Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi: The Annual Pilgrimage of thousands to Banica

The town of Banica was established in 1507, and sometime between then and now the pious belief became established that St. Francis of Assisi appeared in a nearby cave. For many years now thousands of pilgrims have made pilgrimage from across the nation to visit the cave (which is no easy ascent) and celebrate the Feast of St. Francis (October 4).

The annual event includes several processions and features two Dominican musical traditions: “Salves” (African style chants sung antiphonally in Spanish) and the playing of the “palos” (long thin drums similar to congas).

Photos below show the two processions (the first on September 24 to begin a Novena of preparation; the second on the feast day of St. Francis).

The Kirby Family: Two Years in the Mission Field

No blog entry can sufficiently capture the two year experience of the Kirby Family here in Banica. David and Virginia and their three children (Steven, Sandy, and William) have left an indelible mark of love and service here.

God’s mysterious plan called them to serve here and they responded generously and faithfully to that call.

Dave and Virginia have been a tremendous team as they have coordinated the logistics of the Parish Center. The Parish Center, or “El Centro,” serves three main logistical functions:

- the distribution of soup to the most needy in all the campos of the area (this is a program funded and sponsored by USAID).
- logistical support of all kinds for Medical Missionaries who have a fully operational clinic in nearby Haiti (Thomassique)
- providing complete accommodations for the American youth groups who come here for weeks at a time every spring and summer to do service projects

The Kirby’s have not been “employees” during these past two years but rather a Catholic missionary family. They have proclaimed the Gospel by actions and not by giving sermons. They have given the Banica community an example of Catholic family life and have tried to “set their light on a lampstand” as the Gospel says, so that others may come to know the same love of God which makes them who they are.

A barbecue farewell took place at “El Centro” with a group of invited friends from the community.

Please pray for the Kirby’s as they transition back to life in the US and begin the next chapter in their life.  

Photos show the Kirby’s at the local waterfall (a local hideaway) for a break away from the Parish Center; Virginia leading choir practice; myself with two of the best altar boys in town; a photo with their friends from the farewell bbq taken in front of the newly installed Marian Grotto; a few tearful moments of farewell; a photo with the daily Mass people with whom they have prayed for the past two years.

!Que viva La Familia Kirby!