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First Update From Cuba

Service and Study Update 8 May

Grace and peace be with you in the Risen Christ!   Feliz Pascua!

It is Sunday, 8 May and I have been in Cuba almost 72 hours!  It has been an amazing beginning to my time of service and study.  I’ll do my best to highlight the last three days.

It took me more time to get to Havana than I had planned.  When I arrived at the airport in Miami on Thursday morning, I discovered that Cuba Tour and Travel and the Charter Flight Company, Sky King, had made an error and I was scheduled to fly out on Thursday evening…not in the afternoon.  So, I spent an unusual amount of time in the Miami Airport…but boarded my flight to Havana at 8 p.m. on Thursday night and arrived at 9:15 p.m.  It took about 2 hours to get my visa, stand in line to get through immigration and customs…and was met by my friend, the Rev. Gilbert “BOOTS” Walker.  We made our way to La Merced, in old Havana…Habana Vieja.  I didn’t eat dinner so had some red beans and rice…unpacked my bags and went to bed about 12:30 a.m.

On Friday, I woke up about 6 a.m. and wrote in my journal for awhile…then went down for some coffee and a bit of breakfast…bread, yogurt and bananas.  About 9:30, Gilberto and I drove to the Cathedral de Iglesia Episcopal…about 15 minute from Habana VIeja in an area of the city called Vedado.  I had hoped to see Bishop Griselda had I arrived on Thursday afternoon…but she left early Friday morning for Cienfuego…a city to the south and east of Habana.  We went to the Deanery to catch up with the Dean, Jose Angel…but he was making a hospital visit.  Then we drove to La Inmaculada, the Provincial House for the Daughters of Charity in Cuba.  Padre Gilberto is the Spiritual Director for the sisters in Cuba.  I met some of them when I visited Cuba last November and it was good to see them again. We had coffee..a demitasse…it is a custom of hospitality to offer coffee when people come to visit.  After our visit, we made our way back to La Merced.  I did some writing and grammar work before lunch at 12:30.  Lunch is the main meal of the day and it was delicious.  I had red beans and rice which are served almost every meal.  I also had chicken with garlic and onions and sweet potatoes, salad made of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers and some bread pudding.  Fruit is abundant…bananas, guava, melon, pineapple, mango…it is a rich fare of food and cooked so well!

After lunch, siesta is the order of the day.  It is hot but not humid yet…90 degrees but less humidity.  By July and August, it will be much more humid.  I have a window air conditioner in my room which is a blessing…especially when reading and writing and studying!  We left about 3:30 to drive back to the Episcopal Cathedral to visit with Jose Angel, the Dean.  We were welcomed by his wife, Lucretia and their youngest son, Luise…she served us coffee as well.  Jose Angel arrived about 4:30 and visited until about 5:30.  Padre Gilberto and two others offer Centering Prayer workshops throughout the city.  We made our way back to La Merced…changed clothes, picked up Jorge and Jesus and drove to the Church of the Holy Rosary…La Rosario in Spanish…for the workshop.  There were about 30 – 40 people present.  Padre Gilberto gave a presentation for about 40 minutes then we did centering prayer for 20 minutes…listening for a Word from God…centering oneself …in silence…and waiting.  We had a break and then Jesus gave a presentation on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit which flow from Centering Prayer…silence, solitude, simplicity and service.  After the presentation, they served us water and coffee for those who wished and a wonderful cake.  We drove back Habana Vieja…and had a little dinner then I headed to my room.  I was very tired.  Listening intently to people speaking in another language…trying to understand…is fatiguing.  I didn’t sleep well my first night and was looking forward to a better night’s rest.

The priests and seminarians gather for Morning Prayer every day except Sunday.  Monday through Friday it begins at 6:30 a.m. On Saturday, it begins at 7:30 a.m.  I got up…having slept well through the night and made my way down for coffee at 7:15 a.m.  After breakfast, I made my way to the large room at La Merced.  Young children…preschool through Middle School were gathering for a program entitled Pascua Joven…Youth Easter from 9 – 11 a.m.  Children from all of the churches in the deanery of Habana Vieja…200 or more…were gathering for a program of singing and faith formation…ending with a snack.  I took pictures of the children and then recorded their singing and the play of the Women coming to the Empty Tomb and meeting the Risen Christ!  I spent the rest of the morning reading and practicing Spanish Grammar.  After lunch, I took a siesta then did some more journaling.  We left for La Inmaculada at 3:30.  Gilberto needed to have some keys made.  On Saturday afternoon, the children come for Faith Formation before the 5 o’clock Mass.  Mother’s Day is celebrated in Cuba in a big way also…so incorporated in the service was a tribute to Mary, the Mother of God…known in Cuba as Nuestra Senora de la Caridad.  After the service, we made our way to a large…in fact the largest Roman Catholic Church building in Cuba…known as Jesus de Miramar for another Pascua Joven…but this event was for youth 15 – 30 years of age.  There were almost 1,000 young people there along with adult leaders and catechists.  This has become an annual event.  After some music and games, we made our way into the church building…el Templo in Spanish…for a night prayer service.  Gilberto and I left about 9 p.m.  They had saved dinner for us…I ate and headed to my room to prepare for Sunday.

After coffee on Sunday morning, Gilberto and I left for services at the Episcopal Cathedral and La Inmaculada.  He dropped me off at the Cathedral and I made my way to the Deanery.  I had a cup of coffee and then the Dean and I made our way to the church building.  The Dean has had difficulty with his vocal chords.  He asked if I would assist him during the service.  I prayed the Opening Collect for the Third Sunday in Easter.  We shared parts of the Eucharistic Prayer…which didn’t go as well as I had hoped.  I am not as familiar with Prayer B as I am with Prayer A.  After the service, they invited me to stay for lunch.  I met their oldest son, Pepito who is taking a degree in Theology at the Ecumenical Seminary in Matanzas and Jiro who is completing an Art degree in June.  We had rice and garbanzo beans for lunch as well as sweet potatoes and ground beef.  They also served tamales’…which are made of corn and boiled.  It was delicious!  Jose Angel and Jaire drove me back to La Merced.  After a bit of a siesta, Gilberto and I left to meet my Spanish Language teacher…Idania.  We went to her apartment…near La Inmaculada.  She teaches Spanish at the Language Academy every morning and agreed to be my language instructor in the afternoon.  I have to admit…I was a bit anxious but she calmed my fears.  We agreed to meet on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 2:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon.  She served us some wonderful coffee.  We left for La Merced and on our way, picked up a cake.  Every Sunday evening, there is a program on television called Palmas y Canes, Palms and Sugar Cane, which features country singing…based on ten lines of poetry.  We went to a friend’s house to watch the program…shared some cake and then walked back to La Merced.  I spoke with Dana by phone to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day.  The phone lines and cell phone satellites were very busy but I finally got through about 10:15 p.m.  What a beginning to my time of service and study in Cuba!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Thomas mace
    March 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Father Gilbert married my wife and I in Houston tx in 1990 it was interesting reading your comments

  2. casey
    May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Estoy muy orgulloso de ti. Favor de estar a salvo y hagas buen trabajo

  3. Julie Phyliky
    May 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I was tired just reading the schedule of events that you had following such a long trip! It must be wonderful to be in an environment where the church is still the center of peoples lives. I hope the Spainish lessons go well. Being submerged in that culture while learning will be a help. You are in our prayers.
    Bob and Julie

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