La Sagrada Familia
The Holy Family
St. Mary Parish has developed a relationship with the parish Sagrada Familia in the Dominican Republic as a sister parish. The Dominican Republic, along with Haiti, is located on the island Hispaniola, which is sandwiched between Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. La Sagrada Familia is a large parish, located in the province of Azua. The seat of the parish is Sabana Yegua, but the parish encompasses 29 separate communities holding over 50,000 people in the vicinity of Sabana Yegua. 95% of Dominican Republicans are Catholic. 60% of its people live in poverty.
Azua is very poor. The people rely on agriculture for their subsistence, growing bananas, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corriander and other crops suitable for this semi-arid location in the tropics. Unfortunately, this does not provide enough for anything more than subsistance living. The people reside in wood and cement block houses without drinkable water, electricity or indoor plumbing. Because of their location in the Caribbean, the people of Sagrada Familia are subject to hurricanes and other tropical storms. In 1979, Hurricane David forced the evacuation of the area and altered the course of the Yaque, the major river which flows through the area. Many people died in this storm, despite precautions.
The mission in Sagrada Familia has to cope not only with the spiritual needs of the people, but the material needs as well. Because of this, the mission conisists of a healthcare staff and a social worker in addition to the two clergy members. Through sponsored missions and the onsite staff, medicines, basic nutrition and advocacy are provided to the villagers. In Sabana Yegua, the parish provides a large church, a nutrition center for the children, a sewing center, a health center, a clinic and a laboratory. The missions has such diverse jobs as building latrines and teaching Spanish to Haitian immigrants.
Due to the size of the parish, many people are not baptized, and may only celebrate mass once per month. The mission has found that in areas with good lay leadership, the people celebrate regularly, even without a priest present. To that effect, the mission provides catechesis, prayer groups, adult and youth formation, and leadership training.
St. Mary has sponsored two missions to the Dominican Republic to aid Sagrada Familia. St. Mary supports collections of money and other items to aid Fr. Oriol, who is currently ministering to the people of Sagrada Familia.
For a history of the Milwaukee Archdiocese's involvement in the Dominican Republic, click HERE.
For more information, slide shows, or current news about Sagrada Familia, click HERE.
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