All twelve committee members and coordinator of the United Thank Offering (UTO), a financial and spiritual partner in the mission work of the Episcopal Church since 1889, traveled to Honduras January 18-26 to conduct a regular business meeting and to visit local grant sites at the invitation of the diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Lloyd Emmanuel Allen.
The Diocese of Honduras is one of the fastest growing dioceses within the Episcopal Church, with more than 80,000 people attending 146 parishes and missions. The diocese works primarily in poor and marginalized communities, and focuses on economic development, food security, education and health.
Since 1974, the diocese has received 27 UTO grants totaling $1,172,825.
"The UTO committee is committed to the Episcopal Church's overseas dioceses," UTO coordinator JoAnne Chapman said. "It's really important that we are able to support them with various projects in order to assist the growth of the church."
In San Pedro Sula, where the diocesan offices are located, the committee visited the Cathedral El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Cathedral) and the adjacent school. UTO grants totaling $125,000 have assisted the diocesan complex of offices, school, and church between 1983 and 1990.
A visit was also made to the diocesan seminary, which received a UTO grant for $60,000 in 2000 to build a dormitory to enable seminarians to live on campus.
Accompanied by the Rev. Albert Brooks, Bishop Allen's Canon to the Ordinary, and Suyapa Saldivar, diocesan project director, committee members traveled to Puerto Cortes on the North Coast of Honduras, January 20, to visit San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) church and school, built with the assistance of a 1979 UTO grant for $49,000.
On January 21, the committee traveled for four hours across the country to Tegucigalpa where UTO has given several grants, the most recent being in 2005 for $40,000 to help relocate and expand the diocese's El Hogar St. Mary's Technical Institute in Amarateca.
"This vocational school offers education and employment training skills to teenage boys so that they can go out as young men and earn a living," Chapman said.
In Tela, the committee attended the national meeting of Episcopal Church Women (ECW) and UTO ingathering January 21-22, as well as the consecration and dedication of Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit), which received a UTO grant in 2004 for $120,000 to rebuild a badly decaying building.
Bishop Allen's strong leadership and the progress the diocese is making towards increasing its own stewardship and becoming self-sustaining "is very impressive," Chapman said. "They are also very dedicated to primary and secondary education and providing help to abandoned children."
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras and lost property, crops and wages added an extra burden to what was already one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Honduras is also at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Central America.
UTO Committee members who traveled to Honduras are:
Joy Tway, Dottie Leland, Patricia Tourangeau, Thelma Hutton, Muriel Sobers, Wilma Johnson, Regina Ratterree, Gurtie Berkner, Nilah Tripp, Claudia Pistek, Peggy Ann Wilds. JoAnne Chapman, staff.
Committee member Connie Coindet Segura is from the Diocese of Honduras.
Further information about the United Thank Offering can be found online at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/uto.htm