Thank you, Father O’Dowd

Father Aurelian O’Dowd, who has been assisting at weekday and weekend Masses here at Saint Paul the Apostle, was a good friend of our late pastor, Father Michael Hourigan. In memory of his friend, Father O’Dowd has shared his time, wit, wisdom and priestly ways with our parish, and we are much obliged to him. His final Mass with us will be on July 15.

His other labor of love is with the Agonizing Christ of the Rosary Parish and Schools in the former center of Managua, the capital of the Republic of Nicaragua in Central America. Completely destroyed by a killer earthquake in 1972, the old capital city was demolished and left barren and unoccupied by its former inhabitants. Soon afterward, groups of poor families that lost everything to the natural disaster began to move into the “ruins” of old Managua. They created a shanty town, grabbing whatever few square feet of abandoned land they could to build new homesteads.

In the center of all this rebuilding was the Catholic parish, always at the side of its people during whatever tragedy they suffered. Today, 40 years after that horrible moment, the parish has grown to include three churches – The Christ of the Rosary parish center, Saint Sebastian Chapel and Saint Anthony of Padua Chapel – serving the spiritual needs of almost 2,000 souls. The parish has two schools – the preschool and primary school at the parish center and the high school at the Saint Sebastian Chapel – serving 501 students, 99 percent of whom are baptized Catholics from the barrio.

At the head of all this pastoral activity is Father Aurelian O’Dowd, a native of the Bronx, NY, who for more than 34 years has labored in Central America, first as a De LaSalle Christian Brother and for the last 18 years as a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Managua. Thanks to more than 120 parish pastoral members (lectors, ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, catechists, evangelists, youth and prayer group leaders, ministers to the sick and aged, Knights and Ladies of the Blessed Sacrament and Marriage Encounter leaders), Father O’Dowd is able to tend to the multiple needs of locals who seek the Lord despite their poverty and harsh political situation in Nicaragua today.

Personal comments from Father O’Dowd: Thanks to Father Michael Hourigan, God rest his soul, Saint Paul the Apostle Church has been a sister parish to our Managua parish and schools. I would humbly ask your kind prayers for the success of the mission in Managua. I would also beg your kindness in whatever way you could help us serve and maintain our parish and schools, especially our poor students who are unable to afford the symbolic tuition we must charge ($9 a month) to remunerate our teachers. Be assured of my heartfelt gratitude and prayers for your loving generosity for God’s people in Nicaragua. Live Jesus in our hearts! Your kind donations may be deposited in our mission account: Chase Checking, Fr. Aurelian O’Dowd, No. 150084430565. Checks may also be presented to Connie Clark in the Parish Office; they should be made payable to Fr. Aurelian O’Dowd. My email address is AurelianODowd@aol.com. I would be happy to hear from you!

Independence Day

Imagine flying over the United States in a small, private plane at twilight on July 4. You could watch fireworks going off beneath you in all directions, as every town celebrates the birthday of the nation. They celebrate because, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was announced publicly – a list of the reasons why the 13 colonies had broken ties with their mother country, Great Britain. It was written by a committee headed by Thomas Jefferson and stated that all people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. By the time it was produced, the Revolutionary War had already been going on for some months. It would take eight years for the colonists to win the independence they prized so greatly.

Traditional celebrations include torchlight parades, bell rings, picnics, family reunions, band concerts and, of course, fireworks. It’s a time for fun and a time for reflection, too. People give thanks today for a beautiful country and for a system of government that is admired all over the world. Even in the United States, the poor and some minority citizens are often robbed of their basic rights. Frederick Douglass, the great anti-slavery writer, was once asked to give a speech on the Fourth of July. Pointing out that many African Americans were still held as slaves, he told those who had asked him to speak, “The blessings for which you on this day rejoice are not held in common.”

Our bright celebrations this day are done in the hope that one day all will be free, that one day the earth itself will shine with liberty.