Blessings for the New Year.
This has been a good year for us at the Mission Office. Once again we were able to achieve some exciting goals for the people we serve in the Dominican Republic. Let me just share with you a few of the highlights.
On December 12, we held a blessing ceremony for the opening of our new school in Los Fríos. Before the opening, classes were held in three extremely small dilapidated buildings that barely stood straight. Seven months ago the buildings were torn down and classes were moved into a single big room. As you can imagine the noise was incredible and learning was at an all time low. These difficulties are now history and our children have spacious rooms with lots of light and an attractive learning environment.
This December too, Father Fred and Father Hilario conducted a three day leadership training retreat for the leaders of our mountain villages. This was a first of its kind in the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana. It was a proud moment for Fred and Hilario when Bishop Jose made this announcement during the liturgy he celebrated with the leaders. It is not often that such formative events are offered first to the ‘little people’ on the fringe of society. It is truly a blessing to know that our pastoral outreach is in service to the poor.
Our education program continues to expand. This year ten of our graduating eighth graders passed the entrance exam to Loyola Poly-Technical High School in San Cristobal. This is a prestigious High School run by the Jesuits. It was an extremely proud moment to see our mountain children standing in line competing with some 1,000 city children for a place in this prestigious learning institute. From that moment on they would no longer be a forgotten people, condemned to be considered as ‘ignorant’ because of where they lived. Today they attend this school and ‘stand tall’ among their peers, excited to have the opportunity to learn and compete as equals.
In these past few months, Father Fred has worked diligently, to educate our more remote villages on the importance of clean potable drinking water. Following these sessions each family accepted the challenge to be owners of a water filter for their homes. They can now all look forward to living more healthily. With water filters in place we will work on dental hygiene and better nutrition for the children.
Our small Catholic School of 354 students dispersed over five villages has continued to offer high quality education to our mountain children. Our teachers–in-training continue to work at improving their educational qualifications while at the same time teaching for long hours. For many of them it is a long hour and half walk to and from school each day up and down the steep mountain slopes. But with love and a joyful song in their heart they arrive daily to school.
This November a surgical team of thirty two volunteers worked diligently in the Hospital of San Juan de La Maguana. The Mission happened at the same time as hurricane Tomas. With no transport available because of the storm, one mother, who lives in the mountain area that we serve, walked the 15 miles down the muddy slopes carrying her five year old daughter. Her dream that her daughter would walk if she could reach the surgeons guided her every step. The story of this woman’s love and faith and the 8 hour surgery the child endured was the highlight of the mission experience. The mother arrived at the hospital exhausted and with tears in her eyes; a week later she left again carrying her daughter with tears of great joy streaming down her face. Her dream that her daughter would walk was now closer to reality. Faith and love radiated from her eyes and challenged us all to live from the depth of our being and to believe that our God will not fail us.
It is your love and faith, my dear friends that enables us to be able to achieve all these wonderful moments. Without your continuous and generous prayerful, energetic, financial support we would not be able to enjoy such remarkable achievements. You are the song of the angels to the shepherds, energizing us to step out in faith to discover the Christ in the poor knowing that we are not alone and that at home in Orlando there are faithful prayerful, energetic, financial supporters providing the walking staffs that we need for the journey.
Thank you for faithfulness to your angelic mission. Thank you for providing the staffs that we need. Thank you for your song of encouragement that gives life and meaning to what we do.
Sister Bernie – Director of the Mission Office