Three Roman Catholic Women Priests Celebrate in Cali, Colombia Where Rivers and Gentility Flow Together
Rvdas. Judy Lee, Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and Judy Beaumont at Sunday Mass and Maria Elena and Marina Teresa at Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez’ School, where she is Principal
After a three and a half hour flight from Miami we traveled back in time yet forward to a future where a true sense of caring community flourishes with gentility in all sectors of this beautiful modern yet old city embraced in the valleys of the Andes where there is caring and respect for all God’s creation. We, Rev. Judy Beaumont and Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Roman Catholic women priests with RCWP- USA-East, entered another more truly spiritual world in visiting our sister RCWP Priest, Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and our candidate for the Diaconate, Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez and their communities in Cali, Colombia. And we thought, this is the world the way God intended it to be. It is not that we did not see and experience poverty and homelessness, for that is everywhere, but when we visited truly poor communities they were rich with love and human connection in a way that is all but lost in many other places. And in walking down any street there is a people that is respectful and joyful and caring of others, even of strangers. There is music everywhere as well as the noise of traffic. People gather in communal public spaces to be together and do not retreat into alone-ness in their homes or apartments. Life is full of joy and celebration of many things. We visited two historic(going back to the 1750’s) traditionally African-Colombian communities, at Playa Renaciente and Dos Aguas where Rvda. Marina Teresa serves in many roles, and a public school in the low income Mariano Ramos neighborhood where Maria Elena is the Principal. We also visited the Mayor’s Office,La Mascara Theater where children were learning dramatic arts and other sites as well as a very special rural community high in the Andes Mountains. In each place we were literally overwhelmed by love. And a good part of this was due to the love and light that our Rvda Marina Teresa and Diaconal Candidate Maria Elena impart wherever they go. It is only possible to capture ta few highlights of this wonderful experience and we will do so with pictures and one traditional song about beautiful Cali and its people:
Oiga, Mire, vea Listen, Look, See
goze la feria para que vea! the joy that we see!
Aqui no hay problema Here there are no problems
aqui no hay pelea. Here there is no fighting.
My people of Cali
Mi gente de Cali enjoy life and dance the rumba!
disfruta y rumbea.
Our first visit was in the Playa Renaciente Community with the Community Counsel that our priest Marina Teresa helped to form in a sturdy building that her grant writing helped to build. She is in solidarity with the people and the need for them to retain their land by the river Cauca. The children, the community leaders, the blind and lame and ill as well as the strong and the joyful gathered in response to Rvda. Marina and her pastoral love and careful assistance and counsel in community matters.
In August there is a major community event called La Balsada of the Virgin Mary that Rvda.Marina Teresa helps organize and spiritually leads. This is an on- land and by boat procession with the Virgin Mary leading in the form of a wonderful ceramic sculpture but moreover in the complete devotion of the people to Mary.
Here Rvda. Marina Teresa and Revs. Judy and Judy share with members and leaders of the community. In the last pictures are members of Rvda. Marina Teresa’s family who also live in Playa Renaciente and two community leaders. The beautiful child is Angelina, Rvda. Marina Teresa’s grand daughter.
Visit to the Rodrigo LLoreda Caicedo School in Mariano Ramos Neighborhood-Principal, Maria Elena Sierra
This school is made up of eighty joyful and enthusiastic children in grades K-6, wonderful teachers ,a kitchen staff that cooks and serves two meals a day for the children, an Assistant Principal and Maria Elena the Principal. One wonderful thing about the school system there is that the teaching of Catholicism is an acceptable Unit of learning. Maria Elena will do this teaching herself as she has prepared many children in her 14 years as a Vicentian Religious Sister and a Missionary to the Congo. She also plans a group for the parents where she will teach the love of Christ for all. The love between her, the children and all of the staff was palpable. Here the children enjoy a picture book prepared by the children of our Good Shepherd Community in Fort Myers. In the Courtyard the children gather round to talk with the Pastoral visitors from the United States. What a blessed time we had with these children and Maria Elena.
La Mascara Theater
Here we get to watch a class of teens learn the dramatic Arts with a consciousness raising component at La Mascara. These are the young people and their Mentor Luz Carolina that we met at Playa Renaciente.
We continue with the theme of the traditional Arts in the Community of Dos Aguas, a Community founded by Afro-Colombianos in 1750. We are blessed with the leadership of Lucia Mina and her sister who is the Counsel President in Dos Aguas. Father Hugo our brotherly supporter from the Community of the Guadalupenos accompanies us. They invite the women to participate in traditional African dance, La Juga.
Later we proceed to the Community Room and learn more about Dos Aguas from University of Javeriana Professor and part time community resident Lucia Mina. We then showed and discussed Pink Smoke over the Vatican, the Documentary about the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement. Of particular relevance to this community was the connections to the spirit of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. in protest against unjust laws, in our case, the Canon that says only men can become priests, and the ordination of Rev. Alta Jacko, our first African American priest who recently passed on and added her bright spirit to the Love and Light of God forever.
The next day we gathered fro Sunday fellowship and worship in an awesome rural community in the Mountains where many were moved to tears as Rvda. Marina celebrated Mass and gave a rousing homily which I breifly responded to with the importance of base communities sharing the words of Blessed Msgr. Oscar Romero.
Con Amor y Paz y Esperanza y Gracias, With love and peace, hope and deep gratitude for sharing your wonderful world with us,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP-USA-East