The Secret of Christmas

The Joy of Mission at Christmas

This presentation, “The Joy of Mission at Christmas,” was adapted from pictures and prayers that Brother Marty Shea has compiled over the years. He has dedicated this Christmas message to the women who have saved the children and rekindled life after a time of genocide in Guatemala.

Marty Shea, is a Maryknoll missioner from Chicopee Falls, Mass., who has worked with the indigenous poor of Guatemala for over 50 years.  His missionary journey since 1985 has taken him through massacres in the jungles of El Peten, to exile in Mexico, to return with the people to their homeland in 1998.

Brother Marty, has lived with the people in Guatemala and in Mexican refugee camps. He knows how happy the refugees are to have returned home now that civil war has ended with a peace accord. The Guatemalan government promised to reestablish the people in their home region—the Petén rainforest and savannas—over three hundred miles from the capital, Guatemala City.

Brother Marty attests that the people arrived home with nothing. They had to begin again to turn the jungle into farmland. Until the government provides promised plots of land, the peoplelived in temporary camps funded by international and nonprofit organizations. 

Marty lived with the people in a simple house built for him by the returned refugees. He states that their joy is tempered by immediate needs that must be met. When he first arrived at the camps they lacked sufficient water and food. His major job at that time was to help and to keep the people from becoming disheartened.  Today the camp where he lives is thriving and very well organized.  They have a clinic, radio station, school, and cooperative.

Guatemala today is still a dangerous place to live.  Two percent of the population in Guatemala owns sixty-five percent of the farmland. The struggle for land  has a long and violent history.  In urban areas gangs control the neighborhoods.  Poverty, political violence, and malnutrition are challenges for missioners dedicated to working with the poor.