By Robyn Kurth
With three mission trips planned this summer to our sister diocese in the Dominican Republic, dozens of missioners will be renewed in their faith as they walk with the people of this impoverished mountain region and serve in various ways.
Missions Office volunteer Marianne Rhode is continually amazed by the depth of the faith of the people who live in the mountain villages that comprise much of the San Juan de la Maguana diocese.
“Even though they have so little they share everything they have,” said Rhode. “I have often wondered why the woman I stay with cooks so much, and it’s because she knows that if she cooks something, somebody is going to come by who is hungry.”
That spirit of selflessness was echoed by Father Fred Ruse, pastoral minister to the San Juan de la Maguana diocese, who discussed the mission earlier this year during one of two annual visits to his home base in the Diocese of Orlando.
“People who go on the missions are changed and they bring that change back to their schools, homes and churches so that our Diocese is changed,” said Father Ruse. “They receive a lot more than they give. They receive a new sense of living simply, a greater awareness of our limited natural resources and they receive a new sense of what is really important in life.”
Christie Pickeral’s first mission trip four years ago was a life changing experience. During that time she was studying for a Ph.D., but the experience changed the direction of her life. “Now I’m working on developing service learning at Valencia Community College to get more students involved with serving the community,” she said.
Pickeral teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) at Valencia Community College, This will be her fourth summer participating in a mission trip. She will spend June 18-July 2 with other teachers conducting an ESL summer camp. The week of July 2-9 will be spent conducting a Science summer camp.
“I stay in the mission home with the group and we have seven to eight people in a home that’s the size of a two-car garage—so we all get real close,” said Pickeral. “The water only comes once a day so when you hear the water pipes go on—you can hear it gurgling—you run and fill up the barrels.”
Valencia student Bridget Watson will be joining Pickeral at the science summer camp, her first mission trip. Watson is a business major at Valencia who also has a full time job as a Lead Business Analyst for Charles Schwab.
“I think every year I manage to move up in my career I should be able to give more back,” said Watson. “When it comes to volunteering, if you don’t make the dedication or goals up front you’re always going to find excuses not to do it.”
The Missions Office has also scheduled a pastoral mission July 9-16 that will be primarily comprised of parishioners from Our Saviour Parish in Cocoa.