Posts Tagged With: cathedral

Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 39

Day 39 – Thursday – 11/1/12

Check out the date! 11 + 1 = 12! I love when that happens! 🙂 Anyhoo, I felt the need to slow down my journalling a bit. The past couple of days I’ve been typing up my entries instead of writing them down first. I didn’t really have any time to journal this morning because I was getting ready to come to Saltillo. After morning prayer and a cup of coffee, checking email and throwing a few things in my backpack, I hopped on the 9 o’clock bus (La Naranja) to Saltillo.

Got down at my usual spot in front of the Panteon Santiago. It was an absolute madhouse in that area because today is All Saints Day & tomorrow is All Souls Day. Or as it’s known here in Mexico, Dia De Los Muertos. Headed down Victoria Guadalupe street to the post office to mail something to the states. I can’t tell you what I mailed off, I can’t even tell you how big or small it is, because I’m almost positive that the person who it’s for is gonna read this entry and I don’t wanna spoil the surprise. You know how girls are. If you let them know they’re getting something then the gears in their brain get goin’. And if you give them even the slightest clue as to what it is, then their brain goes into overdrive and they will use persistence and charm to try and get more clues out of you. 🙂 (I kinda had to let her know something was coming, cuz I had to ask for her mailing address.)

Now I’m sitting outside of the Miracle Chapel that’s on the side of the Cathedral here in Saltillo. Gonna go to Noon Mass, since today’s a holy day of obligation. Well, it is in the states, not sure about here in Mexico. But whether it is or it isn’t, I have no excuse not to go, and I wanna go anyways. Besides, I’m definitely feeling the hunger pangs right now, so the first thing that will alleviate my physical hunger, as well as my spiritual hunger, is The Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus Christ in The Eucharist. Cool, huh? 🙂 After Mass, I’m gonna take a city bus to La Central de Autobuses and walk on over to Domino’s for lunch. I’m kinda pumped about it, can’t lie. Not only am I super hungry, but I’ve been in Mexico for five months now and haven’t had any American fast food or pizza this whole time. After some deelish pizza, I’m gonna head on over to HEB to buy a Dr. Pepper to bring back home and enjoy. Then I’m gonna take the bus back to General Cepeda. Probably gonna be a slow night. I might start cutting the new table covers from the rolls of material I bought from Senor Schlemann’s tienda. Maybe talk with some friends. Who knows…….

A few quick updates:
-Mass and The Eucharist were awesome.
-Got the “mystery thing” mailed off without a hitch 🙂
-Domino’s pizza was awesome!!!!!!! Flippin’ delicious. I probably could have eaten the whole thing, but I was gettin’ pretty full so I saved two pieces for part of my lunch tomorrow.
-Got my Dr. Pepper, ready to crack that baby open tomorrow. Word.
-Played volleyball again tonight. I didn’t realize how much exercise it could be, and consequently how much it could hurt! It’s not too bad though. And it gives me more to offer up. Again tonight I was comic relief, definitely was the cause of some smiles and laughing. 🙂 Slowly but surely though I am getting better.

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 38

Day 38 – Wednesday – 10/31/12

I’d like to start my entry today with a quote from a song that someone passed along to me. “Happiness don’t drag its feet. And time moves faster than you think.” I like this quote. Scratch that. I REALLY like this quote. At first I wondered “do I like it so much because of the person that sent the song to me?”. Yes, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a reason I like the quote and the song. But, as I thought about it, I realized I like the song and especially this quote, because it very accurately reflects what I think and feel. Happiness indeed, don’t drag its feet. Why? Because it’s a good thing and it’s meant to be. Why should it be put off? Now don’t go gettin’ all nit-picky on me. Just take what I’m sayin at face value, for what it means, and you’ll see what I’m talkin’ about. And if there’s one thing I’ve discovered in life, time definitely moves faster than you think. So, what I take it to mean (at least to me) is that if happiness don’t drag its feet and time ain’t slowin down, I gotta go for this blessing. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So, you remember that nap I told you about yesterday? You know, that REALLY good nap where I was dead to the world? I’ve re-discovered what happens when you take a nap like that too late in the day. You end up restless at 4am, walkin’ around bundled up in the freezing cold and prayin’ a rosary! 🙂 That’s what happened to me this morning. Well, the nap was the main culprit. But also, I had an earlier bedtime than I normally have. I think too that because of our daily schedule here, even when the day is really full, it’s never one that is physically demanding or exhausting. So that trifecta came together in the perfect mixture I guess. It’s kinda good though. Early in the  morning when the air is cold like this, it’s really crisp and refreshing. The prayer intentions that I offered up during my rosary made my early morning sleeplessness worth it. The other night I was telling someone that my style of relationship with God is to step out in faith and have the Lord guide me as I go. However there is nothing that can replace the security and assurance that comes with prayer. I know that the best thing I could do for the people that I love and are on my heart and the things that are on my heart, and the best way to be as close to them as possible (short of being physically present) is to lift them up in prayer.

Today should be a good day, even if just for the fact that Albert is back. Adds some extra energy to our daily life at the house. We have our last two home visits that we’re gonna do for the week. I’ll probably try and do some more preparations around the house. I can’t really do much cleaning yet, because I don’t want to sweep and tidy up the areas now, only to have them get dirty again before the group arrives on Tuesday. Gonna wait as late as possible to do that. Man, what I really need to do is consolidate my personal stuff in my room. It’s very spread out, which is I guess what tends to happen when you have a room all to yourself. But with 25 people coming next week, and 35 more coming the week of Thanksgiving, I know that I’m either going to be sharing a full room, in which case I’ll have to make my stuff very compact and also share shelf and closet space. Or, I might even have to move to another room. We’ll see. All I know is that I gotta do something with all that stuff. 6pm Mass is in the plans too. There’s no good reason not to go. Besides, how can I resist getting to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in The Eucharist? 🙂

And I hope they have volleyball again tonight, cuz I’m really starting to enjoy it. I played again last night and had alot of fun. Got to see a few people I know, play some volleyball, and  just get out of the house. It’s nice to get away from the house and refresh yourself sometimes. Something as simple as the cool outside air and a game of volleyball can do that. I also have to get something ready for an errand I’m running in Saltillo tomorrow. Among other things, I plan on going to the Cathedral for All Saints Day Mass, and for my one daily meal I think I’m gonna pay a little visit to Domino’s. 🙂 I’ve been craving it ever since my last visit to Saltillo to pick up Albert. Thursday is also the last chance that I’ll get to go to Saltillo on my own before the group gets here. Friday is All Souls Day (Dia De Los Muertos) and I wanna be here in town for the Mass in the local cemetery, and to be able to experience whatever other types of festivities that go on during that time. I’ve also gotta be focused on all the things I need to help out with to prepare for the group (put new coverings on table, clean, organize, etc….) Also, once they arrive, and even when we go to Saltillo as a group, there’s not as much freedom or flexibility to wander around Saltillo on your own. Gotta orient yourself toward the group, know what I mean?

As far as my fast goes, I’m pretty excited about that too. After today I’ve only got two days left. And while in some ways I’m ready for it to end, it’ll also be bittersweet. Not that I like the feeling of hunger, but it’s something you grow accustomed to. It gives you something to offer up and helps you to sharpen your spiritual focus. It also gave me the chance to look alot more carefully at what exactly I eat and how much I eat. But like I said, I’m ready for it to end. Ready to get back to a normal schedule and way of life. I’m ready to be able to step back from the experience, recover, get a “bigger picture” perspective as I do some retrospection, and move on from there.

p.s.- I don’t understand how, but for some reason I felt really good when I got up at my normal time this morning. Decided I wasn’t gonna let myself sleep late just because of last night. I knew that getting up early as normal might mean I’d be a little tired, which I definitely was right when I woke up. But after getting out of bed and going on my morning walk I felt great! 🙂

p.s.s.- Another thing that’s really great about early morning walks in cold weather is the nice hot cup of coffee that was waiting for me afterwards. Truly a piece of heaven in a cup.

p.s.s.s.- Random fun fact: As I was doin’ some more laundry, sippin’ on my mornin’ coffee, jammin’ to my favorite country singer Josh Turner, I did me a little country hoe-down jig. Only cuz I knew no one was watchin’. It’d take a mighty special person to get me relaxed enough to do that in front of them! 😀

p.s.s.s.s.- Another random fun fact: Misunderstood some of Josh Turner’s lyrics as sayin’ “pickle mess” instead of “big ole mess”. Though, I suppose that “pickle-mess” sounds like somethin’ that charming country folk would say, like maybe when Mawmaw Billy-Jo accidentally uses baking soda instead of sugar to make her apple pie and when she tastes it says “aw shucks! them thar neighbors is comin over fer dinner tonight and i’m in a pickle-mess cuz i ain’t got no apple pie I can serve ’em!”. Hyphenated names is just somethin’ that country folk do, and if yer a girl named “Jo”, you gotta spell it without the “e” cuz only boys named “Joe” spell it with the “e”.

p.s.s.s.s.s. – Last random fact, I promise: Today, I literally stopped and smelt the roses. We’ve got a yellow rose bush growin’ in the back yard garden of our mission house.

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My 40-day fast – Day 2

Sid’s 40 Day Fast

Day 2 – Tuesday, 9/25/12

Felt a little bit of the hunger pangs this morning, in spite of how much I ate last night. Kinda glad, because like I said yesterday I don’t want this to be easy. I wanna be challenged. During my morning walk it also occurred to me that yes, I can always pray. But during a fast, the hunger encountered is an extra gift or offering to God that goes along with your prayer. It ties into the whole idea of redemptive suffering, which was perfectly demonstrated by Jesus. This fast and the hunger I will experience will be a way for me to be like Jesus, by offering up my suffering through The Cross for others.

As I sat at Mass waiting for the Eucharist, I felt another hunger pang. It’s happened before and it’s one of my favorite things about fasting. Because even when you fast for an hour before receiving, you’re still full and you don’t feel hungry. But to feel actual hunger as you are receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in The Eucharist is amazing. It brings the experience of The Eucharist to a whole new level.

Forgot to mention that I went to Mass @ The Cathedral in Saltillo. Had to come to Saltillo to meet Albert at the bus station. After his bus arrives at 7:30pm we’re gonna head back to the Casa De Misiones to begin our month and a half journey as a team of three. This team of three is living proof of God answering prayers (me and Luis had been praying for another mission partner). It’s also proof of God’s proclivity for making life VERY interesting. How so? Well, you’ve got Luis, a Venezuelan, whose first language is spanish. Then you’ve got me, a Cajun, whose first language is english. Then to complete the trifecta you’ve got Albert, a Polish guy, whose first language is polish. Luis’ 2nd language is my first. My 3rd language is Luis’ 1st and Albert’s 4th. And neither me nor Luis speaks Polish, Albert’s 1st language. AND the three of us from three different countries are living together as missionaries in a fourth country. Anyhoo, at the end of our month and a half together Intake 2012 will come down and join us. Then for the last week of November we’ll have a group of families and other short-term missionaries who will join us for the annual Thanksgiving mission trip.

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Mother Mary and The Pyramids

Sunday – July 8, 2012 – 10:24pm – Casa de Misiones – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Well, it’s “only” been three weeks since my last journal, so I guess I’m gettin’ a little better with being more frequent. 🙂 As you can see from my trademark time/date/place stamp, I’m back at the mission house. And boy did my time in language school go by fast. There are way too many small things that happened and that were good, and I can’t get to all of them. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed language school. Enduring the difficulty of being in a place where almost nobody speaks your language, and having to learn a new one is not easy. There were times during language school when I was humbled by how much I was struggling, in spite of being self-proclaimed “good at languages”. But on my journey home from language school and here at the mission house I’m already starting to notice the difference. I’ve still got alot practicing to do, but at least now I’m somewhat functional in the language.

Even more than the places I saw and things I did, it was the people I met during my time in language school that really made the experience as wonderful as it was. Jeannie, the founder/director of ENCUENTROS language school, was the main reason I think I decided on that school. As an American ex-pat she was very easy to communicate with, prompt in her responses, and easy to work with too. All of my teachers/guides were super nice and helpful, and made learning a new language a pleasant experience. My host family, Mario and Marusa, displayed amazing amount of hospitality and patience. So many other friends that I made during my time there, especially my fellow students, made it something I’ll never forget.

Mike, Me, & his wife Ashley

Me and some of the students and maestras

The second most memorable event of the past three weeks was my visit to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. I tried to go visit them this past Wednesday, but ended up losing my wallet and didn’t have enough money to get in. I was sad not only for losing my wallet, but also because I had some so close yet so far. I could see the pyramid, I just wasn’t able to climb it. Only had enough money to get back home, and so I left with a sad, dejected feeling and thinking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had just passed me by. Well, once I got back home and got all my cards blocked and got some money wired to me, I started scheming. I told myself that Saturday on my way back, I was going to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Cathedral downtown. But then I got word from another student that Saturday there was gonna be a big protest of the results from the presidential elections from the previous week. Where? At the Zocalo (plaza) in downtown Mexico City right next to where the Cathedral is. Even if it was a peaceful protest, I didn’t wanna get anywhere NEAR that place. Then the next thought that came to my mind was “I’m not gonna let a lost wallet and failed attempt be the end of the story. I’m gonna go see those pyramids!

After I had calculated that I’d have enough time to do that and still be able to visit the Basilica before my bus left on Saturday night, it was settled. Just the sheer satisfaction of arriving at Teotihuacan Saturday morning, knowing that I had enough money to get in and see the pyramids was worth it. I really felt like I had conquered a setback and not let it get the best of me. And lemme tell you, my satisfaction and enjoyment level was much higher than it would have been on Wednesday. Another blessing of seeing the pyramids Saturday was that I made what Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club would call a “single-serving friend”. You know, those really interesting people you meet on a flight or a bus ride. Have a great conversation and then you never see them again. This particular single-serving friend was Adam. Slightly taller, and lanky like me. Long hair and scruffy beard. That alone gave away his identity as a gringo, But as soon as I saw him reading a guidebook in English, I zeroed in. I needed to speak some English so I could unwind a little. Enjoyed our conversation and ended up hangin out and exploring the pyramids and the ruins together. Came quite in handy too when needing to take pics.

Just taking in the beauty of the place was amazing. Seeing those two massive pyramids. Exploring the many other ruins surrounding them. The beautiful weather. Loads of people. Dirt cheap and really cools souvenirs (en Espanol, “recuerdos”). It was good stuff. I count myself as truly blessed for having experienced it. Here’s a few pics for ya.

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La Piramide del Sol (The Pyramid of the Sun). It’s the 2nd largest pyramid in the world, only the pyramids in Egypt are bigger.

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La Piramide de la Luna (The Pyramid of the Moon)

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me and Adam, standing on the Piramide de la Luna, with Piramide del Sol in the background

The other amazing part of my day was spent at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. To me, this was equally if not more important than the pyramids. I’ve two amazing experiences at Lourdes and so I knew this was kinda like the Mexican version. The complex on which the basilica is situated is not quite as big as the overall size of the complex at Lourdes. It’s much more compact, considering that it sits in the middle of a city of 20 million people instead of in the quaint french countryside. It seemed like there were less vendors there than at Lourdes, but for some reason there was more noise, action, tourists, and just hustle & bustle generally speaking. Didn’t have quite the same feel as Lourdes. And maybe it’s not supposed to. It’s its own different place. Nevertheless, I still felt quite blessed to be there and knew it was a unique opportunity. Walked around the complex scoping things out. Saw the inside of the old Basilica and it was gorgeous. Typical old-school classic church design.The only problem is that because Mexico City was built on a lake, old buildings such as the original Basilica are in danger of sinking. In this pic it’s quite pronounced, as you can see, on the front left side.

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The new basilica is amazing too. It’s GINORMOUS! I think the seating capacity is in the tens of thousands. And even though it’s done in what I call the “post Vatican II” style of architecture, I still really like it. (usually tend to favor the more traditional old-school style churches). Flags of many different countries are hanging from flagpoles to the left of the altar. Massive organ to the right side of the altar. San Juan Diego’s cloak is smack dab in the middle, right behind the altar. It’s framed in a beautiful gold setting and is purty big. The story is that when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, her image was emblazoned onto his cloak as you see it today in the Basilica. Purty cool, huh? Got to go to Mass too, and it just so happened that it was a wedding Mass. Seems like weddings are pretty popular there. Got to see Juan Diego’s tilma up close from an observation below/behind the main altar. At the end of Mass I had some articles blessed for family members that I’m gonna give them to. Got to spend some time praying a rosary in the adoration chapel. All in all, it was a super blessed mini-pilgrimage and a great way to wind down my time at language school and a great way to pump me up for going back to the mission house. Here’s a few more pics for you to enjoy. Have a blessed and wonderful week! God Bless!

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I’m back, and then I’m gone again

Saturday – June 16, 2012 – 6:37pm – Cafe Calibri on Rufino Tamayo St. – Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico

How the heck do I manage to go a whole month without journaling? I always lament that fact each time I journal and silently promise myself that I’ll do it more often. But do I? Well, lemme put it this way. If journaling equaled oxygen I’d be gasping for air. Anyhoo……..

So I’m really diggin’ this little cafe. Reminds me alot of CC’s back home. And if you know me, you know that CC’s is my 2nd home. So I’m glad I discovered this little place. Good place to come and journal, read, or hang out. Maybe when some more students arrive next week we can come hang out here. The drink I ordered is kinda like a Mochasipi @ CC’s, except bigger, and it’s got a scoop of ice cream with sprinkles on top. AND, it’s only $34 pesos. Divide by 14 and that’s one really good coffee drink for really cheap. The best part is that it’s only a few blocks away from the house I’m staying at. But enough about my environs, let’s get to the really good stuff.

You know another thing I (to use Mrs. Genie’s phrase) “do not prefer” about infrequent journaling? It’s trying to figure out how to talk about all that’s happened since your last entry without writing 27,000 pages. Lots has happened since my last entry in Lafayette. For one thing I returned to Mexico. I had been away for almost 2 months. When I left, I had a girlfriend at the time and was convinced I wouldn’t return to Mexico. I’d even been away for so long that I was beginning to wonder if I even wanted to come back. Sure, I no longer had a girlfriend (we decided to go our separate ways), so that wasn’t a factor. But I just wasn’t “feeling” it. Didn’t see myself getting enough money to go to language school. So why would I want to come back to a place where I couldn’t communicate with the people I’m supposed to serve?

I was also able to think of at least 20 other mission posts I’d rather go to. But then something happened. First, some fellow missionaries that had surplus donations gave me money to attend language school. Then, I had a good talk with one of our other missionaries. He helped me to realize that in the long run, not going back to General Cepeda would not help me all that much. It actually would deprive me of the chance of practicing faithfulness to a commitment, which is something I knew I needed to work on. So even though I had my doubts, I decided to come back. I’m glad I did. It was a little weird at first being back. But there’s nothing like a group of 50 visiting short term missionaries to lift your spirits and help you get settled back into your home. 🙂 Having that group was amazing. All the happiness, energy, action, and liveliness was priceless. They were really good sports about everything and jumped head first into everything that we did. Being back also gave me the chance to reconnect with our Mexican missionaries and other friends in town. Surprisingly, for someone who didn’t want to come back, I was really glad to see them. The fact that I was happy to reconnect with them was yet another sign that I was in the right place.

A week after the group left, Odilio and Stacie and the kids prayed me off on my way here to language school. Took an overnight bus from Saltillo to Mexico City and then to Cuernavaca. Ended up arriving early in Mexico City which allowed me to get on a 7am bus instead of my originally scheduled noontime bus. My house parents, Mario and Marusa Quinones picked me up from the station and brought me to the house. Got settled in, took a shower and then we headed to 1pm Mass at San Miguel. It’s a small but beautiful church, with an active and tight-knit community. The priest, Fr. Alvaro, is a good dude. He’s young, and holy, and orthodox, yet friendly and approachable too. Good combo.

The week was a busy week. Besides getting oriented at ENCUENTROS, I had double the amount of classes than I normally would, as I was the only student this week. Jeannie, the director, figured that since I was slightly above the “beginner” level, and because I’d have plenty of time in the following month to do extra-curricular stuff, that I could forego some of the normal activities. Partially out of necessity, because it wouldn’t really work with just one student. That gave me the chance  to do 2 class periods each day, for a total of 4 hours of class. It was intense. Lots of info crammed into my head. A few times in class it was exhausting. But I learned alot. And it also advanced me enough that I’ll be able to have another student with me next week. (If no other student is at your level, they give you your own teacher. Good for your learning. Bad for your sanity. 🙂 ) Some of the highlights at school this week included playing with Max the Rottweiler (house pet), movie night, and getting to tour the Cathedral and downtown area.

God has also given me a few ministry type of opportunities. Those have been a huge blessing. It’s hard in a city this big (900,000) to feel the same missionary “atmosphere”. Sure, people who aren’t poor need Jesus too. But General Cepeda and our Casa de Misiones are so special that it’s hard to readjust. As I said though, God has provided. A couple of street ministry opportunities with the homeless. Conversations with some of Mario and Marusa’s house guests. Speaking briefly in front of the congregation at San Miguel’s at the end of a weekday Mass. Assisting Fr. Alvaro at a funeral Mass. Next week I’ll have the opportunity to speak at a prayer meeting at San Miguel. Please pray for that. For the people to  be able to understand my simple Spanish and for them to be blessed by whatever the Lord says through me. In the few conversations I’ve had with Father Alvaro, it also sounds like he wants to make use of me while I’m here. Please pray for that to be fruitful as well.

On a random sidenote, the barista that took my order and brought me my drink is gorgeous. Not an unapproachable type of gorgeous, but more of a cute type of gorgeous. She actually looks like the actress Eva Mendez, which is a GOOD thing. 🙂 I won’t get my hopes up though. I can barely speak and understand enough to order a coffee drink. Don’t think my fluency is to the point where I can sweep her off her feet. So for now, it appears that there won’t be any little half-Mexican Sidneys in my future! Well, my butt hurts from sitting for so long, and my drink is melted, so I better go. Until next time…………

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my classroom at language school

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Max

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da Cathedral

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Cold Day in the Desert

Friday – 3/9/12 – 2:02pm – On a mountaintop in General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

The moutain we’re on this week is the one right behind La Colonia, which is a neighborhood very close to our casa. In fact, this mountain is close enough that we can walk to it. It is the highest mountain in town, but don’t let that fool you. Climbing time to the top was 15 minutes max. Nonetheless, the view up here is gorgeous. From here we can even see the other mountaintop where we did a Desert Day during La Entrada (Intake) in February. It (the other mountain, not the one i’m on right now) is the mountain that’s right next to the farm that’s owned by the same lady who owns the Las Portales restaurant next to the church in town. Perfect spot to come and pray for Desert Day. Now that I think of it, this is my first “true” Desert Day for me and Luis since we arrived in Mexico over a month ago. It’s just the two of us today.

A few minutes ago as I was reading my Bible, I was at the beginning of the book of Judith. It starts off by saying how King Nebuchadnezzar wanted everyone in the land to basically say and act like “Hey dude, you’re the man and the best ever and so much so that we wanna pay you homage and worship you.” When they didn’t do that, he basically wiped out alot of them, and plundered and terrorized so as to strike fear in their hearts and force them to submit to him and worship him. And that story got me thinking about fear, both good and bad fear. King Nebuchadnezzar’s fear was the bad kind of fear. It’s the fear that makes you afraid, the fear that removes your free will, the fear that FORCES you to submit. Then I got to thinkin’ about the fear of God.

The fear of God, properly viewed, is a GOOD fear. The way I see it, it’s not a fear of death, revenge, or horrible suffering. It’s the fear of offending a love so great, that its’ a love completely unrivaled. THAT’S the kind of fear we should have towards God, and the fear that should be a guiding factor in our lives. It’s a fear that leads us to love, not despair.

We also had a great week this past week. Last Saturday for our free day, me and Luis decided to take a bus to and from Saltillo. We did it because A.) we wanted to learn how to get to and from Saltillo by bus, and B.) so we could walk around town a bit. Our handicapped friend Hugo whom we met in November 2009 on a short term mission trip, was not in his usual spot in front of the Cathedral and the Cathedral was closed. We checked out the market and the surrounding area for awhile before heading to the bus stop on the edge of town where we caught the bus back to General Cepeda. Don’t think we’ll be doing that every week though. Even taking the bus is an expense that really adds up. On Sunday we did morning Mass, and then went to La Puerta, our Sunday rancho visit. We’re gonna visit that rancho on the Sundays we don’t have communion services in other ranchos. The plan is that we’ll do some songs and prayer, lead a reflection on that Sunday’s reading, and close with some more prayer and song. We also continued to integrate more and more into our weekly schedule. We are now in full-swing with our door ministry, home visits, and rancho ministry. I think from here on out it’s just a matter of fine-tuning how we do things and figuring out the best way to minister to people. We’ve also been blessed to be able to go to Daily Mass during the week. This week we’ve also been participating in a series of talks given by the priest in preparation for a Lenten mission that we’ll be giving next week. All in all, we’re experiencing a good balance between busy-ness and rest, and I look forward to things getting better and better.

God Bless!

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June Missionary Newsletter

Easter is not just a day, it’s a way of life!

My Dearest Benefactors,

It brings me great joy to write you and let you know how the Lord has been moving in my life and in missions. The last time I wrote you, it was almost the end of Lent, which was a spiritually enriching experience for me. I hope it was for you too.

Holy Week and the Easter Triduum were a blessing as well. The opportunity to experience the life of the Church through another culture was a great blessing. I was chosen to be one of the 12 “Apostles” for the foot washing during Holy Thursday Mass & it was an experience I’ll never forget. I was also blessed by the St. Lucians’ celebration of Good Friday. The day began with Stations of the Cross at 4am with a group from our church parish. We prayed and had meditations for each station, then would sing and process down the street to our next station. At the halfway point, we joined up with another group from the Cathedral. After we joined this group and added to that all the other people who joined the procession, there were almost 2000 people! Later that morning I assisted with another Way of the Cross at a mission station on the mountain. We started at a parishioner’s house and had a 2-mile trek to the local school. As we were getting started, I saw that no one had yet volunteered to carry the wooden Cross, so I got to do that too!

As good as all these celebrations were, it was a real blessing to get back to “normal”. The difference now was getting to live out our missionary calling within the graces of the Easter season. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen Easter as not just a day or a ritual we go through. It’s a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and his power in our lives, and I’m thankful that the Church celebrates it for 50 days! We’ve resumed our various ministries: nursing homes, prayer ministry, parish office hours, feeding the poor, evangelization, and work projects. We’re also making plans to start some new ministries. For the past two weeks, however, there’s been a slight change of pace. A visiting missionary group from Nebraska came to St.Lucia and is staying at our house in Castries. During this time we’ve been staying at a Franciscan convent in the south of the
island, having a team retreat, some prayer time, and doing some work projects. We were able to do some roof repairs at a blind lady’s house. We were also able to get her house primed to be painted. At the house of a young man confined to a wheelchair, we built a mold and poured the concrete for a ramp from his front door to the street.

We’ll be heading back to Castries tomorrow and then things will REALLY get hoppin! We’re welcoming 4 of our missionaries and a priest who are coming down to assist in FMC’s first ever Summer School of Missionary Evangelism.
It’s a month-long program where participants study Church documents and Scripture & take classes on mission work. During the last week they’ll be focusing entirely on going out into the community and putting what they learned into practice. I’m excited to reconnect with my missionary brothers and sisters & the participants as well. I think the fellowship during this coming month will fan the flame of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I look forward to a renewal of my call as a missionary!

At the end of the summer school (1st week of July) I will be flying back to the States for 6 weeks for a FULL summer. In July I’ll be assisting at Faith Camp. The focus is on providing an amazing experience of faith and fellowship for middle school kids that will deepen their relationship with Christ. The week after, I’ll be an adult volunteer at another Christian
summer camp that I attended as a camper and later as a counselor. The next week and a half will be spent visiting family and friends, & going to appointments and running errands. Then on August 8th I fly out to Europe for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid! It’s an amazing event where millions of youth and young adults gather to celebrate Jesus and meet the Pope. We’ll be seeing various pilgrimage sites in Spain, France, and Italy before we go to Madrid to celebrate the overnight vigil and closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. My favorite part of the trip will be visiting The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica! It’s the center of the Church and has been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to go there. A few months ago I
didn’t even know if I’d have the money to go, and then I got the message that an anonymous benefactor had donated the entire cost of my trip! Praise the Lord! Yet another humbling experience of God knowing my heart’s desires and providing for me in a way I never thought possible. God is good!

I would like to end my newsletter by thanking you for your constant support. Without your prayers my work would not be as fruitful as it has been. I also thank you for your financial support. It’s vital to my mission and I thank God in prayer that you have been providing for me so generously. Please continue to support me through your prayers and financial contributions. I’m still in need of a plane ticket back home to Louisiana for my summer visit and a round trip ticket from Louisiana to St. Lucia and back. I also need benefactors to continue to support me so that I can pay for my monthly expenses.

I encourage you to read my online blog, https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com. Please feel free to email me (sidsavoie@catholic.org) or look me up on facebook. I love to share my experiences and pray for my benefactors. And for anyone who wishes, I also like to write talks, reflections, articles for bulletins & diocesan newspapers, etc….

May God Be With You!
Sid Savoie

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”
–Job 4:6–

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First Overseas Lent/Easter

(warning: LONG entry. But, it all ties together and I didn’t wanna break it into multiple sections)

Monday, April 25, 2011 – 11:18am – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

For the first time in my life, I spent Easter away from family. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never spent it overseas or away from family. There’s a first time for everything, right? I think a good recap of Holy Week and the week before is in order. (sidenote: I just realized it’s been over a month since I’ve had a regular journal entry. that’s flippin’ crazy. Usually i do it at least once a month. But that illustrates a point that I’m learning quite well: once you get into the mission field and get settled in, time begins to pass by quickly.)

The week before Holy Week was a really good week. We had our parish Lenten retreat. It was led by Brother Jeffers Paul, a layman from Dominica who works for his home diocese. I don’t really remember the theme of the retreat. As is usual with anytime i’m in church, I daydream even when I try not to, and have a hard time paying attention. But what I do remember is that he was a very passionate preacher. Not that passion and performance is everything, but being able to get excited about something you’ve devoted your life’s work to, says alot in my book. I could also tell that his life reflected what he preaches, which is what I think drew so many people to the retreat. It was the perfect blend of charism and orthodoxy. Besides the actual talks, which helped me to grow in my journey with Jesus, the sacrifice of my own will and plans to go to the talks and the closing Mass at the end of the retreat were also good for me. This is how the week basically went: Sid realized he’d have to get out of his comfort zone, sacrifice his own desires and plans, and not be able to sit at home to relax and veg out. Sid got mad. Sid went to the retreat anyways. Sid’s eyes were opened and he was blessed. Sid was then glad that he went and participated.

Me and Brother Jeffers Paul, the speaker for our Lenten retreat

Palm Sunday was not much different from the 29 previous Palm Sundays I’ve experienced. What I did notice however was the lively faith of the parishioners at our church. Well, I’ve noticed it in bits and pieces before, in fleeting moments. But there was something about Palm Sunday where I really noticed it. The best way to sum it up is that for the recessional hymn, I was waving my palm around like there was no tomorrow, dancing to the music and being joyful in the Lord. Genuinely joyful in the Lord. Not just faking it. Playing around with the kids as we started to walk out of church.

Palm Sunday Procession

The next three days were fairly non-descript. We had our normal daily routine of prayer, Mass, meals, ministry, fellowship, etc……. The routine took a backseat once Wednesday evening rolled around and we attended the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. For those unfamiliar with it, the primary things occurring at that Mass, besides the miracle of the Eucharist are 1.)Priests renewing their vows, and 2.) Bishop consecrating the holy oils to be used by the priests for the year. It was my first Chrism Mass ever. Even in the age of priest shortages, it was truly amazing to see all the priests from the whole diocese together on the same altar. Makes the priest shortage not seem as bad. I was also really blessed by the loving words spoken by the archbishop. The other thing I remember most about this Mass was the blessing of the oils. Part of this blessing involves the bishop breathing on the oils, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is also a reflection of Scripture, where the Spirit hovered over the waters during Creation, and when God breathed into Adam to give him life.

Opening Procession of Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Castries

Thursday night was the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It’s when we focus on The Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. For this Mass, me and Mark, my mission partner, were chosen as two of the twelve men selected to represent the apostles for the foot washing ceremony during the Mass. Again, the Scriptural symbolism of this is a real and powerful way of internalizing the virtue of humility. It was humbling for me to have my feet washed, cuz i’m definitely not worthy. And it was also humbling for me to have to lower myself to the seemingly mundane task of washing someone else’s feet. It was the first time in my life I have experienced being part of the foot washing ceremony.

Foot washing at Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper

Good Friday had a very sacrificial feel to it, as it should. Our church parish has the tradition of doing the Way of the Cross starting at 4am. If you thought you knew early and tired, you don’t know early and tired until you’ve done Way of the Cross at 4am! 🙂 It was a beautiful thing though. We started at the doorstep of our church with the first station, did the meditation, and then following the person who was carrying a wooden cross, walked through the streets stopping along the way to do each of the stations. We had a truck with a loud speaker on top so that everyone could hear the choir leader singing the hymns and the people leading the prayers. About halfway through the stations, we paused on the road we were on and prayed a chaplet while we waited for the other church parishes to meet up with us. By the time the other group met up with us, we were 4 church parishes total. And, I kid you not, by the time we reached the end of the Way of the Cross, the crowd was easily 2000 people. It was quite a sight to see, this massive crowd of people walking through town, praying and meditating on Jesus’ own Good Friday journey. We too had people along the way that were, as I shall attempt to diplomatically put it, not reverent towards what we were doing. We also experienced a little bit of physical discomfort. That’s what I love so much about the Catholic faith, it makes the experience of God real in a very physical and present way.

Way of the Cross winding through the city streets

After we were done with that Way of the Cross, we headed back to the mission house to have a cup of coffee, and try to regain a little bit of strength. Then, me and Mark went with our pastor and his driver to a little mountainside community that is within the boundaries of our parish, and did another Way of the Cross. Although it was not as long, it was also a walking Way of the Cross. We started at a parishioner’s house about a mile or two down the road from the chapel. As we got ready to do the Way of the Cross, and everyone else assumed their duties, no one had take up the cross yet (literally). So by chance, but perhaps by Divine Providence, I became bearer of the Cross. I had not set out to assist at this Way of the Cross with that intention, but I was happy to be able to do so. In the same way as the first Way of the Cross earlier that morning, it had some lifelike similarities and characteristics to Jesus’ Way of the Cross. We had those who were less than thrilled with what we were doing, though thankfully not many. At one point during the walk, the car with the loudspeaker we were using was parked on the side of another car that was on the side of the road, while we stopped to do one of the stations outside the house of a blind lady who was a parishioner. As we were about halfway through the station, a bus was coming up the road in the opposite direction. Seemingly unable to wait three or four more minutes, a man got off the bus and complained and said we needed to get out of the way. That in itself, while it may have manifested some impatience was not really out of place or unjustified. It was when the guy, maybe after seeing the wooden cross we were carrying, or seeing the plaster relief of the Station we were meditating on that was being held by Mark, made a comment in frustration about “Catholics worshipping statues”. Like I said, small thing overall, but it was a small “persecution” of sorts, that made the Way of the Cross seem that much more authentic and real. There was also the physical discomfort associated with such a journey. In St. Lucia, the weather is summer year round, literally. Lows are never below the 70’s with daily highs in the mid to upper 80’s. Even earlier in the morning, it still gets hot and sweaty. Add to that the exhaustion and tiredness I was already feeling, plus the headache and neckache, and it made for a very poignant and real experience. In the end, I was thankful for such an experience, and that God revealed to me things that I could improve upon.

Carryin' the Cross

After a break for a few hours, we headed back to our church parish at 2 for a meditation on the seven last words (phrases/utterances) of Jesus. Again, I had a hard time focusing, and didn’t remember much of what was said. But what I do remember was good stuff, and the opportunity to further try and sacrifice myself to be more available to God was good for me to experience. Then at 3 we had the Veneration of the Cross. It’s basically a liturgy, but it’s not a Mass, because there’s no liturgy of the Eucharist. The liturgy of the Eucharist is left out on Good Friday, because that’s something that first occurred on the first Holy Thursday at the first ever Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death and that he’s in the tomb, and one of the ways we do that is by not celebrating the liturgy of the Eucharist and the consecration of the bread and wine into Jesus’ actual body and blood. The precious body and blood of Jesus that is consumed on Good Friday was already consecrated the day before and held in the tabernacle. We were told on Good Thursday that the “apostles” who did the foot washing ceremony would have to bring their robes on Friday because we might be asked to represent them again. Because of this, I wore a small white t-shirt and a pair of shorts to church so that I would not be too hot underneath my robe. Normally I don’t wear this kind of wardrobe to church. But when we got there, we found out that we wouldn’t have to wear the robes. Not thinking far enough in my preparations, I had failed to bring a pair of pants that I could slip on so as to be more presentable in my dress at the service. So, as to not be too much of a distraction, I sat almost all the way in the back. For the part of the service where everyone walks up to kiss the Cross, I stayed in my pew. There was only one line, and the Cross was all the way in the front. I know Jesus loves me anyways, but i did not want to distract or cause scandal by my casual dress. However, I was blessed to still be able to receive Jesus precious body and blood. When it came time for that, the area I was sitting had a Eucharistic minister at the halfway point of the pews, instead of all the way up in front. Plus, it was a side aisle. So, I felt like the combination of not having to walk past many people (and thus not being a distraction), plus feeling called by Jesus to receive his precious body and blood, justified my decision. After the Veneration of the Cross, we were quite happy to return home. We had been so busy the previous 2 days that it was nice not having anything scheduled.

Saturday morning was a normal workday. Shoveled some compost that quite literally smelled like crap. Smell didn’t leave my hands for a full day, no matter how many times I washed  them, or how many times i used hand sanitizer or poured rubbing alcohol on them. It still hasn’t completely left my workboots and work gloves. Finished off the workday by cleaning my room, doing laundry, eating lunch, and taking a nap. Woke up, played games with the kids and hung out, and then had supper. After supper, had some more downtime and then I showered, dressed, and got ready for the vigil, which was to start at 10pm. Right before we left, I downed a cup of coffee, which coupled with my later than usual in the afternoon nap, proved to aid me in staying awake at the Easter Vigil Mass. Atypical of St. Lucia/the Carribean, the Mass was really close to starting on time (things here are rarely on time). Only about ten minutes late. Had the lighting and blessing of the fire outside, we all lit our candles, and processed inside. Had the Liturgy of the Word, complete with it’s 9 scripture readings, the Homily, the baptisms and confirmations, and of course, the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we got to receive the precious body and blood of Jesus. The thing that I was expecting but was not prepared for, was the length of the Vigil Mass. Over here, a normal weekday Mass is 30-45 minutes, and a Sunday Mass is about 2 hours. All in all, Mass here, in whatever form or time of year, is twice the length of what it is in the States. So, I knew that the Vigil Mass was going to be long. Monsignor told us that it was going to end at 3. However, it “only” lasted until about 2:30. But, it wasn’t hard like I thought it would be. The reason the Masses here last so long is that there’s ALOT of singing. So while it makes Mass longer, it also helps things to pass by quickly. After we left church, we arrived home and happily acquainted ourselves with our beds. 🙂 Easter Sunday (yesterday) was a good day. Had a lazy and relaxed morning, ate Easter candy and chocolate, played games, and got to talk to my family on the phone. It really was a blessing to be able to talk to my nieces and parents. Then yesterday evening, we went to the Chancery to participate in the Knights of Columbus Easter Family Gathering. Several of the Knights and their family members (including the Eckstines) did various musical performances and then we enjoyed fellowship and dinner together. Among the various people I got ot visit with, I met a young woman from Canada, who is in St. Lucia for 3 months, living at the orphanage run by some Dominican sisters. It’s part of her Master’s degree program, and she’s helping to come up with a strategic plan for the future of the home. It was a blessing to meet at talk with her, because one of the things I lack here are people close to my age that I can visit and establish community with. The more fellowship and community we have, the more fulfilled we are, and the less likely we are to go looking for love in all the wrong places. What’s interesting is that she’s not Catholic. She’s Indian, though she talks and acts like a “normal/typical” Canadian or American because she’s lived in Canada her whole life. She didn’t say what religion she was either. I hope that I can receive some extra graces from God to represent my Catholic faith in a way that is loving and inspiring, and at the very least, does not turn her off to Christianity and Catholicism. And my real hope is that somehow I can plant a seed that leads her to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

pretty flower i stumbled upon during workday

our humble and beautifully decorated church during the Easter Vigil Mass

Christ our Light

Now I sit here, enjoying my day. It’s a national holiday today (Easter Monday), so we’ve been taking it easy. Did some reading and prayer earlier today. After I finish this entry, I’m going with the Eckstine to a local friend’s house to visit for a few hours. PTL for all of these blessings. Until next time, I leave you with a bible passage I stumbled upon recently……..

Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my glory.’ But I said, ‘My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing, to no purpose.’ Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God. And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him;-I shall be honoured in Yahweh’s eyes, and my God has been my strength. He said, ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth.’ ”  –Isaiah 49:1-6–

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The missionary life is not glamorous but it is glorious!

Here’s my latest newsletter. Should be in the mail by the beginning of next week. Should be stateside about 2 weeks after that.

 

God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel

Pope John Paul II in Mission of the Redeemer

 

Dearest Benefactors,

I’m sure some of you have noticed a slightly different format & layout to my newsletter, and there’s a good reason why. Me and one of my mission partners Mark did some research on how much it would cost for things like postage, envelopes, and paper. We figured out that it was just as cheap, if not cheaper, to send our letters from St. Lucia than to send them from the states. What a blessing! This gives us a chance to put our own sweat and labor into the printing and sending of our newsletters, and gives us a greater sense of ownership of our mission work. We also figured that benefactors would enjoy and be blessed by receiving mail directly from the mission field. Please remember though that payment for donations should still be remitted to FMC’s address in Louisiana, which is already printed on the return envelope included with this letter.

As mentioned in my last letter, our mission post is the country of St. Lucia. Me and my mission partners, The Eckstine Family, are in the capital city of Castries. The Corpus Christi Carmelites were gracious enough to let us inhabit the first floor of their convent which was already earmarked for missionaries and volunteers. We have plenty of space for all 13 of us, and I could not have imagined or asked for a better place to stay. Another blessing is that we pay no rent, and only pay our share of the utilities and pay for our own food as well. Included in our living quarters are a spacious kitchen, a washroom, dining room, living room, school room, and bathrooms in each individual room. Within the same compound, there’s a nursing home and a nursery school. They also have a chapel which affords us the TREMENDOUS blessing of daily access to Mass and The Holy Eucharist and Confession! Because we are within walking distance of the downtown area, anytime we need to make a trip to the city market, post office or some other destination, we have easy access. With the space and privacy that we have we’re also blessed to have a good daily rhythm and are able to accomplish all the things we need to do, including schoolwork, individual study time for the adults, and personal prayer time as well. Perhaps the best thing about our living quarters is that the compound is completely walled in and gated off, and is locked at night. As you can see we are very safe and secure & extremely blessed with what the Lord has provided for our living quarters.

The country of St. Lucia is quite an interesting place to live as well. The island itself is only 14 miles (east to west) by 27 miles (north to south). The population is approximately 170,000 which is less than the population of the Greater Lafayette area.  A country that is smaller than my hometown. What a culture shock! J The weather year-round ranges from 70 to 90 degrees with a rainy season in the latter part of the year. Weather is also moderated by breeze from the Atlantic Ocean and Carribean Sea. Location-wise, St. Lucia is south of Martinique, west of Barbados, and northeast of St. Vincent and The Grenadines. English is the official language, but most people here speak Creole and for many of them it is their first language. 70% of the population is Catholic and the rest are for the most part affiliated with other Christian denominations. So as you can see the field of harvest to which the Lord has sent us has some quite favorable conditions! However, not all is perfect in paradise. One of the primary challenges in St. Lucia is the deplorable condition of family life, a fact that is even acknowledged by the media and government. Some 70% of children are born out of wedlock or have divorced parents. There is also a large portion of the youth that seem to struggle with chastity and purity. Lack of direction and focus among the youth are quite a problem too. Gang violence and violence in general are also problems here. We are advised to not go out after dark, and if necessary, only if we have someone give us a ride. Due to the size and nature of the island, there is very little industry here besides tourism. Therefore unemployment is very high. Any native industries that do exist (such as banana production) are only seasonal work and are still suffering setbacks from Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. The cost of living is also very high. Even with an exchange rate of 2.7 Eastern Carribean Dollars per every 1 U.S. Dollar, most everyday items in the grocery store are double the normal cost since almost everything has to be imported. Combined with the lack of employment this makes poverty an enormous problem in St. Lucia. I could give y’all quite a sizeable list of the problems that face the people here, but I think you get the idea. To put it succinctly, there are many challenges here that make life difficult.

There are lots of ministry opportunities as well. As previously mentioned, there is a nursing home here on the compound where we minister daily. We visit with the residents and pray with them. The Eckstine children like to assist the teachers at the nursery school as well. Trips into town usually prove themselves to be fruitful opportunities for evangelism as well. Just about every time we go in town for something, we inevitably run into someone who needs help. Each time, we give them some food and water (in ready-made baggies which we bring with us) and we visit and pray with them. We’ve also been blessed to share meals and fellowship with some people from the neighborhood here at our mission house. The opportunity to witness to them with our missionary lives as well as sharing our food is a great blessing and brings us great joy. These things have proved so fruitful that friendships are beginning to form and hopefully hearts are being changed too. Twice a month on Sundays, I go down to the cruise ship terminals with a large sign that informs vacationers about Mass times at the Cathedral downtown. Fellowship with other missionaries has also been abundant. For the past few weeks, there have been rotating groups of short-term missionaries that are with The Good News Project, based out of Wisconsin. They were working with the elderly here at the nursing home as well as providing medical care. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet with some other lay missionaries from The Diocese of Venice, FL. They were in Castries doing some preliminary groundwork for a Christian-themed sports camp that will be held in August. It looks like we might even be able to assist them! In our first week here, we met with Archbishop Robert Rivas and he informed us of the other ministries we would be involved with. Mark and Lora Eckstine (the husband/wife combo of the missionary family I’m paired with) are serving in Family and Life ministry both at the diocesan level and at our new home church parish, Sacred Heart in the Marchand neighborhood. The bishop has asked me to work with both the Youth Ministry & Vocations offices at the Archdiocesan level, assisting with planning & execution of various events. Mark and I also appreciate the fact that we have manual labor that we can assist with on a weekly basis. So far we have been doing a lot of clean up here on the compound of trees and branches that were felled during Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. It is evident that there are many other “projects” and ministries we can assist with. We just have to wait for God to let these opportunities unfold on his timeframe, not ours!

With opportunity comes challenge. One of our biggest challenges is a lack of enthusiasm. People already working in ministry here are wearied by the challenging social conditions of the people they serve. In general, there is a laissez-faire attitude, a sort of subtle indifference by some laypeople and clergy to the problems facing the Church and society as well as what it will take to address these problems. When thinking about all the challenges, from poverty to violence to unemployment and many others, it is easy to see this mission as an uphill battle. As mentioned earlier living expenses are a challenge as well. St. Lucia is a third-world country with a first-world cost of living. Another significant challenge is the slow and sometimes laborious process of getting to know the people and forming relationships. This is crucial for forming a bond of trust with both those we minister to and those we minister with.

However, in spite of the challenges I am still very optimistic.  For as it says in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 5 verse 20, “….but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. That’s PROOF in Scripture that not all is lost, that there IS hope. I guarantee you that no matter how much hopelessness and indifference weigh down the lives of the people in St. Lucia, God’s grace can overcome it all. I’ve already begun to see people warm up to us and form relationships. I’ve seen the warm hospitality of the people here, which I believe is truly a gift from God. I’ve seen the Cathedral during a Thursday night praise and worship session, FULL of people praising the Lord and praying for conversions and miracles. Every smile we give is returned, every hello is echoed. Our co-workers in the vineyard here are also proof of God’s goodness. Their love and generosity has been a key ingredient to the success of our budding life of mission work here. Through benefactors both here and back home, God has provided for each and every one of our needs. We try our best to trust in God and have never been found wanting of the things that are necessary for our daily living. There is no hill that we cannot climb, no obstacle that cannot be overcome, and no soul that is outside of the reach of God’s graces. We are doing the Lord’s work, and “if God is for us then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I’d like to end by asking for your prayers and support. Without prayer, we cannot succeed as missionaries. Pray that we are faithful in prayer and that our ministries are fruitful. Please also let me know if you have any prayer intentions that you’d like me to add to my prayer list. And as always, please consider donating financially to my mission work. Your assistance here is also crucial to it’s success. As you can see, I have provided a “Specific Costs” box noting various expenses. Please prayerfully consider sponsoring one of them. Please also remember to email me if you need anything: sidsavoie@catholic.org. Another great way to keep up-to-date on the mission work here is by visiting my missionary blog: https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com. I can also write articles and talks that you can use in prayer groups, church parish bulletins, etc. Once again, thank you thank you THANK YOU for your generosity. Without you I would not be able to fulfill my call to the foreign missions.

In Christ’s Love,

Sid Savoie

SPECIFIC COSTS YOU CAN SPONSOR:

*Pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid – $2000

*My bi-monthly missionary newsletters – $100 per 100 sent

*Plane ticket home during summer to visit family – $500

*Monthly bills (food, water, electricity, propane, toiletries, personal items, etc….) – $350

*Contributions to FMC general fund for salaries, maintenance, retreat ministry, youth ministry, almsgiving, etc.

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Still feelin’ like a tourist, but this tropical paradise does have it’s quirks………..

To see pics, follow this link (you might have to copy and paste if clicking on it doesn’t work):

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011 – 5:20pm – In my room at the Corpus Christi Carmelite Convent in Castries, St. Lucia

Ok, I gotta say that I’m not one for alliteration, but check out my location. That’s a buncha C’s. Anyhoo, today was a great day. One of the things we were taught to do as a missionary is to get to know the culture, people, and places associated with your mission post. The idea is that you want to inculturate yourself so that you’re not a stranger and so you can work among the people. As part of that, we took a tour of the island today. One of Sister Annie’s volunteers (Tim) hooked us up with a friend of his that has a taxi/van that can be rented out for tours. When we first walked up to the van, I already thought “boy, this’ll be interesting fitting everybody in there” because it looks like the size of a sardine can. Then, when I saw that there were two additional women and a baby already in there (and the driver of course) I really did a double-take. It just didn’t seem like everybody was gonna fit. But, we ended up like a circus-act clown car, and everyone managed to get in. Not that we had a ton of extra space inside, but we were all reasonably comfortable. By my count, we ended up fitting 18 people into that van. Craziness, I know. This van was like most Catholic churches I’ve seen. They seem much bigger once you get on the inside. Maybe the Lord just shrinked our bodies or multiplied space. Je ne sais pas.

So, we basically headed south from Castries, stopping at various scenic viewpoints along the way. We stopped at the top of a hill in Castries that overlooks the bay where the cruise ships dock. We also stopped at Marigot Bay and a few other nice areas and got some really good photos. Even saw some cats at one of the places. 🙂 (Nerdy, I know. But i’m a cat lover). The thing was though, that we didn’t stop at half the places with nice views because there were so many of them. When we got to Vieux Fort (on the Atlantic side) we stopped and had lunch and played on the beach for awhile. At first it was rainy and cloudy but eventually cleared up and we really enjoyed it. Except for right on shore where the waves churn up some sand, the water was a gorgeous blue. Got to see the Maria Islands just off-shore too. As the kids were playin’ in the sand and water, I found what looked like some natural sponges that washed up from the sea. I found a few that were decent sized and soft and brought them back. One is serving as a pencil/pen holder in my closet, and another will be used as a loofah. Well, I’ll attempt to anyways. After the beach we made our way back north, passing through Dennery and a few other towns along the way. Once we got back, I was happy. Though taking the tour and inculturating ourselves was nice, it was good to get back home.

There’s lots of other little blessings too here in St. Lucia. For one thing, the temperature is between 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit and breezy…………………………YEAR ROUND! And it rains here almost everyday, never for more than a few minutes at most. Helps keep things at a nice moderate temperature. Also helps out when you wanna take a nap. 🙂 The view from my room is amazing. I see alot of the homes on the surrounding hillsides, and we’re a mile or two at most from the harbor where all the cruise ships dock. Within a 10-15 minute walk from our living quarters are the Cathedral, Walcott square, and a bazillion different little shops and restaurants. Tim was teaching me a few Creole phrases last night, and one of the local priests is supposed to be teaching us some Creole too. The other day when me, Mark, and Lora were grocery shopping, I got to talk to one of the locals in French. I could go on and on. But the flipside to all these little blessings is that it makes me feel like a tourist. I kinda feel guilty and a little uncomfy. After all, I came here to be a missionary, not a tourist. We’ve been here almost a week and have done a whole lot yet, as far as missionary activity is concerned.

However, Mr. Frank reminded me that when beginning a new mission post, patience is essential. Things don’t happen all at once. They take awhile to get up and running. Until then, he said we gotta take time to get settled in, acclimate to our surroundings, find out where everything is at. Eventually he says that things will get to a point where you’ll be so busy that you have to turn down some opportunities. I look forward to that day. But until, then I’ll be content with where God has me at. I think another lesson God is trying to teach me is that I need to let him bless me as much as he wants. If he didn’t want these blessings to happen, then he would have found a way for me not to be here. Also, he doesn’t bless me because i’ve earned it, he blesses me because he wants to and because he loves me. Help me Lord to simply accept your blessings.

Another facet of all this, is that before the obvious opportunities for missionary activity present themselves, we are trying as a mission team to be open to all the small opportunities to be Christ-like. One instance of this is when Lora & Mark & some of the kids have visited the nursing home next to the convent. The other day when grocery shopping, I had the opportunity to buy lunch for some guy that I met (the same guy I spoke french with). We’ve had several opportunities to pray with people.

Mortification, in many small ways, is another facet of our mission post so far. When God puts you in paradise, expect to love it and to be blessed. But part of our mandate as lay Catholic missionaries is to have compassion. (“Compassion” literally means “to suffer with”.) There has to be some way that we have pain, or struggle, or suffering so that we can grow stronger, and have something to offer up as a prayer for others (just as Christ did). For as it says in Colossians 1:24:

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…”

One of the ways that I’ve done this is with cold showers. The hot water here is heated by solar power (to save electricity). However, this means that in the mornings, when I like to take my showers, there is NO hot water. 🙂 See where I’m headed? Another thing is that a regular old coffee pot that we use back in the states to brew costs over $100U.S. (almost $300E.C. – eastern carribean dollars). So unless a generous donor wants to ship one to us from the U.S., we are drinking instant coffee. For our everyday activities, we have to walk everywhere, no car of our own. My closet door can’t close all the way because of the way it is positioned in my room. We have no dishwasher, our oven is small. I could give you lots of other examples of the many small ways that we have opportunities to “self-mortify”. All in all, I’m glad that we have them, for reasons mentioned earlier. It gives a sense of accomplishment and legitimacy to our mission.

I’d just like to finish up by saying that our first week here has been tremendously blessed so far. Things are falling into place for our ministries and we are making fruitful contact with all the various people we’ll be working with. People are being immensely generous for us, and helping to provide us with all the things we need (including food and groceries to get us started, as well as a local cellphone!) We have a place to stay free of rent, and just have to pay utilities and grocery bills. There are so many good things happening that I can’t even write about them all because it would make this the longest journal entry ever, AND IT’S ONLY THE FIRST WEEK! Everything that is happening is confirming the fact that we are right where God wants us. Mr. Frank even said that never before has a mission post started off with so many things falling into place so easily and quickly. That being said, I am VERY excited about what God has in store for us in the coming weeks and months.

God Bless!

p.s.- Thought the seasponges I found at Vieux Fort (Atlantic side) would make good loofahs. NOT so. Just a bit too rough. They’ll probably make better sink and toilet and shower scrubbers. 🙂

p.s.s. – I should also mention that we have daily access to Mass and Confession (if necessary). 😀 Praise the Lord!

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