Social Justice Blog

<< return to main

Cobán… The Life Changing Story of Water!

Posted: March 22, 2018

Water is Life. Water is a gift and a blessing for all who receive it. During this Season of Lent we are reminded of the power of water, oil and fire with the Holy Week and the Easter Vigil… visual reminders of our life in Christ.

Our Cobán Water Project is also a sacred undertaking… We share in the life-giving power of water. Water is essential for all life. Water sustains and heals us. St. Patrick’s Church, in collaboration with the Benedictine Monastery in Cobán, Guatemala, has shared this gift of life for over 18 years. The Cobán Water Project is inspired by:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35-40

Youth and adults travel over 1,000 miles to deliver water filters to people who live in the remote, mountainous villages of Cobán who do not have access to clean drinking water. This journey began when Pope John Paul II called Catholic Churches to, “global mission” … St. Patrick’s Church answered the call.

St. Patrick’s Social Justice Commission led by Cappy Moore embarked on a life-changing collaboration with Monasterio Benediction, “La Ressurreccion,” and Blue Cloud Abbey in South Dakota. In the early days Stella Maria Valverde Polanco, a long-time friend of the Benedictine Monastery provided translation and friendship to St. Patrick’s Church. St. Patrick’s is fortunate to have Social Justice Commissioners who are bilingual and have generously shared their language skills to advance the water project!

The first few years of the project were spent in discernment and relationship building. St. Patrick’s Church wanted to make an impact and do the, “most good” … Volunteers tried a variety of projects. After a couple of years, Fr. Basil, Abbot at the Monastery encouraged St. Patrick’s Church to deliver water as part of an initiative to improve the health of people living in the villages. His successor, Fr. Pedro continued the collaboration with St. Patrick’s.

The Cobán Water Project has changed lives… It has brought life-saving clean water to families, and improved health, one water filter at time. Thousands of filters have been delivered by hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers working side by side with monks and villagers. It has been a journey of faith and friendship. We have been changed too!

It takes many, “moving parts” to make this ministry happen…Volunteers have played a critical role… Serving on pilgrimages, raising money at the Gala for Brighter Tomorrows each December, and sharing their talents! The Benedictine Monastery has opened their home, and offered their friendship, resources and support for the Cobán Water Project. Helps, International, Inc., has become a strong addition to our team in the last five years. It has a global presence in Guatemala. We work with them to secure water filters in the country. The water filters are manufactured in Cobán and delivered to the Monastery.

The Monastery works with the elders and local leaders of the churches in the aldeas to compile a list of families who will receive the filters. The filters are delivered to the aldeas, assembled on site with the help of local leadership and then distributed to the families. There is a big celebration with a Mass and a beautiful community meal. We have experienced incredible generosity and friendship in the aldeas.

Cobán Water Project Highlights:

Location: Cobán, Guatemala
Collaborating Partners: Benedictine Monastery in Cobán, Helps, International, Inc., Blue Cloud Abbey, and St. Patrick’s Church
Number of Years: 18 years
Number of Volunteers: (Youth & Adult) – Hundreds
Number of Water Filters: Thousands
Last five years: 1,228
In May, 2018: 1,478 (250 water filters will be delivered, 50 candelas & 50 scrubbies)
Cost of Water Filters: $50
Cost of replacement Candelas: $16
Production of Water Filters: Cobán, Guatemala
Translation: St. Patrick’s Social Justice Commissioners: Steve Yanda and Teresa Olson, Stella Maria Valverde Polanco and St. Patrick’s staff

The leadership of the Monastery has transitioned with the death of Fr. Pedro. Fr. Carlos is the new Abbott. He is committed to our long-time friendship. This May our Youth Ministry Team will be leading a group of young adults to Cobán to build four homes in the aldeas in memory of Fr. Pedro. We are grateful to everyone who donated to the Go Fund Me efforts. They will also deliver 250 water filters.

We are blessed to continue this global outreach work through the Cobán Water Project! It is only possible because of your generosity. Thank you. We are also grateful to the early pilgrims who made this water story possible.

--Maura Schnorbach