Maria Velasquez has many reasons to live in fear — just take a look at her makeshift home.
“You could demolish it with a single kick,” she said. And she isn’t the only one in jeopardy. Also living in the flimsy home are her mother, daughter and two grandchildren. The next storm could be the one that leaves them all homeless. “My house is already shaking,” added the 50-year-old mother and grandmother.
In addition, the home offers no protection from intruders since it doesn’t have lockable doors and windows. Maria admits the family doesn’t have valuables, but even losing their clothes would be a major hardship.
So what does she do amid such concerns? She lives joyfully in serving the Lord and her neighbors!
She is so in love with the Lord that she is a catechist for the local church community, preparing children for receiving the sacraments. In addition, she is an agent with the diocese’s Caritas outreach arm, meeting with families and helping identify community needs.
As you celebrate the Octave of Christmas, we invite you to consider how the Holy Family also endured hardships but still rejoiced in God’s love. You may want to use a nativity scene to help visualize the night of Jesus’ birth. In the stable, there were animals. There might’ve been bugs. As Jesus slept on a cushion of hay in a manger, where did Joseph and Mary sleep?
In the same way, Maria certainly does not have a comfortable home. Yet, she considers each day a gift from God and is grateful for faith, family and friends. As you celebrate Christ’s birth, spend some time sharing what you are most thankful for.
Luke 2:15-20 (NRSVCE)
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Dwell on an attitude of gratitude using your Thankfulness Chain. This week, you are invited to undo each “link” at a pace you are comfortable with and read what was written on it. For each link, put a coin or designated amount into the collection box. Keep going until all links are undone. Since this is the last week, count up all the dollars and coins in your box and either give them to your parish or group leader, or donate that amount below.
More than one-third of Guatemala’s population does not have improved sanitation, with most of these people living in impoverished, rural areas. This means many families have no bathroom.
In the United States, where we live, it is almost unheard of to find a home without a bathroom. Because poor families have no bathroom in their homes, they often have to go outside or put their waste in a hole in the ground. When this happens, harmful bacteria and other bad things seep into the ground and can poison the water people take from nearby wells (which are also holes in the ground). This can make families sick.
The homes you’re helping build will include sanitary latrines (a kind of bathroom) to help keep families healthy. The latrines will also make them feel safer, more dignified and more comfortable at home.
*Fact Source: CIA World Factbook, World Bank
1. What stood out to you in the picture of Maria’s home? What did you notice about it?
2. How would you feel if all your things got wet whenever it was stormy — your toys, your bed, everything?
3. Think about the Holy Family on the night of Jesus’ birth. What do you think it was like in the stable? What are some of the things they might have been feeling on that night?
4. Consider Our Holy Mother’s grace, gentleness and acceptance of God’s will — even in hard times. Then, think about Maria, who chooses to be thankful even though she does not have a nice home. What are some things you can do to stay thankful in hard times? Use the prayer on this page to ask Our Lady for grace and help with this.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.