7/07/2007

A small reflection on time in Puerto Rico:


Readers of this blog know I have been away with the St. Peter's Youth Group on a trip to Puerto Rico. It was a wonderful trip and one of personal renewal.

I was ordained priest in Puerto Rico some thirty-nine years ago (March 6, 1968) long before any of the young people on the trip were born, and indeed before one of their mothers, who also made the trip. (That was a little scary.)

In the years that have gone by the Diocese of Puerto Rico has grown to be about twice the size it was then (perhaps a shade less than double). The Diocese left The Episcopal Church and then returned and did so in the 'normal' way - it petitioned General Convention to be released and later to be readmitted to union with the General Convention. The reasons for leaving and returning were related to matters of authenticity of mission in context, not core doctrine or companionship. The level of friendships and connections have been high all along and their reunion with General Convention was a time of rejoicing.


While we were in Puerto Rico the diocesan, Bishop Alvarez, was recovering from surgery and complications. (See the Living Church article HERE.) We had all wanted to see him but instead we prayed for him and got regular reports on his health from staff at the Diocesan Center. When we left on Monday (July 2) it was reported that Bishop Alvarez was on his way to recovery and a time of rest. Rest well, dear David, and return full of health.

The Diocese of Puerto Rico has had its share of the "troubles." There is an AMiA mission in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The United Episcopal Church (UECNA) has three missions on the Island. AMiA is part of the Common Cause Partners of the Anglican Communion Network. UECNA is not. For reasons I don't quite understand UECNA and the Anglican Province of America (APA) have recended the concordat between them. AMiA and APA are part of the Network. UECNA is not. So the Diocese has the presence of two other Anglican groups in its midst, each having a different take on "true" Anglicanism. One priest told me that there is some real discomfort with decisions made by the General Convention but that reunion was not a matter of agreement in all things. The small alternative Anglican groups are a source of confusion in an already difficult time, but the decision for reunion was made as a matter of mission strategy and the need for Provincial relationship and the Diocese is moving ahead as an integral part of The Episcopal Church.

It was a joy to meet again my old boss (for two weeks), now Dean of the Seminary of St. Peter and St. Paul, Waldemar Ramos, and a friend for many years The Rev.
Jose Irizarry. These guys are almost as old as I am and it was good to see them in such good energy and continuing to work in exciting ways for the future of the Church in Puerto Rico. More importantly it was great to meet the generation after the generation that provided leadership then. There is great new energy available in these people. The Rev. Ivette Linares, who is the staff person for youth ministry in the diocese, the Rev. Jose Munoz who is young, vibrant, and gifted, and the Rev. Hernan Villalba in Arecibo who is fairly new from the Roman Catholic Church and doing a wonderful job in revitalizing this local parish all were signs of new life and mission in the church.

The growth of this Diocese, its clarity of mission and willingness to put up with all of us in this Church of ours, and its joy in being all were refreshing after so much talk of war and damage. It was a pleasure to return to the place for which, as Jose Irizarry said, I "still had a heart."


4 comments:

  1. Fr. Mark,

    From time to time, I have been known to simply vanish from the blogs / boards I otherwise frequent. More rarely, I vanish more permanently, as was the case with "Episcopal Voices." Similarly, some conversations I skip. I have stayed away from the gang of bishops thread here for instance.

    I find myself increasingly unwilling to engage with those whose motive is to destroy the church I love. I find myself willing to follow their example and impute motives to them or their leaders. And so I force myself to simply shut up a while.

    I wonder, is this a precursor to schism? As we give up the effort to engage, or recognize that there is no conversation to have, are we becoming more willing to split?

    I am a bit worried that we are moving towards that point. I liked your dog post by the way, but as the personal property of two cats, I did not have much to say about it. ;-)

    FWIW
    jimB

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  2. I was sorry to hear about Bp Alvarez's misfortunes with surgery. I am glad you were down there to pray ... in closer proximity as it were and at the moment rather than some of us late-comers.

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  3. Dear Padre Marcos Harris: I am Padre Manuel Olmo from Puerto Rico. I said hello as I was heading to a meeting at Centro San Justo. I mentioned at the time that I was a daily reader of your blog Preludium. You keep me inform of all the main happenings of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion for which I am very thankful.I appreciate your constant interest in Puerto Rico. When I was a graduate student in the clinical psychology program at the Caribbean Center for Advance Studies as part of the Seminario del Caribe I came aware of the Episcopal Church and eventually I became an episcopalian and a priest. Your thinking about church matters have been my way of thinking. My biggest challenge at Santa Hilda, my second pastoral assignment was taking care of gays members after Bishop Reus entrusted me with a study by the Comité de Acción Social of the Diocese about gays and the ministry for gays after Bishop John Shelby Spong became oustanding on his diocese regarding ordination for gays. My findings were in the same direction but my fellow priests voted not to accept my annual report due to the favorable conclusions for gays in the diocese of Puerto Rico. At the time of Bishop Robinson's ordination the diocese of Puerto Rico voted yes at the Bishop's level and pro and contra at the layty's level. Since then we have been involved in a process of study of human sexuality and discerment. I feel that we are mostly in favor of a policy of full inclusion ("there should not be outcasts in TEC"). Meanwhile I have had the good news of also being the father of a lesbian. The way my family handed the news eventually became "good news"("evangelio")for all of us. I am comitted to the ministry of inclusion and all my energies and ministry will be dedicated to its neccesities. I am already 68, a reired priest and with health problems but it really is not a major issue as long as I find reason for a ministry in the Episcopal Church.Your teachings and objectivity to sensitivity to facts from all sides who enter your blog has matured my capacity for "via media" At this time I feel the assurance of doing all I do for Jesus Christ and I am proud of being part of TEC. Your brother in Christ, Fr. Manuel C. Olmo, Iglesia Episcopal Puertorriqueña.

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  4. Once upon a Christmas Eve Mass I was seated in the first row of San Juan Bautista Cathedral...Bishop Alvarez officiated with many of his priests attending him...the "mass" was bi-lingual and the Cathedral was overflowing with folks who love one another as God suggests...the most remarkable part of the evening happened when I looked around briefly and noticed the huge MIX of folks of many colors, languages and sexual orientations...we were whole and united as we went forward to celebrate The Gifts of God for the People of God...

    Leonardo Ricardo

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