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El Salvador Mission
  • El Salvador Mission

    • New computer room set up
    • Getting Acquainted

       
      As you all know, there are many ways in our Church to serve God and to help others.  Through the help of several people in the parish it has been decided that a group would be established to help us all develop an even keener awareness of the needs of people in another country.  
       
      In this case, that country is El Salvador, a little country of about 7.5 million people in Central America.  My name is Jim Nugent.  I have been a parishioner for about 5 years.  I have always been interested in people of other countries and so when I was given a chance to go on a mission trip in January 2010, I jumped at the chance to go with a group from the Assumption Catholic Church in Geneva, Ohio.  
       
      That week was such a memorable trip for me.  I will never forget it.  I was introduced to an incredibly friendly people that had endured many years of war during the 1980's.  I learned of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero and his attempt to be the voice of the poor that still resinates even today.  I was taken up in the mountains of that country on dirt roads that were barely passable where I met people that still lived in adobe houses with dirt floors and saw where they tried to grow food for their families on the steep mountainsides. We delivered tubs of food to them.  
       
      During all of these visits, the Padre that I had just met, Padre Rafael Fuentes was present, introducing us to the people. His ability to connect with these people seems so sincere to me.  They were so happy to be with him.  Since his English is perfect he was able to explain the many circumstances of life in the poorest of the poor areas of his country. 
       
      Most of the time we were in the back of the Padre's pickup truck traveling higher and higher into the mountains.  On one of days we arrived at a small town.  Right away everyone knew the Padre was there.  It was Thursday but suddenly I heard the church bells ring and then people started coming to the church.  In no time at all the Padre was saying Mass to a crowed church with wonderful singers and musicians to make the Mass complete.  And so I learned of the importance of the Padre's presence to provide a way for the people to worship God when ever he could make it to this very small town.
       
      So who is this padre?   He is a Salvadorian who grew up in very poor circumstances himself.  He is 55 years old.  He has been a priest for about 25 years.  He has relatives in the US and spent about 2 years here in Cleveland working with the poor. That is where he learned his English.  He is a strong believer in education.  He believes that the his people, to be successful in their life, they must have a good education.  I believe that this is the driving force in his life.  He knows that the public education system in El Salvador is not very good.  He feels he can do better.  
       
      In 2006 he became the pastor of a little church in Aqua Caliente.  The name of the church is San Jose Catholic Church. At the time the church was not in good shape having been neglected due to the war in the 1980's.  So with the help of the people in this little town of 10,000 he began to rebuild the church.  A new roof, new paint, new floors, new doors and a new parsonage was all accomplished during a 4 year period.  I remember during that 2010 trip how excited he was to show all of us how the just newly completed church looked.  It was so beautiful.  He could be really proud.  I also learned how very important the church is to the faithful of that community. It really is the heart of helping the people in so many ways.  
       
      That same year, 2010 he also began the passion that will more than likely continue for the rest of his life, and that is the education of the children in that little town. So in another part of town he started the catholic grade school.  The name of that school is the Padre Nicholas Antonio Rodriguez Diocese School, PNARDS for short.  The name was choosen by the Padre in remembrance of the first priest of many that were killed by the military as the beginning of the war in the 1980's. When we visited the school there were three grades.  There were two buildings.  Over the next 4 years those three grades have now expanded to Kindergarten through the 9th grade.  2014 will be the first year for Kindergarten and the ninth grade.  During this time he has added 2 more buildings and put a second story on two of them.  He has added a cooperative bakery and a carpenter shop and computer room.  He has also added a much needed soccer court and has completely walled in the property to about 10 feet for security reasons. The school now has 11 teachers and about 160 students
       
      The goal now is to add a Science lab, a library, a pilgrims house for those volunteers that come down to help teach.
       
      So that is a brief summary of the mission of Padre Fuentes to help his people become self reliant and preach the word of God.  I will go into more detail as time goes on. 
       
      Thank you so much for your interest, more installments to come.