Facade of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Luquigüe Facade of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Luquigüe 

Pope’s donation helps restore indigenous-area Church in Honduras

Pope Francis makes an initial donation to kick start restoration work on a dilapidated parish Church in an indigenous area of Honduras.

By Patricia Ynestroza & Devin Watkins

The 400-year-old Church of St. Francis of Assisi, in Luquigüe, in Honduras’ Diocese of Yoro, represents a precious cultural and architectural heritage.

Yet, centuries of earthquakes, creeping vegetation, and insistent humidity have done their damage, causing the ceiling to sag, floors to sink, and walls to crack.

The church was built by the Franciscans in the area populated by Tolupan indigenous communities, and the complex includes a Franciscan monastery which has also borne the weight of time.

A single priest, Fr. Marcio Mejía, serves the surrounding area which includes 55 mission communities, and travels the poorly-maintained roads to celebrate Mass and administer the Sacraments to the indigenous communities under his pastoral care.

A long-shot hope

Despite the pressing need to renovate St. Francis’ Church, funds were nearly impossible to obtain for many years, even with the help of Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga.

According to Bishop Héctor David García Osorio of Yoro, the diocese is strapped for cash and finding generous benefactors proved difficult due to the church’s remote location.

“Ours was a nearly-hopeless hope,” he told Vatican News. “It is not easy to find someone to put up such a large amount of money in a small town, which does not enjoy the deep pockets of cities like Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula.”

Interior of the church
Interior of the church

Pope’s far-sighted care

Then, Pope Francis stepped into the fray, changing the church’s fate with a donation to secure the cracking ceiling.

He had learned of the restoration project after Flora Castro, a local woman, made it her mission to save her hometown church, contacting the Honduran Embassy to the Holy See and asking for help.

The Pope sent the funds to begin work to the Diocese of Yoro in April 2021. Soon, a project manager was hired and construction permits were obtained from the Honduran government.

Flora Castro
Flora Castro

One good turn deserves another

After Pope Francis led the way, other benefactors have jumped on the bandwagon.

Adveniat, a German charity for Latin America and the Caribbean, has now offered US $80,000 to keep the project running, even though they had been hesitant to contribute before the Pope’s donation came through.

Funds for the final stage of restoration will have to come from local donors, in order to restore the altar and sacred images, which the Franciscans used to catechize the indigenous peoples of the area when they first arrived.

Immense gratitude for papal help

Now that the project is off-and-running, Bishop Garcia attributes its future success to Pope Francis for his “substantial economic assistance”.

"I am infinitely grateful to the Holy Father,” he said, “because we know what he means to the universal Church. His help for such a small indigenous community—even one that is poor and remote—means a lot to the diocese and parish community.”

According to Flora Castro, the local woman who spearheaded the restoration and has set up a school and library, her community will forever be grateful for the Latin American-born Pope who has offered his support for the faithful of Luquigüe.

Fr. Mejía shows Patricia Ynestroza the church
Fr. Mejía shows Patricia Ynestroza the church

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

24 December 2022, 11:22