For seventeen days in January of 2021, Friars Erick G. MARÍN CARBALLO and Ronaldo Francisco CRUZ GONZÁLEZ went on a mission experience, visiting various villages and settlements along the Coco (Wangky) River, in Nicaragua’s tropical Mosquito Coast area.

These communities are under the pastoral care of the Parish of San Rafael Arcángel, of the Diocese of Siuna, in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. This itinerant mission was promoted by the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (GPIC) of our Provincial Custody of Mary, Mother of Mercy in Central America, in collaboration with our post-novitiate confreres of El Salvador, as an integral part of their formation. This mission experience was a huge challenge, an act that was rash but justifiable, in the midst of the Covid-19 health crisis, exacerbated in Nicaragua by an authoritarian political regime and a deplorable health care system.
Our confreres went from community to community, from picturesque sites to very poor farmhouses, meeting and serving the indigenous Miskito people, whose communities were devastated by two strong hurricanes in November of 2020. These weather phenomena added weight to the heavy cross they already bear due to decades of marginalization, violence and impoverishment. Solidarity from the Church in Nicaragua, and from people of good will, was immediate. Help came from all corners of this small country and from its neighboring countries as well. On that occasion, supplies of rice and beans were distributed, which fed many hungry families.
In places where there were no Conventual Franciscan friaries, the friars were supported by the Capuchins and local pastors. The current regime opposes the solidarity initiatives of the Catholic Church and civil society for the benefit of the Nicaraguan people. This presented a risk to us, but the choice was made to embrace that crucified reality and be present in solidarity all the same. Thus, in the midst of much pain, much hope was given.
The friars experienced the community spirit and strong lay leadership that is typical of the region. Catholic, Moravian and Evangelical Christians share a rich culture of fraternity. The vitality of the youth and the strength of the adults could be seen in the beauty of their songs, the joy of their dances and their ever-smiling spirit.
We were amazed by the environmental and cultural beauty we saw, as well as by the human suffering and destruction done to our common home. We realized that our discreet presence was an essential part of our being Franciscans. We had to be there! This experience allowed us to get in touch with the core aspects of our charism: itinerancy, humble service, shared joy, evangelical contemplation and attention to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

Friar Ronaldo Francisco CRUZ GONZÁLEZ