Summer studies in Ecuador

Fraters Paul and Thanh bring communion to an elderly woman in the mountains

“Instead of getting down from our pedestals, we have to go up to encounter the people of God.”

-Frater Paul Phong Hoang, SCJ, reflecting on bringing communion to people in the mountains of Ecuador

Pictured above: the view from Santa Maria parish in La Argelia.

Frater Paul Phong Hoang, an SCJ seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, writes from Ecuador, where he is spending the summer doing Spanish language studies and assisting with Dehonian ministries in the area. He recently wrote with an update:

“I am currently living in the formation community in Miraflore, Quito, Ecuador and have daily Spanish class with four other Dehonian students (two from Vietnam and two from Cameroon). On July 10, I will begin my class at the nearby university: PUCE (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador). It is a 30-minute walk from the community house, and the class will be three hours a day.

“Our formation community includes 10 students and two formators; six are local Ecuadorians, two are from Vietnam, and two are from Cameroon. The community if very friendly and welcoming.

A familiar face from the US: Fr. Juancho getting flowers together for Mass

“However, there are difficulties. It is not safe to walk in the area at night and early in the morning. Last Saturday, when we were about to leave the house to walk to the local parish for Mass, a female student was robbed of her cell phone by gunpoint right in front of our house. Thankfully, the student lost her cell phone but was safe. We have a gate in front of the house that protects us.

“There is also a parish community about a 30-minute drive from Quito where three SCJs, including Fr. Juancho from the US Province, lives. The parish is high on the mountain and it can be cold here. On Sundays the formation community goes there to cook and have lunch together with the La Argelia community.

“On Saturday, if I am not in La Argelia, I accompany Fra. Ho Si Thanh, aka José Thanh (from Vietnam), and Fra. Jean Somena (from Cameroon) to bring communion to the elderly on the mountain. Because it is very high and sometimes steep, people up there rarely come down to attend Mass. So instead of getting down from our pedestals, we have to go up to encounter the people of God. They live very simply up there, mostly by farming and raising domestic animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens. It is good exercise for me. You can feel the lower oxygen level in the air.

“Besides class and ministry, the two formators here, Fr. Jose Luis and Fr. Bruno Roque, have taken me around to visit local attractions such as: Mitad del Mundo (Equator Monument), volcano craters, Cuicocha Lagoon, and TelefériQo Cruz Loma (gondola lift).

“Greetings to everyone back home!”

The Santa Maria community house in La Argelia