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Immigrants in diocese improving lives of families at home in Guatemala


Dialog reporter


PRICES CORNER – More than 12 years in, the partnership between the dioceses of Wilmington and San Marcos, Guatemala, still produce dividends for Catholics in both countries, two priests said earlier this week.

Father Silverio Chum, pastor of San José in El Rodeo, Guatemala, is back in Wilmington through Nov. 3. One of the parishes he visited was St. Catherine of Siena, whose pastor, Father John Hynes, has been to San Marcos several times. Father Hynes served as the translator for Father Chum.

Guatemalans have been in the diocese for about 20 years, said Father Chum, whose first visit to the diocese was four years ago. The effect of their migration to southern Delaware and the Eastern Shore has been visible mostly in Guatemala.

“Over the span of years, the condition of the immigrants has not improved,” he said.

The advantages primarily have been in Guatemala, where much of the immigrants’ income is sent. There, there are a lot of new houses, especially in the mountains.

“Life in Guatemala has improved for the immigrants’ families,” he said.

The benefits are less tangible for Catholics in the diocese, Father Chum said. Because the Guatemalans are poorer, they have more of a dependency on God. They can offer their partners in Delaware and Maryland a sense of the faith in how it is lived, according to Father Chum. A lot of what the folks from San Marcos bring to Wilmington mirror what Pope Francis says when he talks about wanting a poor church for the poor.

The people of San Marcos are excited about the prospects Pope Francis brings to the church.

“The people sense he wants to make a change in the church,” Father Chum said. Those changes would be a church that opens its doors more widely, a church for the poor and a church not so focused on rules and regulations, one that is “focused primarily on the gospels.”

“Christianity should be more like a fiesta than a funeral,” he said.

Personally, Father Chum is impressed with the pope’s emphasis on compassion and mercy.

Father Hynes said the diocese is exploring ways to expand the partnership.

Currently, delegates from Wilmington visit as a way to deepen their faith, although there are other reasons. There is an effort under way to start a program to send young adults to San Marcos to teach or work for a year.