The Diocese of Orlando Mission Office’s educational effort in the rural mountains of the Dominican Republic has grown from 3 schools in 2002 to 5 schools in 2015, and is consistently ranked among the best in the country. But with no high school in the area, the students’ education stopped after middle school, making the chance to attend a university an impossible dream.
All of that changed last year when the new high school residency program opened its doors. The residency program is a boarding facility that provides the incoming high school freshmen a safe home away from home where they can continue their education. The program was initially funded by a grant from the Ruckstuhl Foundation and constructed by volunteer missioners, but it is sustained by the generosity of people in the Diocese of Orlando.
The Mission Office Annual Collection will take place the weekend of September 19 and 20 and is an opportunity for the people of Central Florida to support the good work being done in our Sister Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana through education efforts, pastoral services, construction projects, and medical assistance. This year they have set a goal of raising $500,000, the largest amount yet.
“The biggest project right now is the high school residency program because we’ve gone from 28 students to 41 students and it takes a lot just to feed and clothe them and find the people to supervise them,” explained Ursuline Sister Bernadette Mackay. “We hope this year to be able to start a vocational program for them to provide them with classes in electricity, mechanics, home economics, computer science and economics.”
Sister Bernadette explained that while all the students graduate with the academic ability to attend university, not all of them can afford the housing costs. Even for those who can, there is often a 6 month to 1 year waiting period before they can begin. The vocational program would help fill that gap and offer career options. But the expense of starting and maintaining the vocational program is high, and the residency program itself is already outgrowing the number of students who want to attend. They hope to be able to build more dormitories to eventually house up to 70 students.
“The generosity of the people in the diocese over the past years has created a hopeful vision of a new tomorrow. Their continued generosity will help advance meaningful developments in our Sister Diocese,” said Sister Bernadette.
“The Gospel invites us to welcome the people on the furthest fringe to our banquet table. For me that is the challenge; to bring the fringe to the table where we can all share the same bread,” she added.
For more information on how to support the Mission Office with mission trips, donations, or volunteer work, visit https://www.orlandodiocese.org/ministries-offices/mission-office.