To see pictures of our visits to our sister parish click here
La Amistad (The Friendship) between St Ambrose Parish, Cheverly, Maryland and The Parish of de San Agustín, Usulutan, El Salvador.
History of San Agustin – San Agustin, Usulutan, El Salvador, is a small farming community in central El Salvador. During the Civil War in El Salvador of the 1980s, San Agustin was on the frontier of the fighting and the town suffered greatly. After recovering from the war in the 1990s, the town suffered again in 1998 with terrible flooding and erosion from Hurricane Mitch. Then, in January 2001, a devastating earthquake shook San Agustin. Almost all of the buildings, including the Catholic Church, were destroyed. International aid organizations have since rebuilt small block homes for the people, but the central Church has not been rebuilt. Today the community continues to rebound but is hampered by lack of jobs and means of economic growth.
Excerpts from a letter from Fr. Vicente, pastor of San Agustin:
San Agustin, January 14, 2011
Our dearest brothers and sisters. On behalf of the San Agustin parish, we send our brotherly love…Through this letter, we want to again express our sincerest appreciation for the generosity that you have shown to our parish in San Agustin. On July 12, 2010, San Agustin had the wonderful visit from the delegation that represents your parish community. For us, their arrival is always marked with happiness, joy and much hope! … Undoubtedly we would like to continue with the show of solidarity and friendship you have demonstrated through the years. We want to express our firm conviction of continuing to work for God’s Kingdom and for the needy. Through the intercession of our saints, St. Ambrose and St. Agustin, may we be authentic disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ. May our Heavenly Father bless you always.
With fraternal affection,
Fr. Vicente Guevara Batres
La Amistad – The friendship between St. Ambrose and the parish of San Agustin began in 2007, when Father Alex Martinez, our assistant pastor and former pastor of San Agustin, told members of the Saint Ambrose conference of St. Vincent de Paul about the history of the town. In August 2007, three of us traveled to San Agustin with Father Alex Martinez to meet with their pastor, Father Vicente Guevara, and to learn more about the parish and to see what Saint Ambrose could do to help.
In San Agustin, the parish welcomed us as missionaries, and we were touched by the hospitality and deep spirituality of the people. They wanted to get to know the people of St. Ambrose and to form a spiritual connection between the two parishes. Based on our discussions with the people of San Agustin, together we developed ideas for projects we could undertake. On our return, we formed Family to Familia, to unite our Parish in working with the people of San Agustin.
Our initial project was to help complete the parish hall, a facility that would be used as a temporary church until one could be built. At the time of our first visit, work had begun on the parish hall, but Mass was still held under an open air tin roof in the Parish yard. Through a special collection at St. Ambrose we provided funds to purchase windows and floor tiles for the hall and in 2008, the hall was completed in time for the Easter celebration. Also in 2008, Father Kevin Kennedy became pastor of Saint Ambrose and initiated the Children’s collection at St. Ambrose to help fund more projects in our sister parish.
In 2009, we invited Father Vicente to come to St. Ambrose. He spent two weeks with us, meeting many of our families and visiting the Church and school. In July we returned to San Agustin to prepare for a parish-wide mission trip. In November 2009, 9 parishioners from Saint Ambrose, including Father Kennedy, spent a week in San Agustin meeting the people. Working together we cleaned up debris from the parish grounds and painted the outside of the parish hall. We brought medicines and sports equipment donated by the people of Saint Ambrose and we visited the school and delivering letters from our students at Saint Ambrose.
We returned again in July 2010 to begin a number of projects to improve the parish and the town. Today working together with the people of San Agustin, we have completed a small kitchen, bathrooms, a playground. We have provided backpacks to school children. We have helped equip a women’s softball team. We have provided catechism supplies to the Missionary Sisters of MARILAM, who work in the parish and the surrounding countryside. San Agustin has begun a soy bean project, to diversify their crops. Someday soon we hope to establish a drug store and a farmer’s market.
Our friendship continues to grow by the grace of God. Here are some of the letters that we have received from our families in San Agustin that express the great gift from God that is our friendship:
"It is happiness for us to have communication of friendship with two families at St. Ambrose...we give thanks to God that through his mediation, we have met and we are hoping always that He has for you health and fortitude to continue building His kingdom."
"We received your letter with much joy because we didn't have anybody to communicate with from a great distance...I want to tell you that I love music, I play many instruments, like guitar, violin, and bass and many others. I worship God with my prayers and I sing to him too. We mostly live off our agriculture, we like to plant corn, rice, fruits, and vegetables. We visit church a lot and participate in all church activities."
"...amidst all the sufferings that our parish has gone through, a light has appeared, a light of hope, and it has been a group of your families that have come to us like a beautiful light to give us a wonderful touch of lucidity here in our community! The small projects you have worked with us, however small they might be, they are large to us because without your help, we would not have done anything.
Now things are different, we have beautiful gardens around the parish, we have a fabulous playground for our children, walls have been painted, our parish hall where we celebrate Mass has been painted, imagines of St. Monica and St. Agustin have been restored, we have a new crucifix, the chalet (kitchenette) is almost done! We are repairing a stone wall in front of the children's playground. We would not have accomplished any of this without your help. In the name of our Catholic community, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts and pray that you will receive abundant blessings from God.
Life here is very difficult and full of many worries as I am sure it is there, but you have given us a good example and you have shown us that love has no boundaries and you have shown us this with facts.
From your family that loves you very much. May God bless you today and always!"
--Digna and Mayorin Cruz