Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (right), and Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate (left), welcome Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio, who is the newly appointed bishop of the episcopal diocese of Cuba, on her first visit to Canada.
In her first visit to Canada this week, the new bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Cuba, Griselda Delgado del Carpio, said being appointed in February came as “a surprise from God.”
Bishop Delgado was appointed by the Metropolitan Council of Cuba after two special electoral synods held last year failed to elect a successor to Bishop Miguel Tamayo Zaldivar, who is retiring as interim bishop.
In an interview, Bishop Delgado said she hopes to move her community development experience to a diocesan level. It provides a model for the way the church can be an expression of God’s word and love in people’s lives, she explained.
Six years ago, Bishop Delgado began working as a priest in the small rural community of Itabo, province of Matanzas. There, funds raised by the church provided residents with emergency assistance such as money for food or other basic needs. Now, the vision is focused on providing education to help them become self-sufficient.
“It is not only giving people money and saying ‘Ok, go ahead and buy a kilo of beans or rice,'” Bishop Delgado explained through an interpreter. “What they are trying to do now is implement programs that would allow them to move forward with their lives…providing them with some skills to go and work.” Subsequently, the church is teaching residents how to select and grow crops and how to preserve the food.
Staff at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod offices in Toronto got a vivid glimpse of Bishop Delgado’s vision through a presentation that included photos of the formerly dilapidated St. Mary the Virgin church and its restoration as an integral part of the community. Trees and vegetable gardens have been planted on the grounds, providing a community garden and agricultural training centre. A neighbouring resident, inspired by the work, donated land adjacent to the church, making it possible to also raise chickens and rabbits.
All of the work is founded on biblical teachings, said Bishop Delgado. “God has already given the message and we are trying to bring the words into action.” The entire community, not just parishioners, can participate in workshops and training, she said, noting that sometimes, residents begin to take an interest in the spiritual life of the church as a result.
The project also promotes environmental awareness, teaching people about climate change, water use and conservation methods. Some solar and wind power is already being used.
The bishop praised the support the Canadian church has given to Cuba, especially since it became autonomous from The Episcopal Church in 1967. (The Metropolitan Council of Cuba, currently made up of Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, primate of The Episcopal Church, and Archbishop John Holder, the primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, has overseen the Cuban church since it separated from The Episcopal Church because of difficult relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States.) The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and Kairos, an ecumenical social justice organization supported by the Anglican Church of Canada, have provided funding through the Cuban Council of Churches. The Anglican Church of Canada’s Partners in Mission program also has a historic partnership with the diocese of Cuba.
“The dialogue [between the Canadian and Cuban church] has always been very open, always with respect, acknowledging differences, but the politics have not gotten in the way,” Bishop Delgado said.
Bishop Delgado will also speak at the Anglican Church of Canada’s Justice Camp being hosted by the diocese of Niagara in Hamilton from May 9 to 14.