A blessed and joy-filled Advent and Christmas season to all from la Ciudad Guyana! We are all preparing for the sacred days of the birth of Jesus.  Starting December 16th, we have the Masses of “Aguinaldos” at 5:00am everyday leading up to Christmas! The word “aguinaldo” is a specific type of Venezuelan folkloric music and thus there are specific songs and instruments that are used in these Masses. Fr. Greg and I are trying to sleep a lot right now to prepare. We will each do a 5:00am Mass in a barrio every day.  Many people come and then go right on with their day of work and duties. It is a time for them to rededicate themselves to our Lord and his Church. AND, it is a time for firecrackers early in the morning and partying a bit after Mass.

A few nights ago our seminarian Jose Antonio and I were showing our visiting MN volunteer, Joe Novitski, around Port Ordaz. As we stopped to greet the Maronite pastor, Fr. Juan Matta, in his main office, there was a knock at the door. Since I was closest, I answered the door and welcomed a group of three people who walked in acting as though they were expecting me and made themselves at home. Two minutes after sitting down another knock came at the door which I again answered and jokingly acted as if I served at the church as their priest. These two people came inside just like the previous ones looking real comfortable as though they knew me and were planning on being there. Well, after five or six more knocks and the same funny reception…we were welcomed into a larger room where a huge birthday party was beginning for the organist of the church. They then explained what was happening and how everyone thought I was the new priest that they have been waiting for who is to come and be the associate to the current pastor. The three of us were laughing so hard because it seemed like I was the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the Shire and these were “unexpected guests!”  It turned out to be a wonderful Lebanese bash late into the night and we drove away marveling that hours earlier the place looked dark and dead and that we had almost left when the pastor didn’t answer the door!

Thus, the adventure continues. We have lots of work ahead as all the church around the world can say! I am grateful for the Pope’s letter Evangelii Gaudium to be such a clear and joyful guide for us here as we seek to faithfully spread the love and mercy of the Lord. Thanks for all your generosity. We will be thinking of you in the early mornings ahead.

Padres James, Greg and all the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado.