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A significant experience in Cuba

18/09/2013: Cuba

During the first fortnight of August, I had the chance of accompanying Br Daniel Martín (provincial co-ordinator of youth ministry) in his pastoral activities pastorales in Cuba. As soon as you set foot on the island, you can see that you are in a different country. There are many anecdotes that could support this affirmation, but these lines have another purpose.

Knowing how complicated it is to describe significant experiences any person may have, I would like to underline three aspects which have remained engraved in my mind and my heart. Thanks, first of all, for the welcome, the attention and the fraternal sharing with the brothers of the communities of El Cotorro, Havana, and Cienfuegos. Their simple gestures mark the difference in the inside and the outside of the places they frequent daily. Through prolonged dialogues and visits to the places which surround them, I was able to grasp something of their pastoral dynamism, their enthusiasm and their creativity, their free gift in the mission. Their ability to pull through (the principal concern of the Cuban people at present) is beyond doubt. Inserted into a stuation complex at all levels, they continue to  drive forward projects and ceaselessly take up challenges. Thank you, Chamba, Héctor, Jesús, Manuel and Mario, for your witness and your life given. Courage on your way and… always stay Marists… who make the difference.

Secondly, I much appreciated the meeting and sharing with the 120 adult catechists in the  « Workshop for Catechists » in Havana (3 August) and with 45 young people in the  « School for Leaders » in Santiago de Cuba (9-14 August), at the foot of the sanctuary of « Caridad del Cobre ». These pastoral activities offered me the possibility of getting close to the ecclesial situation which these persons live and which is like the one lived on the island in this regard. The catechists, most aged more than 50, build up experience and fidelity. They are the guardians of a faith inherited from their parents and their grandmothers, transmitted sometimes despite political adversity ; they are the witnesses in an ecclesial community which continues to move forward. They show a great desire to train themselves to perform their mission better.

The young people of the School for Leaders come from many dioceses. They showed themselves approachable, simple, spontaneous and firm in their faith. It is good to remember that being a believer in Cuba is an option, not a tradition. The experiences they shared confirm what I have just said. Their readiness for missionary engagement within their communities is remarkable. Despite their youth (15-24), all are accompanying  groups of children, preadolescents or youth. They are characterized by their joy, their artistic ability and their thirst for formation on the spiritual level. Some seriously envisage priesthood or religious life and do not hide it. Others, more critical, are looking for  alternatives in less traditional models of Church…

And, finally, I underline the teamwork in what concerns the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the pastoral activities… I shared pleasant moments with Brothers Dany and Héctor, the novice Mario, Sister Eduarda, the youth leaders Gustavo and María Amelia. It was an intense labour with many challenges, which succeeded thanks to the action of the Spirit in us and the good dispositions of everyone. However long and complicated the paths may be, it is possible to « make Jesus Christ known and loved ». This is how we make the difference !


Br José Luis Merino

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