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By Father Alex Ulpindo, CICM
Fr. Alex Ulpindo entered Missionhurst- CICM in 1963 and was ordained in 1969. He was sent to Dominican Republic in 1972. He was served as a Provincial Superior from 1981-1988. He is now Director of the Novitiate in the Dominican Republic.
My first assignment was the Dominican Republic in Herrera, a parish in the city. With another confrere I lived in the heart of the slum area of the parish. Two days a week we helped our neighbors contract their houses. Twice a week, at night, we would have a prayer group in our small house. At first about 15 to 20 people came-men and women. Within three years we had establish 45 small Christian communities where we would gather to reflect on the reality of the society and pray to discover God’s will in it all. It was a liberating experience. We would see the poor learn to take responsibility.
One Palm Sunday procession turned into a protest march against the almost non- existence basic services in the barrio. At the same time it was a prayerful act begging God to accompany us in our quest for God’s justice. Our prayer was heard and the mayor sent some help to repair the roads and build a cistern. In this small act the Christian community committed to justice inspired by faith learned it is possible to change their living conditions. Our small success stood out as a prophetic sign. Some of the neighborhood people who had gone to nearby, beautiful churches returned to work and worship with us. They told us they come back because they saw our small community was interested in people and not in the money. They had learned the most basic fact about the missionary Church-it is God’s people who count.
In another of the Basic Christian Communities a day long encounter was encounter was organized. About 50 people attended. There was a lot of sharing about the theme of “solidarity with other communities. They set up special commission to visit the other neighborhood communities to share something of themselves and to learn from them. As a tangible sign of their willingness to share of themselves everyone put the food they had prepared on one of the table for the noon meal. As they sung the song the food was divided and everyone had enough. They learned they can share from the little they have Sharing from one’s poverty is another signs of a missionary Church.
I have likewise witnessed the deep spirituality of these impoverished people. One 65 years old lady, Rosa, was a “Fighter” in the efforts to get potable water, electricity, and the roads into her barrio. For 30 years she struggled to build her own home. Now she is blind and crippled. Her only daughter, in a scheme to “legalize” her mother’s house, sold it for 25,000 pesos and then left the town. Left with nothing-no family, no material things- Rosa’s friends from the Christian community helped her construct a three walled shack near some outhouses in the barrio. Of her situation Rosa says, “If one day my only daughter will come back I will receive her gladly because I have already forgiven her. Without anything , I feel I am filled with God.” Even in such a miserable condition as Rosa, the poor are sources of hope and encounter with the Lord.
These are but a few examples that have taught me more about being the part of a missionary Church. I have seen the growth of a genuine Church. I came to evangelized. I came to share the Gospel and have discovered the richness of the Gospel in the lives of the people. The more we experience the love of God, the more were able to open ourselves to another. We become like the Samaritan who opened himself up to the wounded man on the road to Jericho and lived in solidarity with him This is what happening in the poor Churches in the Third World that are becoming missionary; they have the capacity to share from their poverty; they have the capacity to evangelize and be evangelized, their deep religiosity is an unquenched fountain of spirituality.
‘Our prayer was heard; the Mayor sent some help to repair the road and build a cistern.’