Rev. Stephen McGraw was assigned to the Bánica Mission in July 2017 having previously served as chaplain at Christendom College in Front Royal, VA. How is he doing? Read on to find out…
I have now been here exactly five months, serving as the new pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pedro Santana while living at the nearby parish of St. Francis in Banica. Thanks to God, I seem to have weathered the changes pretty well and have stayed healthy. However, I do seem, along with Father Jason, to have the mission bug, and hopefully I will not be getting over that!
Allow me to recount just a few of the many blessings I have experienced during this time.
Of course, the greatest blessing that I have here and that I can always count on is the saving presence of my Father God, of Christ crucified, and of the Holy Spirit. An exquisite sign of Divine Providence at work in my being sent here is the fact that the crucifix that hangs in the church here where I am pastor is the very same crucifix that hung in my own parish church of St. John the Beloved in McLean, the one I prayed in front of for 22 years, since I was nine years old until I went into the seminary. I found out when I came down here that it had been donated to the church here after I became a priest. God always has a plan, and sometimes gives us a sign so we can see this more clearly!
A fundamental, indispensable blessing of the mission here is the blessing of fraternal communion, in the first place with my missionary confrere Father Jason, whether over our meals in common, on a shared day off, or during a trip to the capital. The deacon and Franciscan Catechetical Sisters who work in my parish have also been a true blessing. I have also been blessed by the friendship and lively interest in the church on the part of the youth, even including the young urchins who join me for an afternoon Rosary.
Another great blessing is that of being able to minister to some of the poorest of the poor in the mountains. As Scripture says, How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news! The need is very great indeed, on the level of material need but even more critically on the spiritual level, with very few having completed their Sacraments of Initiation, with the blessing of marriage not generally appreciated and with most people poorly catechized. We can only get to most communities about once a month, and to some of the remotest communities only three or four times a year, and so there is a great need for catechists who can impart the faith in a more stable and consistent way. One great light in this respect is the new school, San Jose, started by the Bishop this past spring in the mountains of my parish, and which is now serving around 75 youth from a dozen or so of our remotest communities. So between locally grown missionaries and perhaps missionaries from outside, I am hopeful that this longstanding challenge of a lack of religious formation will continue to be met with ready and generous hearts and thus be remedied.
Please pray for Father Jason and me and the whole Banica Mission!