In 2008, responding to an invitation from the bishop of Jinotega, four Ohio Sisters of Notre Dame began their ministry of religious education in Sangre de Cristo Parish in the rural, mountainous region of Jinotega. Our sisters serve the parish of Sangre de Cristo, which includes more than 20 mountain missions, some of them accessible only by foot.
Catechesis and Spiritual Formation
Since the sisters in Jinotega minister with a population that is mostly Catholic, the religious formation and sacramental preparation of children and adults remains their primary ministry. The sisters have been called upon to form catechists, both in their parish and throughout the diocese. Catechists serve especially in the mountain missions, where Mass and formal religious education sessions occur only occasionally. The Sangre de Cristo parishioners have a real desire to participate in spiritually-enriching activities, but they cannot afford to pay for retreats and workshops, so the sisters do their best to provide for their spiritual needs.
Nicaragua, second only to Haiti among the region’s poor countries, is suffering the effects of a long civil war. Jinotega is in the northern mountainous region, which experienced much of the conflict. After the sisters had been in Jinotega for several years, parishioners began to entrust them with their heartbreaking stories of the war-ravaged area. One young adult recalled traumatic memories of bodies lying in the street in front of her house after a helicopter had been shot down.
The people of Jinotega struggle to meet their basic human needs. Residents live with lack of, or substandard housing, schools and churches. In a country whose rural areas find more than 70% of the population without potable water, the price of water in Jinotega has increased, following the privatization of water. As one citizen commented, “People don’t have light and they survive, but without water no one can survive. If you privatize water, you will suffocate the poor, who are the majority.” Since the Sisters of Notre Dame of the Chardon Province have taken a Corporate Stance promoting the protection of water, the Jinotegan people’s need for water has become a focus of the sisters’ advocacy.
Meeting the Needs: Training and Youth Ministry
In response to the extreme poverty of Jinotega and the expressed needs of its people, the Sisters also began to teach English and create income-generation projects, e.g. sewing, jewelry-making, handcrafts.
One sister, sensitized to the needs of vulnerable teens, began parish youth ministry programs to promote wholesome relationships, spirituality, and activities. Leadership formation is also one of this sister’s goals, and she is happy to have a Jinotegan young adult woman partnering with her in her endeavor.
Mobile Library Supported by NDCL Students
The sisters began a new initiative in 2012, the development of a mobile library. Capturing the imagination of their “partners in mission” at Notre Dame Cathedral Latin High School, the missionaries engaged a neighborhood animal to become their “biblioburro” when NDCL students came to visit.
The students returned home to Chardon to educate their peers about the need for books in Jinotega, and the NDCL students subsequently raised thousands of dollars for the project.
We Give Praise to God!
The sisters in Jinotega hope to continue attracting “partners in mission” who will support their mission endeavors through prayer, donations, and volunteerism in this beautiful land where people of faith have warmly welcomed them and generously shared the little they have. Perhaps, the greatest affirmation was offered by a young woman who smiled and said, “Sister, you walk with us.”