Category Archives: Learning about Patzun

So far, very good

Holy Sepulcher bathroom

Restroom That Holy Sepulcher Built

Water filters, roofs, a restroom with running water, soccer balls and a play area are some of the projects that Holy Sepulcher Parish has tackled and completed in its first two years supporting San Bernardino in Patzún Guatemala. The restroom at the left is one of the first with running water at San Bernardino. Money from Holy Sepulcher was added to other funds to complete the restroom project.  One nice surprise on the June

  Project    Outcome   Cost Each
   Water filters    50 in classrooms, 50 assigned to families    $35
   Half-scholarships    50 supplied to students    $50
  Clothing and school supplies   12 military duffel bugs   Donated by parishioners
  Physical plant improvements   1 Restroom and 1 playground   $800
  Roof repairs   15 replaced (20 to go)   $650
  New chapel items   2 pews   $100
  Soccer balls   20 balls various sizes   Donated by parishioners

2011 mission trip was the little play area seen at the right. A report in March or April let us know that a bit of our

Holy Sepulcher play area

Holy Sepulcher play area

money had gone to building a play area for students in the primary school but I couldn’t imagine where it might be. So it was comical the day that Hermana Angela and I headed out back of the primary school to look at a wall that collapsed in the heavy spring rain. Spotting a modern restroom and the really nice play area pictured, I asked who paid for the project. “You.” was the one word answer. Indeed, Holy Sepulcher it was you. The simple things pictured here seem like nothing but nothing is precisely what kids had to play with the first 50 years of San Bernardino.

In 2010 Holy Sepulcher noticed that the kids played soccer at every opportunity

America v. Guatemala

America v. Guatemala

but the only available balls were hard plastic. We collected two dozen good soccer balls, sizes appropriate for the littlest students up to full regulation used in this game between the mission group and students from San Bernardino.

Added to our roofsscholarships and  water filters and I’d say Holy Sepulcher is making a very nice accounting of itself.

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One Family

This is a nice looking Guatemalan family, posing at the main door to San Bernardino, the school in Patzún that is supported, in part by Holy Sepulcher Parish. Some of you will recognize the name, Ana Cecilia Jimánez Arreaga or just Ceci. She is the one in pink. It seems like I have known Ceci forever. In fact it has been 11 years. The others in the photo are her mother and her three siblings.

All four children attend San Bernardino, made possible through the extraordinary efforts of some particularly good friends. Ceci’s situation is not the norm. The family is not from Patzún but from an aldea of Santiago Atitlán. The Jimánez Arreaga family comes from the far side of Lake Atitlán, from coffee country. The father, whom I have not met, works in the coffee fields and earns $2 to $2.50 per day. (See Education, education, education). It is a good family and they are together whenever it is possible.

Ceci

Ceci, the oldest, left the aldea, family and friends 11 years ago because education in her aldea stopped at 3rd or 4th grade. In the aldea she was likely to be locked into the physically demanding and extremely poor life of those around her. There was room for her at the orphanage, Hogar Para Niñas, also operated by Franciscan Sisters in Patzún. She lived at the Hogar for 4 years and then was allowed to live at San Bernardino with the Franciscan Sisters. Things were not easy. One year she couldn’t attend classes because of lack of funds. She lost much of her vision which has been restored over a period of years. Her siblings came to Patzún after her, though I don’t know the dates.

The mother came too. She works as a cook for the Sisters at San Bernardino. Her income is tiny, though a lot for the Sisters. Mom is only 40 years old and looks good in the photo. Often she looks much older and very tired. She has suffered serious health problems the last five years and physicians tell her that she has one or more lesions on her brain. She is palsied, more fitting someone twice her age. I told the mother that her health is beyond my ability to restore. Desperate to have her children educated, she hugged me and thanked me warmly for what you people have already done. I now understand that Ceci needed special help to attend San Bernardino because without assistance the entire family would have been forced back to their aldea.

Chief among those who helped this family is Fr. Brian Noel of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Others include Roger Dannenberg, Rita Shoemaker and Barry Dwolatzky all people I came to know at Carnegie Mellon, Roger for more than 30 years. This photo of the

Fr. Fleckenstein, Fr. Gillespie and Fr. Noel

2010 Pittsburgh ordinations was right next to the Jimánez Arreaga family as I snapped their photo. These priests, Fr. Noel on the right, made the trip as seminarians. San Bernardino remembers its friends.

Why this family? There must be dozens of stories like it, stories of more extreme need. I am sure there are but Sister Angela, Superiora at San Bernardino, made a special request. You must understand this is the Jimánez Arreaga family. Arreaga is the name of the mother’s father’s family. This young, dying mother was adopted by the parents of two Franciscan Sisters, Carmen and Gloria Arreaga García. These are the nieces and nephew of Madre Carmen longtime Superiora in Patzún who, outside my family, is my best friend in the whole world. We will learn more about her another time.

The story of the Jimánez Arreaga family appears with their permission.

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Education, education, education

Bill Clinton tells the story that in his first run for the White House he prominently displayed a sign that read, “It’s the economy, stupid”. My personal mantra is “It’s the education, stupid”. The Holy Sepulcher Mission is, fundamentally about educating those, who without outside help, would be locked into a life of poverty. We are animated to action by our love for and obedience to Jesus Christ. We hear his voice. He is speaking directly to us, not metaphorically, not to somebody else, when he teaches us how to live.

” … I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a  stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared  for me, in prison and you visited me.” John 25:35-36

 Three of these children are in school because of the $50 scholarship provided by Holy Sepulcher Parish. Two live in villages, remote from Patzún, riding public transportation at the cost of 8 Quetzals, nearly a half day’s wages. The mother of another of these is dying. The father lives in a far village, works every day but earns only 15 to 20 Quetzals ($2 – $2.50) each day for his efforts. Two plan to become physicians. One walks 3 kilometers to and from home and although the family of 8 lives in a single room with no running water, they are a bit too wealthy for a scholarship. All live in in-tact families and hope for a better future.

Why is education so important? Why doesn’t the father who works in the coffee fields simply get a better job? The answers are connected. In Guatemala you work where you can find work. Family members get first preference and then come neighbors. If the father left his home for another village, where pay is better, he would be unemployed. He would be an unwelcome stranger and a threat. If he went to a town like Patzún or a city like the capital he would find little or no work. Many who travel this road become victims of violence and alcohol. Others become lawless and violent.

Education gives people good choices. In the Patzún area the uneducated male will work in the broccoli or bean fields. A few hundred meters lower on the mountain coffee dominates. Below that it is cotton and finally sugar cane and bananas. Women sew and weave, selling what they make in the local markets. Wages are not always as low as $2 per day. In  a more prosperous village $4 per day is common. I have heard about people making as much as $8 though I don’t know any. A graduate of San Bernardino’s highest level, a college prep or trade school known as diversificado, will earn $2,500 per year as a teacher or even more in an office job in Guatemala City. The two young women that my wife and I sponsored over the years have lived this story. Both cases were a bit more dramatic in that both were at the orphanage when we met them, truly rags to relative riches. One now spends part of each year and a portion of her income on mission to the poor in Guatemala. It is humbling.

Without education people are tied to their economic roots or face enormous risk and uncertainty. With education they can become self sufficient and reasonably aspire to higher education and a host of opportunities.

Why doesn’t the government help? It does and it doesn’t, much like our government. Why not a revolution? Why don’t the poor demand their rights? A group of well-meaning first worlders tried that beginning in 1961 and what ensued was 36 years of the bloodiest civil war our hemisphere has known. The Manchester Guardian reports that 200,000 people in this country which at time was 8-10 million were killed or disappeared in that war. These numbers are 1 to 2 orders of magnitude greater than the troubles of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras combined. It gouged into the lives of my closest friends who will, in important  ways, never fully recover. I will devote other essays to this topic but please believe me, Guatemala needs no more war.

Guatemala can use your help. There are real children with real needs, needs that can be addressed by very small, well targeted gifts. San Bernardino stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity wrapped in hard work and the love of Christ.

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Filed under General Information, Learning about Patzun, Mission Blog, Uncategorized

Lenten mission project 2011

Holy Sepulcher CCD students focus Lenten giving on the San Bernardino mission school in Patzún, Guatemala. For the first time the 1,100 students of San Bernardino have a proper chapel for Mass and other services. It lacks the basics, like pews,

Chapel at San Bernardino Inside the San Bernardino chapel.

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Filed under Fundraisers, General Information, Learning about Patzun, Patzun Pictures

Guatemala Map Facts

As we begin building our support bridge to the people of the Patzun Mission and San Bernardino School, we feel it is important to understand where they live.   Can you find Guatemala on a map?  What bodies of water are important to them?  What is their capital?  What countries are their neighbors?  Visit our Kids Corner page and do the Guatemala Geography Map Facts Fun Page (answer key is provided).  It’ll be a great start to locating Guatemala. 

Visit again soon as we post other geography facts about Guatemala…very interesting stuff!!

If you want to explore Guatemala geography on your own, there are many websites full of information.  Here are a few we recommend:

World Atlas Guatemala Map
World Atlas Guatemala Large Color Map
Travelblog.com – Guatemala Geography Facts

Wikipedia on Guatemala
Patzun Agriculture Project with lots of Guatemala Facts
Lonely Planet visits Lake Atitlan region
Weather and Climate Info from BBC News 
About.com Geography Library about Guatemala 

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