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Accompaniment is to walk with another as a friend. Allowing them to lead the way while offering support, encouragement, and not abandoning them when things get difficult. It is the presence of a friend who does not tell the other what to do but goes with them to make the journey better. It is to offer help and cheer the person on. Sometimes it is making sacrifices so the other is not alone.
In this issue, we invite students and families to EXPLORE ways that they can accompany others especially at the economic margins, APPLY scripture and teachings of the church to their call to live as a Missionary Disciple in today’s world, IDENTIFY actions to take as they walk with others, ENGAGE their families in growing relationships with people living in poverty.
For the following prayer you will need a leader and two readers–reader 1 and reader 2. If you do not have three people, divide the prayer by pausing between the parts.
Leader: Jesus’ path to peace was full of suffering and pain as he carried his cross up the hill of Golgotha. During Lent let us draw strength from our Savior’s example and the witness of those he encountered along the way. We pray:
Reader 1: Like Jesus let me not be so burdened by the weight of my difficulties that I fail to see the love offered by those who accompany me on my journey.
Reader 2: Like Mary his mother, let me be the face in the crowd that offers love and understanding and suffers with those who struggle under the weight of injustice.
Reader 1: Like Simon, let me walk with those who grow weary, and help to ease the burden pressing down on them.
Reader 2: Like Veronica let me notice the needs of the hurting and step forward to offer what I can with care and compassion.
Reader 1: Like Jesus, as he encountered the women of Jerusalem, let me look beyond myself to see the pain of others so that I may offer support and encouragement.
Leader: God, as the world struggles under the weight of injustice we pray that you inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace. AMEN
READ the FAITH PERSPECTIVE and NEIGHBOR FOCUS articles and WATCH VIDEO of Br. Marty.
The 101 Bus rattles and jerks as it speeds down the road in Guatemala. There on the left in the second row sits Maryknoll Bro. Marty Shea. The path to mission, he says, happens on his trips on the 101 bus. He said, “It is there that I meet Christ in my life. I met him today in a woman with two children who insisted on giving up her seat for me. She did not have to do that but the people on the bus and everywhere in Guatemala are kind and care for one another.” Bro. Marty knows the hardship of the people. He has accompanied the indigenous poor of Guatemala for over 50 years.
In the 1980s his missionary journey took him to Mexico with the Guatemalan people who were escaping terrible violence and poverty. He lived and ministered with refugees in the refugee camp until they were able to return to their homes. He says, “Life is very hard in Guatemala. The violence, gangs, and drought make it difficult for the people. They are just trying to make a life for themselves and their children.” Bro. Marty has assisted the refugees with food, health, and educational programs but he says the most important thing he does is just being with the people. He says that by simply paying attention and offering words of support he is doing what Jesus asks us to do. Bro. Marty explains, “Jesus calls us to respond with a heart of love. If I have done that and helped someone along the way it has all been worth it.” So as he travels the roads on the 101 bus Bro. Marty continues his mission of accompaniment among the people of Guatemala.
Late into the night Rosa’s fingers weave one friendship bracelet after the other. She knows each one will earn her twenty five cents. She is grateful to have the opportunity to pay for her own gym uniform. Right now her parents cannot afford to pay for it. Rosa, a teen who lives in Zaragoza, El Salvador, was invited by Melissa Altman, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner to be part of a bracelet program that Melissa started as a way to help families. This young woman was able to buy her uniform because she earned seventy-five dollars making bracelets.
Melissa’s work is to accompany and participate in the work at ACOMUJERZA, a Cooperative that provides an economic opportunity for people to earn a living by producing and selling clothing and other handmade goods. It is a place where the workers have the opportunity to participate in making the decisions that will determine their destiny. The Cooperative was started by parish members who were trying to help single moms after a terrible twelve-year civil war. One of the women who works there is Esmeralda. Melissa tells us the story of her friend, “At the beginning of the war Esmeralda and her eleven siblings were forced to leave their countryside farm. They left their crops, their animals, and their home, because they were told the soldiers were coming and they were going to burn everything in the town. The family became displaced people in their own country.
After the war Esmeralda took a job at a sewing factory. While working at the factory she experienced very poor working conditions. Her sister told her about ACOMUJERZA and now Esmeralda has worked there fifteen years.” She says, “The fact that I get to work with my friends and be part of the decision making is amazing. Even when times are difficult we always find a way to make it through the challenges we face.“ Melissa accompanies the group by helping to open up new places where their products can be sold. She said, “The Members are not looking for a donation or charity, they are just looking for a way to sell their product. We hope we can connect more people who would like to purchase these products to help the families in El Salvador earn enough money to stay in their communities and provide basic necessities for their families.” Walking together this group faces the challenges of each day with gratitude and hope working hard to make a better tomorrow.
If you would like to learn more about the products made at ACOMUJERZA visit their Facebook page or contact Melissa Altman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING: Bro. Marty and Melissa accompany their friends and neighbors in Guatemala and El Salvador. They tell stories of their friends who have suffered from violence, war, and poverty. As missioners they use their skills and experiences to walk with the people in the hopes of finding a path to equality, justice, and peace.
1. Where does Br. Marty see Christ on the 101 Bus?
2. What does Br. Marty say is the most important thing we can do for those we serve? How and where can you do this in your life?
3. How do you think Rosa felt when she was able to earn the money for her gym uniform?
4. How can buying products from a Cooperative like the one we just read about empower consumers to think about where their products come from?
5. Why is it important to be an informed consumer and take an interest in where products come from and who makes them and how?
How does Bro. Marty and Melissa’s mission of accompaniment impact the lives of others?
READ THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURES AND DISCUSS QUESTIONS.
OLD TESTAMENT: Isaiah 2:3-5
LIFE OF JESUS: Luke 24:13-35
CHRISTIAN LIVING: Colossians 3:12-15
1. In the Isaiah reading it describes how we can walk in the light of God by transforming weapons into tools used for growing. Give an example of something in our world today that is used to harm that could be transformed to be used for peace.
2. In the scripture from Luke Jesus walked for a long time without being recognized. Share a time when someone accompanied you during a tough time. Include how God may have been present in this encounter.
3. This Lent which of these qualities from Colossians can you work on to help you improve your walk with others: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, or forgiveness? Describe what you will do to work on this quality.
The Church will have to initiate everyone into the “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth. Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium 169
Share a time when someone treated you as sacred or very important? What did they do to make you feel this way? How did it make you feel?
DIVIDE a piece of paper into four sections by drawing a line from to top to bottom in the middle of the paper and from left to right write in the center of the paper. In the first section WRITE Family, in the second WRITE School, in the third WRITE Community, and in the fourth WRITE World. In each section IDENTIFY who might need accompaniment by LISTING names or groups from that area of your life. Next WRITE a sentence or two of what that might look like. SEE the examples below for ideas.
Family-help a sibling with their homework; make dinner, do the dishes, or put away the groceries; write a thank you card for someone who did something nice for you.
School-be a friend to someone who has none; accompany or offer support to those in younger grades.
Community-reach out to the elderly who are isolated and write them cards or call them; gather food for a food bank.
World-buy products that you know where they were made; read a current news story about the working conditions in another country.
During Lent start by doing at least one of these actions.