Guatemalan Catholic community
welcomes Bishop Brungardt
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
One by one they came to the front of the church -- women dressed in all the colors of the rainbow reflecting their rich, Mayan heritage, parents guiding their children by the hand -- to where Bishop John B. Brungardt stood waiting, a smile affixed to his face as he embraced each member of the Guatemalan Catholic community.
On Aug. 21, Guatemalan Catholics of Dodge City and the surrounding area offered an official welcome to their new bishop at a Mass celebrated by the bishop and Father Ted Skalsky at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in east Dodge City.
It was a three-language day for Bishop Brungardt, who had already celebrated Mass in English, in Spanish, and now in Quiche’ (also spelled K’iche’), one of the several languages of Guatemala.
Mid-way through the Mass, as a band played traditional Gospel music, the congregation processed to the front, each offering a warm greeting to the smiling bishop. Following the Celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop Brungardt commissioned four members of the community as catechists: Isabella Castro, Julio Gonzalez, Pedro Mejia, and Juan Lux.
After Mass, several women gathered in the kitchen in the basement of the church, near which sat two large pots, one holding stewed chicken, the other rice, and everyone in attendance was treated to a native Guatemalan meal. In the different rooms of the basement, several tables had been set up, and the bishop made his way to each one, greeting people and posing for photographs.
In observing the native people of Guatemala -- smiling, friendly, each ready with a handshake or a “hello” in their native tongue -- it’s easy to forget the barriers they have faced. The community has blossomed in southwest Kansas in recent years, due in part to a deeply troubled homeland.
Reportedly 63 percent of the population of the South American nation lives in extreme poverty; approximately two percent of the population owns 64 percent of the farmable land. Despite several attempts at drawing peace accords, the country is still mired by widespread violence, including abductions, torture and executions conducted by the military and militias.
The indigenous people have born the brunt of the violence, which hit its peak in the 1980s, but which continues today in what has been termed ethnic genocide. Reportedly, more than one million indigenas were placed on military-run reeducation camps. Thousands have been killed or “disappeared.”
Because the United States does not recognize Guatemalans as political refugees, they cannot seek political asylum. If caught in this country without proper documentation, they are deported back to Guatemala.
But this day, Aug. 21, was about celebration. As clouds brought a trickle of rain outside, two little boys made their way through the crowd to greet the bishop. After a photo of the three was taken, the eldest boy, a first generation United States native, asked the SKR with an air of respect and gratitude, “What website will these be on?”