The Work of Padre Roberto Martinez
In the previous newsletter, I described Fr. Roberto's full time job at Aanglidesh, coordinating savings and loans cooperatives. But after a full week of work of at least nine hours a day, he faithfully travels to his small mission churches each Sunday in the rugged mountains around Tegucigalpa.
Until recently, he was in charge of five churches, which he rotated through each week, visiting one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The bishop, however, reduced is work load, so now he can spend more time with his two favorites, Iglesia de la Annunciación and San Isidro.
His frustration is that he cannot spend more time as a pastor with his churches. But, unfortunately, his salary, as priest, is so low that unless he works full time at Aanglidesh, he cannot support his family.
I've travelled with him several times over roads accessible only by a 4x4 pickup, fording rivers and crawling in low gear over steeply inclined rock to reach his remote churches. Along the way, he picks up members of the parish, who ride in the back of the pickup, as is the custom here.
At each church, he packs his time full. He celebrates the Eucharist, holds a savings and loans meeting, and offers pastoral care to a young woman in the front seat of his pickup. Often we return to Tegucigalpa after dark.
Fr. Roberto, who grew up in Puerto Cortes on the north coast, worked as an accountant in several Honduran banks. He attended church for the sake of his family with no understanding of the faith.
Bishop Allen, then a priest in Tegucigalpa, asked him to become a church leader and to study theology at the cathedral seminary. He filled out the application form, checking the box for 'Assisting Lay Leader', the minimal requirement.
According Fr. Roberto, when the form came back, the box checked was 'Permanent Presbyter', that is a priest. There was no indication that his former mark had been erased and new box checked. It was at that point that Roberto felt and knew the real presence of God. He accepted the call and became a priest.
Fr. Roberto has asked for help at the church of Anunciación, which is a church struggling to get on its feet. We are planning a short-term mission this summer to improve the church property and to help members reach out to some of the poorer members of the community. If you are interested in participating in this short term mission, let me know.