Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros visited Guatemala last month. He traveled to Central America as an “envoy of Bishop DiMarzio to bring the monies collected by the generosity of the faithful of Diocese of Brooklyn for the relief efforts of those affected by the eruption of Volcán del Fuego en Guatemala,” Bishop Cisneros said in an interview with The Tablet.
Bishop Victor Hugo Palma, of Escuintla, received the check for $78,500. The Diocese of Escuintla, in south central Guatemala, was devastated by the eruption of Volcán de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) June 3, 2018. The eruption destroyed entire villages, leaving behind more than one hundred people dead and nearly 200 missing.
“I was able to see “Zona Cero” (Ground Zero) where so many died and homes were completely destroyed by the eruption,” Bishop Cisneros said.
“I also visited Albergue Papa Francisco (Pope Francis Shelter), a temporary shelter for over one hundred families that have lost everything they owned.”
According to Bishop Cisneros, Caritas and the Diocese of Escuintla provided for these families since the catastrophe. Each family in the shelter lives in a one-room wood cabin. Four Mexican nuns of the Misioneras de Cristo Resucitado (Missionaries of the Risen Christ) came to the Diocese to offer their services. Bishop Victor Hugo Palma told Bishop Cisneros that they “have done a tremendous work taking care of the people and organizing the relief efforts.”
Charism of Aid in Natural Disasters
“I learned to my amazement,” Bishop Cisneros said, “that part of their charisma is helping in time of national disasters. Two of the sisters are medical doctors! I could sense the love and respect the people have for those sisters.”
The sisters in the shelter take care of the children while their parents are at work. Bishop Cisneros said that he could feel a sense of hope for the future even in the middle of such a difficult situation.
In order to find a permanent solution for the families, the bishop of Escuintla bought a parcel of land and is building permanent homes for them. The new houses are built with concrete cinder blocks and are farther from the dangerous zone near the volcano. According to Bishop Cisneros, the cost is about $12,000 per home.
Bishop Cisneros was also visiting Guatemala as Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Together with Father Juan Molina, who is the director for Church in Latin America, they visited the Diocese of Solola and the Lake of Atitlan, where there is a diocesan seminary that receives aid from the U.S. Catholic faithful through the yearly collection for Latin America.
They also visited the Archdiocese of Guatemala where they met Bishop Raúl Martínez Paredes, the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.
The last stop of the trip was a visit to the Apostolic Nunciature where Bishop Cisneros and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nicolas Thevenin discussed the purpose of the visit and other issues regarding the Church and the people of Guatemala.