thousand children at a cost of a hundred thousand dollars a year, and England furnishes the money—not through solicitation, nor advertising, nor any kind of prodding, but by distinctly voluntary contributions. When money runs short Müller prays—not publicly but privately—and his treasury is replenished.
In sixty years his orphans have not gone to bed unfed a single day; and yet many a time they have come within fifteen minutes of it. The names of the contributors are not revealed; no lists are published; no glory is to be gained by contributing; yet every day in the year the day’s necessary requirement of three or four hundred dollars arrives in the till. These splendid facts strain belief; but they are true” (p. 116-17). (Quoted by Mike Wittner)
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my bulletin column
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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru