This weekend, Roberto Bacalski from the Missions Office of the Arlington Diocese will be speaking about our mission parishes in the Dominican Republic.
Since 1991, the Arlington Diocese has sponsored two parishes in the mountains of that island nation, San Francisco de Asis and San Jose. Two of our generous and courageous priests, Fr. Keith O’Hare and Fr. Jason Weber, currently minister in those parishes, which together have about 13,500 Catholics. In addition, many volunteers serve in this mission, including young adults who give between six months and two years to the parishes, many college students on mission trips, and professionals such as doctors, nurses, and builders who provide their services to these good people.
The people of the Dominican Republic has a very rich and historic faith. About 95 percent of the country is Catholic; and they have a deep devotion to Mary, a strong sense of the presence of the saints, and a joy in worship that makes the transient pleasure of worldly entertainment pale by comparison. However, especially in the rural areas, the lack of financial resources keeps most people from having the housing, medical care, or education they deserve. In addition, the very limited schooling provided by the government makes it more difficult for young men and women who may have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life to gain the needed educational foundation for consecrated life. Because of these limitations, and the difficulty in building places of worship, the local church struggles to satisfy both the physical needs and the deep spiritual longings of the faithful.
In this context, the assistance of wealthier communities, and especially of this Diocese, is crucial so that our common faith will bear more fruit. With our help, the parishes sponsored by this Diocese provide spiritual nourishment in the 40 towns and mountainous communities that they serve. They also give the people much better housing and medical care than they could otherwise hope for, and have established a school that enhances the faith and provides some of the best education in that country. In addition, those who have served in the missions consistently return to this nation with their own faith enriched by the example of the people and the joy that comes from living the Gospel. By receiving the light of Christ in our communities and by sharing this light with others, we also experience even now a first promise of the joy of the saints in glory.