Guatemala Sister Parish
St. Anthony of Padua is located in the municipality of Sayaxche, Peten department of Guatemala. Sayaxche is very large and covers roughly 2,425 square miles that the parish serves.
St. Anthony has been St. James Sister Parish since 2007. A banner made by St. James Quilters says "St. James in Millstadt, Your Sister Parish, We Walk With You" was given to St. Anthony, the Mother Church.
St. Anthony is the Mother Church of the 70 Mission churches in the territory covered by the parish priest. St. Anthony is a large modern church and colorfully decorated.
It is opened to the public and well maintained by the parishioners. The ladies of the parish have a restaurant adjacent to the church and opened to the public as a means of raising funds for the church.
The priest at St. Anthony travels over 2,425 miles to visit the 70 mission churches or chapels in the geographic area.
To get to the outer communities, the pastor has to take a ferry over the Passion River.
When Father visits the closer parishes, it takes over 2 hours travel time, taking the ferry and traveling over rugged roads.
When Father visits, they do not worry about starting services at a certain time, they wait until Father arrives to start the services. The people are happy to see Father, they fill the church and have lively celebrations often with musical instruments.
The inhabitant are indigenous people mostly Mayan and Qeqchi. The people live simply. What are important to them are family, faith and land.
They have limited opportunities for employment. Basic service are lacking such as sanitation, education and nutrition.
Companies from other countries are buying their land, cutting trees and taking other resources. The natives sell their land, then work for the outside companies and are poorly paid.
The priest cannot visit all the mission churches but have catechists or leaders who go through a training program on the parish grounds at St. Anthony.As distance is vast and transportation is limited, those going through training, stay overnight at the parish center.
The catechists then take back to the village the information on religion, faith and God to share with the village people. The mission churches are heavily attended by the parishioners as religion is highly valued by them. Chapels are simple hand built structures with respectful interiors, always decorated with colorful flowers. Parishioners wear their native dress at the services.
Through St. James annual donations to our Sister Parish, assistance has been given to support the training needs of the catechists, supplies, gas, vehicle repairs and the building of new chapels.