Building a Parish with Bricks, Determination and Joy

A group of lay people in the small town of San Marcos Lempa, El Salvador, is determined to get a pastor assigned to their church.  But they are not waiting around.  Together they are advancing the faith and building community by organizing sacramental preparation, visits to the sick, education for young mothers, social events and more.

For their efforts the group has been awarded the 2023 Mother Joseph Award, given by the Province to those who exemplify the same values as the woman who led the first group of Sisters in the Pacific Northwest.

The team at San Marcos Evangelista are builders in the spirit of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart.  Not only are the building the spiritual life of the town but they are also literally building a house for a future pastor.

Award Presentation (R-L) – Mayra Lemus, Jacqueline Fernandes, SP, Marita Capili, SP, Vilma Franco, SP, Barbara Schamber, SP, Fr. Lisandro Rivera-Hernandez, Reyna Diaz, Lissa Cunneen (event staff), Benjamin Hernandez, Alonso Mendoza, Margarita Hernandez, SP

“For the past two years, we have been involved in administering the parish,” explains Alonso Mendoza.  “Many of us got started because of the Sisters of Providence who were here and who have supported us all along.”

The core group is comprised of people who have been friends for years: Alonso, Mayra Lemus, Reyna Diaz and Benjamin Hernandez. Padre Lisandro Rivera-Hernandez, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in nearby Tierra Blanca, presides at Mass, administers the Sacraments and advises the team, but it is the lay people who are the force behind the parish building effort.

Reyna and her husband, Benjamin, coordinate baptismal and marriage preparation.  Mayra works with catechists and sings in the choir.

“The Holy Spirit is active in this community.  You can see the faith growing here,” explains Reyna.  “Despite the many obstacles the people face we are growing and moving forward.”

Vocations have also come out of the area.  Sr. Margarita Hernandez, Provincial Councilor, was raised in the town and attended youth group with many of the people still living there.

The team is also looking for a sister parish in the United States to help them continue building their community.  They’ll partner with Fr. Rivera-Hernandez’s parish to hire a joint administrator.  A modest sum per month will not only provide salary but also pay for health insurance.

In the spirit of Mother Joseph, the team’s combination of spirituality, stick-to-itiveness and construction ingenuity are creating a living, thriving example of the spirit of Mother Joseph!

Casa Emilia, under construction, will be the home for the parish priest when he is assigned.