By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/March 21, 2018/Belize City, Belize
St. Martin de Porres experienced a true grace on March 11, 2018. At our 7pm Mass, Fr. Brian Christopher, S.J. pronounced his Final Vows in the Society of Jesus before our local Superior Fr. Tom Greene, S.J. The church was packed and prayerful. All the Belize City Jesuits were in attendance. Good humor abounded. A reception followed in Swift Hall.
In the past week we have lost two parishioners to murder. Both were murdered in their homes. Both were murdered in front of their children. In one case two children themselves were shot, one of them is special needs. Between the two murders, 11 children have lost parents. Please pray everyday for peace. And pray for solutions.
Our students took the first part of the PSE (Public School Exams) on Monday. In a first ever event, most of our Standard VI kids came to Mass on Sunday morning to get a blessing. Their Principal, Annie Palacio, had reminded them that the basketball team got a blessing at church before the National Tournament and they won the National Championship. Let us pray for similar success. Results will be published much later in the school year. Please say a prayer for our little scholars.
The weekend of the 17th has left the city in shock. Five murders in the city. Two women were killed in retaliation for the murder of the woman I wrote about in the second paragraph. That is a particular disgrace, for I knew her and a revenge killing in her name would have been unspeakably abominable to her. But such is the law of tooth and talon. The bloody violence has caused the Prime Minister to declare a quasi-martial law, declaring certain areas of the South Side “Emergency Zones” while ordering the Belize Defense Force (the army) on patrol with the police. The entire city and social media are abuzz with the crisis. Everybody is asking the same question: How do we stem the homicidal violence in our country?
The BELIZE 2020 group met Saturday the 17th to discuss our way forward. About 30 people were in attendance and while there was an inordinate amount of information and work, attendees all agreed on the worth of a long day in meetings. The retreat was organized by Dr. Dionne Chamberlain Miranda, a professional in Development. She is also a former student of mine from wa-a-ay back in our days at St. John’s College.
Friends, I must confess that continually writing about all the ugliness that continually surrounds and deeply impacts our parish and school grows wearisome. You must wonder at it all. Yet, it is life on the South Side. You are reading about it. We live it. We have to pick up the pieces. We bury the dead. Console the afflicted. Encourage the community to carry on. (Even now as I write the police have stopped a young man on his bike to search him.) I think to myself, “This is part of the Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus. We are the same Province as St. Louis U and U High. Rockhurst and Regis universities and high schools are also in the same Province where I bury so…many…murdered people. Same Province, but what a different world.” So be patient with me and my writing. And pray for us.
Each morning I pray this prayer: “Almighty God, please help us make Belize as peaceful, prayerful, and prosperous as it is beautiful.” Feel free to join me in that prayer.