A special second collection to benefit our Sister Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic will be held Sept. 24-25 and much of the support will go towards education, medicine and supplies needed in the remote and impoverished region.
Bishop John Noonan said in a recent letter to parishioners that because of our efforts over the past 28 years, the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana now has five schools, sponsored by the Mission Office, that teach 350 children giving them long-term hope for a better future.
“Today, we have two of our priests who assist Bishop José Grullón, my Episcopal brother in the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, with Sacramental ministry, catechesis and all age faith-formation, as Father Fred Ruse and Father Hilario Rivera, as well as Sister Bernadette MacKay, lead these beautiful people to a life of Christ,” Bishop Noonan stated.
Bishop Noonan is also asking that parishioners “consider a gift of time and talent for one of the mission trips to the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana,” something Jim and Kathy Gilliam of Melbourne Beach do on a frequent basis.
Parishioners at Immaculate Conception Parish in Melbourne Beach, the Gilliams have been working tirelessly on medical missions since 2003. Currently, the Gilliams head the medical inventory team that travels to Dominican Republic.
“As members of the diocese, we feel it is our responsibility to do this,” Jim said. “Our pastor (Father Joseph A. Nolan) does support this mission of the church.”
The Gilliams were attending Mass one weekend in 2002 when a speaker came to talk about the mission. They went the following year, and have returned annually for the surgical missions, which take place in early November and last two to two-and-a-half weeks.
One of the couple’s main roles is preparing the inventory for doctors and nurses to use. The Gilliams arrive about a week early to set up the inventory and take supplies from a warehouse to the hospital. Kathy – a former professor of nursing – also assists patients that come out of surgery.
Kathy said conditions have improved in the Dominican Republic since she and Jim started participating in missions.
“We’re seeing a lot of great things happening,” Kathy said. “We’re not seeing as many waterborne diseases anymore. “
Justo González, Associate Director of the Mission Office at the Diocese of Orlando, said the Gilliams’ efforts are imperative to the surgical missions.
“Jim and Kathy are invaluable to the Mission Office and our medical missions,” González said. “They are always there. You don’t have to ask them twice to do something. Without them, their expertise and commitment to transforming lives, the volunteer medical staff could not function.
“Their story is also powerful,” González continued. “The fact that they heard God’s call as another Lay Missioner spoke speaks of the power of the Holy Spirit. We are each invited to live out our call, to encounter and engage our global brothers and sisters. Jim and Kathy heard God’s call and model for us daily that serve to God is most vividly lived out in service to others.”
The Annual Collection for the Mission Office is the main source of funding for its programs. It is also funded in part through our Catholic Appeal.