Category Archives: Patzún Mission

New Clothes and a New Year

I got a Christmas note from Connie Cheren thanking the Holy Sepulcher Mission Group for sending shoes and clothes to Kenya.

Connie Cheren abd child

Connie Cheren and child

“I wanted you to know all the clothes and shoes you sent went to the children of Nick and

Jiggers without shoes.

Jiggers without shoes.

Charles who live in the CT children’s home. I have learned in Kenya Christmas to a child is a new outfit and chapatis. We made the chapatis and you supplied the new outfits and shoes. It was like somehow you and your church members knew the size of all the children! I will send photos later. The little guys refused to remove the tags from the clothes! … Be blessed this Christmas as we celebrate His birth.”  The need is real and the child’s foot illustrates a common problem. I didn’t use the shots of naked and starving children. Use your imagination or web browser. I hope to meet Connie on my next trip to Nairobi but this post is a walk down memory lane.

Clothing the naked is something that we Diocese of Pittsburgh mission groupers understand. Connie’s note took me back to one of the early St. Richard trips to Guatemala. Jean Gabor had taken over leadership and Laura Weiland, a college student at the time, was there. The memory that I cherish was of the day when each girl at the orphanage got a new outfit. As usual we carried as many duffel bags of clothing as the airlines would permit.

Jean on Medical Mission

One fine afternoon Jean and Laura decided to hand out the new clothes. I sat with most of the group in the Franciscan Sister’s dining area at the orphanage. One little girl after another went into a back bedroom with Laura and came out dressed head to toe in clothes that we brought.

Laura in the Woods

No words were needed. Beaming   smiles showed us how the orphans regarded their good fortune. Laura was radiant. I was content to sip coffee and eat cookies. It was a good day at the mission.

Holy Sepulcher made possible this reprise in a Kenyan orphanage. I wish I had been there to sip coffee, eat cookies and watch. I wish you all had been there, and there that day in Patzún.

Kimberly at the Orphanage

Kimberly at the Orphanage

Christmas and even Epiphany have passed. Before you know it we will be into Lent in preparation for the central event of our lives. This will be a huge year for the Patzún missions. I am sure that Connie’s mission in Kenya, Partner’s for Care, will flourish.

Paz y Bien

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I hope God gives me the strength to see you again.

Madre Carmen Arreaga

Madre Carmen Arreaga

That first day as we arrived in Patzún on that first mission trip in 1994, turning the corner into the Hogar at La Clinca Corpus Cristi with the orphaned kids mobbing us I saw Madre Carmen standing at the convent grinning at us, like we were old friends she was expecting to see. It’s funny how things line up. That same year four Franciscan Sisters took responsibility for the 1,300 students of San Bernardino, a clinic and 23 orphans. They took it with a smile. The teachers walked to the school morning and afternoon, four miles each day. Madre, Superiora of the fledgling community, stayed with the orphans who were too young for school. There wasn’t a telephone. It took 90 days to send a letter and receive a response. Electricity was available no more than 6 hours a day. Water was scarce. Cooking was done over a wood fire. Windows were broken. Play areas were bogs. Dogs roamed freely. Every orphan came to the facility infested with worms and head lice. Although there was a nutrition program for children five times the number went hungry. Yet this little facility, created by the passion and prayers of Sara Merdes and sustained by the eternal optimism of Padre Justiniano,

Madre Carmen and Company

Madre Carmen and Company

was a vast improvement over the past. We went every year and every year Madre was there with the welcoming grin. Gardens were planted. Rooms were painted. Electricity was properly wired, Windows were repaired. Orphans were loved and we all prayed liturgy of the hours and attended Mass together. Madre quietly put her life on the line when we discovered a local administrator was skimming tens of thousands of dollars intended for poor children. “Don’t worry about me.” she said. “When I am gone someone will take my place.” A hundred priests were killed in the war, as were hundreds of Nuns. When Padre Justi died and the bank stole the entire endowment and the French tried to take the orphanage from the Franciscans and convert it into a baby factory for distant neopagans and Gladis was attacked and other Sisters spirits were broken it was Madre Carmen who stood in the breech. She made it work. She endured. We turned some corners together. We built a girl’s dorm so that teen aged girls would have a safe place to live. St. Richard Parish joined St. Anne of Waynesburg and the orphanage, the school and the clinic were all saved. When Father Oldenski came it was grand.

Phil Miller and Madre Carmen Arreaga

Phil Miller and Madre Carmen Arreaga

When the seminarians visited everyone was over the moon with joy but that was when we learned that Madre’s cancer was inoperable. The past years Madre Carmen has been happy to be able to help her new community in Palencia as her health has declined. Today she writes, “I hope God gives me the strength to see you again.” That makes two of us my sister, my role model, my friend. Then again, we’re Christians. We have all this and heaven too.

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Filed under Mission Blog, Patzún Mission, St Anne Mission News, St Richard Mission News, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Learning about Patzun, Mission Blog, Patzún Mission, Patzun Pictures

Roofs

One of the first things that I learned about Americans on mission, especially the men, is that we have a deep seated desire to fix things.  We want to clean, paint rooms, repair broken windows, improve drainage, establish Internet access, drill wells, plumb, wire, level and widen. There is no denying the need in Patzún and there isn’t anything wrong with helping. My opinion, though, is that mission work that sees and addresses only material need is the “… seed

[that] fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture.” that Christ spoke of and is recorded in Luke 8:6. It grows fast, dries even faster and blows away in the slightest breeze.

Never-the-less these roofs at San Bernardino are in bad shape. The school was built in 1961 and from the look of things many of the roofs might be original equipment. Rainy season in Patzún is really rainy and every few years a hurricane parks itself just off the coast in the Caribbean or Pacific, drenching the entire isthmus that is Central America. In the last few years some interior classroom walls literally became waterfalls during hard rains.  Walls, not even the cinder block walls of San Bernardino, will stand up to the elements for long. If San Bernardino School was to continue, roof repair needed to be addressed. Being an American male I figured it should be part of our mission. As usual the parishioners of Holy Sepulcher accepted the challenge with splendid caritas.

Jessica Zigerelli, Caitlyn Gantzer and Adam Tucek plus the Brothers Waruszewski (Tom, Bob and Dan) –  young people on this year’s trip from Saint Vincent College, are pictured above doing  some of the work themselves. The new roofs are stunning. There are even a few classrooms covered with blue standing seam aluminum. Standing seam metal roofs being my personal favorite, this was a very nice surprise. The roofs are excellent and, as you can see, the ceilings are part of the to roughly $500 USD per classroom price.

Roofing is part of the Holy Sepulcher mission and when complete no student will suffer the indignity and discomfort of wading through puddles in the classrooms. San Bernardino is a wonderful school, the academic pinnacle of the Departmento of

San Bernardino's Priests Meet the Pittsburgh Ordination Class of 2010

Chimaltenango and font of priests.
It is only fitting that students and teachers have a roof between them and the elements.

Roofing is work, an important part of what we do. It is a fruit of who we are, adopted sons and daughters of Almighty God. Material progress throughout 2011 was significant. Roots on this mission trip were deep and well nourished. It was  faith-filled, fruitful and satisfying.

  classrooms    cost
   9   (completed)     $5,969
   cost for 1     $663.22
   24 remain   ~16,000

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