At this time I initiated what was to become a very important part of our Parish life: the Parish Fiesta. That year, since it was the first year of the Parish, the celebrations were quite small but grew in size and importance year by year. In spring of 2005 there were only two elements: a Parish novena; and a Parish Fiesta. With a certain amount of nervousness, I wrote up a Novena for use in the eight chapels; basically a set of prayers, hymns and reflections for each of the nine nights of the Novena. I was never very sure of the uptake of such a Novena but, wherever I was (and I tried to move around the chapels for each night of the Novena), there seemed to be a decent crowd participating fully. When it came to the Parish Fiesta itself, the idea was simple: we suspended all Sunday Masses in the parish and transported our parishioners out to a nearby retreat centre where we spent the day.
The retreat centre was called ‘El Cenaculo’ and was run by the Padres Somascos who dedicate themselves to service of the poor, particularly through education. As well as the chapels and conference rooms, they had extensive grounds where the young people could walk, run, play and rest. The families who had come for our Parish Fiesta from the dusty and dirty streets of Nueva Prosperina loved the freedom the retreat centre offered. That day we had around seven hundred people. We had prepared the theme of the day through the Novena and I was able to enlist the help of various nuns and Diocesan catechists to lead us in our talks. I distinctly remember looking out on the congregation that day to see 700 enthusiastic parishioners clapping and singing their way through Mass and thinking to myself that, although it had been a hard first year, I had truly got to know these who were now firmly my friends as well as colleagues.
Fr Martin Chambers