ERIE — The distance of 3,018 miles between Erie and Peto, near Mérida, on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, is a long one. But the two cities seemed a little
closer earlier this month when Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Diocese of Erie sat in his conference room at St. Mark Catholic Center and had a face-to-face conversation via Skype with Archbishop Gustavo Rodriguez Vega of Mérida.
The bishops’ relationship and the relationship between the Archdiocese of Mérida and the Diocese of Erie also shortens the distance. Bishop Persico visited Mérida in 2016 and Archbishop Rodriguez visited Erie in 2018. Bishop Persico intends to visit Mérida again in 2021 when the dioceses will celebrate 50 years since the founding of the Misión de Amistad (Mission of Friendship), a mutually beneficial initiative.
The friendship that has spanned half a century is a sister-diocese relationship. Calling it a friendship was a very deliberate testament to value of partnership, a relationship of equals. Since that time, groups from each diocese have traveled to visit the other. Services and programs have been established in the Archdiocese of Mérida that provide partially subsidized childcare while parents work, educate young girls; and provide medical, homecare and maintenance assistance.
Currently, 14 parishes in the Diocese of Erie are sister parishes with parishes in Archdiocese of Mérida. Numerous families there are sponsored by families in the Diocese of Erie. Both groups have benefitted and will continue to do so because of the close and respectful nature of friendship. In addition, the Archdiocese of Mérida has long provided a priest to minister to the Hispanic community in the Diocese of Erie.
The occasion that prompted the bishops’ Skype chat was a recent trip to Peto for a sister-parish celebration by a group from Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Erie. The group was welcomed and well-received by the community. Archbishop Rodriguez spent time with them and included them in the call. The group also was joined by Indira Suarez, director of the Office of Diocesan and International Missions of the Diocese of Erie.
Follow this link to read Bishop Persico’s column about his visit to Mérida in 2016, in which he provides wonderful into the lives of people in the area and the importance of the mission.http://faithdigital.org/Erie/FE1016/#?page=8