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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The trip that almost wasn’t.

Brenda Hatzel gives Hermana Angela money raised by Holy Sepulcher School and CCD students. The mission group is seated in the new chapel at San Bernardino.

The 2011 Holy Sepulcher  Guatemala Mission trip was scheduled May 26 through June 2. To make things interesting, and to save about $400 per airfare, Brenda Hartzel and I decided to drive from Pittsburgh to Washington DC and fly from there. A business trip to Oklahoma City needed to be scheduled  on the 24th and 25th so even if things went well I was going to be tired. Things did not go well.

My flight to Oklahoma went through Dallas, Texas and May 24th was the day that tornados hit both Oklahoma City and Dallas. My flight left Dallas shortly before the bad weather hit there and somehow we flew on the back side of the tornado. Out the left window I saw clear skies and out the right I saw nothing but severe thunderstorms.

Although there was loss of life and great damage my meetings were held and the next day, the 25th I was in the airport headed for home back

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through Dallas to Pittsburgh so that Brenda and I could drive to DC to meet up with Bob Waruszewski’s  crew from St. Vincent College  and then fly back through Dallas to Guatemala City.

What could possibly go wrong? …  What went wrong was that much of the American Airline fleet was on the ground in Dallas when the storms stuck. Baseball sized hail knocked many planes out of service and the 2011 Holy Sepulcher Mission Trip into jeopardy of being cancelled. I spent literally hours on the phone the afternoon of the 25th, re-booking flights then re re-booking flights as the extent of the damage to the airplanes became clear. Bob Waruszewski, in Pittsburgh, was on the phone for hours too, doing the same. Through it all the reservations staff at American Airlines performed splendidly. One staffer, Dede Bowmar, is worthy of special praise. Reservation specialists were all dealing with thousands of stranded and distressed travelers and yet Dede chose to stay late by more than an hour just to make sure that our mission group would be able to travel together with minimum itinerary disruption. She got approvals, routed and re-routed flights, arranged refunds where appropriate and so forth. As things turned out she was one of many heroes and heroines who saw to it that we made the trip.

We ended up traveling through Miami instead of Dallas and arriving Saturday rather than Thursday. Friday night was spent in Miami. John Mark Kahldahl and his parents, residents of Miami, picked everybody up at the Miami airport and drove us to the MorningStar Renewal Center of the Archdiocese of Miami. The Kahldahl’s went to  dinner with us Friday night and drove us back to the airport in the morning. John Mark served in Net Ministries with Dan Waruszewski, traveling the USA working to ignite the faith of Catholic youth. Most of us took advantage of perpetual adoration, offered at the parish adjacent to MorningStar. The kindness and generosity that we experienced in Miami were breathtaking.

We lost time money and sleep. Others lost their lives. By Saturday morning we were finally on our way to Guatemala, once again, blessed by the grace of God.

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This Señora lives 100 meters or so from San Bernardino. The simple loom is how she feeds her family. There are two sparsely furnished rooms for sleeping with a separate, unvented kitchen. Water is drawn from the well and there are no special

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facilities for bathing and no toilet or outhouse. The husband, paralyzed for 10 years, previously supported the family with his work in the surrounding broccoli fields. Her children attend San Bernardino. The kids at school look so much like people right here at Holy Sepulcher that the contrast is a shock.

Gretchen Cararie with school children.

Gretchen Cararie with school children.

It is even a bigger shock to learn that the Señora and her family are doing relatively well. A poor family in Patzún would have one room with a dirt floor that everyone shares for sleeping. Cooking is done outside; no kitchen. The poor walk to the Nici-Nics, public water supplies that are known to be contaminated with parasites and other nasty stuff. The gaps between rich and poor are huge. Life can be very tough.


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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

Pictures from Patzun, June 17-24 2010

We are excited to share these pictures with you from San Bernardino School and the Patzun area.  Our trip in June 2010 was Holy Sepulcher’s first trip.  We tried to capture the joy of the children, the traditional Mayan culture of the area, the everyday life of the people, our projects while we were there and their needs we hope to help with in the future.


Filed under Patzun Pictures

Back from our Trip – Upcoming Events

The week of June 17-24, 2010 was the first trip by Holy Sepulcher Church to visit San Bernardino School in Patzun, Guatemala.  It was an awesome trip for the 5 of us.  Two seasoned travelers had been to Patzun many times over the years and were our Spanish-speakers and interpreters…Thanks so much Phil and Bob!  Our experience was much more than we expected in just 1 week.  We visited with the children of the school, attended many Masses at the church in Patzun, delivered clothing donations to outlying villages hit hard by flooding from the recent tropical storm, saw true poverty first-hand, met with a school family to acquire handwoven items for our fair trade market, visited the town market and “supermarket” (not like here!), took delivery of 50 large water filters for the school and prepared them for use, attended 2 special fiestas of the school – Father’s Day and Teacher’s Day, and enjoyed delicious meals with the Franciscan Sisters who are such great leaders of the school.   The friendliness of the people in Patzun is amazing!   

We all came back touched by what we saw and even more sure that everything we are doing to support the school is greatly needed and is truly appreciated.  Their needs are so basic compared to the luxuries we enjoy in our daily lives so it is not difficult to extend our generous hand to them in hopes that getting a good education, having access to clean water and adequate food, and giving them the tools to make a decent wage will allow them to escape poverty!

We came home with over 800 pictures of Patzun…so we are working on putting them together with a brief narrative so we can share them with all of you.  Look for the pictures to arrive on this website by the end of July.  We are preparing presentations for our Mission Group Meeting, the Rotary and for a weekend of Masses at Holy Sepulcher.

You can continue your support of Patzun with our upcoming Hoagie Sale.   Paid orders are due July 25th with pickup the following weekend, July 31/Aug 1.  You can order hoagies for $6 – Italian, Turkey, Pizza Hoagies.  Apple Dumplings are $4 each. 

Beyond that, our Fair Trade Market will be November 13th so mark your calendar.  Along with our supplier from last year, we will have woven items, baskets and other items made in Guatemala that we brought back with us.  Extra special will be the items being specially woven for us by a family with children that attend San Bernardino School.  We are trying to find unique ways to help many people in Patzun – so if we buy items from artisans of San Bernardino School and sell them at our Fair Trade Market with the proceeds going to San Bernardino School, we have helped both the family and the’s a WIN/WIN situation.

I hope that as you read this message, your heart is being tugged.  That’s your sign to somehow become involved in the support of Patzun.  There are small and large ways that many people can help.  Consider attending our meeting on July 25th at 7pm in the Church Conference Room to check us out…no commitment necessary…just an open mind and heart. 

And always….keep the families of Patzun and San Bernardino School in particular in your prayers!

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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 – 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 Geography Library about Guatemala 

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