Via United Parcel Service, domestic and international jet, taxi, "chicken bus," and personal "messenger," a bishop's crosier crafted by parishioners of the Pacific Northwest has been given to Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, in thanks for his embrace of Pope Francis' "call to make our Church more simple and closer to those who have few material possessions."
Deacon Nate Bacon presented the 6-and-a-half-foot shepherd's staff to Ramazzini on behalf of a handful of Boise, Idaho, parishioners during a May 2 liturgy at the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the city of Huehuetenango in Guatemala's western highlands.
Recipient of countless death threats, Ramazzini is widely known in Guatemala and globally for his championing of the poor and "courageous stands on mining, migration, human trafficking, free trade and more," emailed Bacon.
A deacon of the San Francisco Archdiocese, Bacon is Central America director of InnerCHANGE, an international ecumenical organization that sends teams to neighborhoods in "places most people want to avoid or ignore," states its website.
Bacon became the intermediary for the gift through a chance connection between him and a Boise priest close to the persons who had originally created the crosier some years ago from a tree from Sun River, Oregon. It had been intended for a regional bishop's use, but that did not take place, the priest said, "and the crosier found its way to Boise."
The original staff was one piece, but it was modified to add length and allow it to be separated into two pieces for ease of travel, said the priest, who requested anonymity.
In a letter to Ramazzini, the donors described themselves as a "small number of people from one parish in the northwestern United States" who wanted to honor the bishop's courage and leadership.
"We have taken wood from the abundance God has given us here in the Northwest and fashioned it into a pastoral staff," wrote the parishioners of St. Mary Parish in Boise. "We have made it tall enough to be seen. We have chosen to give it to you because of our conviction that all the Church is one, and we are you and you are we. God bless and thank you and thank Pope Francis for being inspirations to all of us."
Bacon told NCR that Ramazzini made note of the crosier's height, underscoring how well the staff will be seen. The bishop said he was "most grateful for this beautiful surprise and gift from a kind and generous group in the United States," Bacon said.
Related: From a Memphis monastery to war-torn Guatemala (Global Sisters Report, Jan. 26, 2015)
Bacon had initially met Ramazzini in 2000 when both took part in a Mass at San Francisco's St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral to mark the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Guatemalan Bishop Juan José Gerardi.
Gerardi had overseen truth and reconciliation efforts in Guatemala following the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, including the church-sponsored Recovery of Historical Memory Project.
Two days after release of the project's report in April 1998, Gerardi was found bludgeoned to death in his garage, his face destroyed by a concrete block.
Bacon recalls how moved he was by Ramazzini's homily at the San Francisco memorial Mass. "When I heard Bishop Ramazzini begin to preach, my jaw nearly hit the floor," the deacon emailed. "I had never heard a bishop preach so prophetically, and I thought: 'Now that is how a bishop should preach!' The only point of comparison I could find was Blessed Archbishop [Oscar] Romero."
"Over the years, I continued to get to know Bishop Ramazzini better," Bacon added, "and he became a hero and a friend."
The gift crosier was shipped to Bacon's daughter's home in Chicago where the deacon was visiting. From there, it flew with him to Guatemala and by vehicle was transported to Huehuetenango.