Posts Tagged With: Lafayette

New Year reflections on love and life from a Cajun Catholic missionary

Sunday, January 13, 2013 – Noon thirty pm – Mom and Dad’s house – Lafayette, LA
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a journal entry, and I was startin to feel the itch. My impetus for this particular entry is my friendship with Anne. One of the things I really enjoy about our friendship is that I’m learning so much due to all the talking and discussion that happens between us. While Anne is the only one privy to all of the background stories and discussions, I still want to share these “gems” with y’all.
-“I want the whole truth & nothing but the truth, along with an undivided heart.” Perhaps just as bad as lying is failing to tell the whole truth. Yes, in telling partial truths you can literally say you are not intentionally lying to somebody. You may not even be desiring to lead them astray. But if you don’t give them the whole picture then you bear responsibility for when things go wrong. Related to this would be loving others with an undivided heart. Nothing’s worse than trying to have a discussion with someone who is distracted. If someone does not pay attention to me when I’m trying to have meaningful discussion or interaction with them, if their actions don’t prove to me that I’m important and that they’re focused on me, then I feel gypped. Same thing applies to loving others. If you only seek to fulfill the “minimum requirements of love” (as if such a thing even exists) then you are not going to be able to show that the relationship and the person are important to you. My advice is to do what you have to do, and then do more. The extra effort will be worth it.
-“What’s not a big deal to you may be a big deal to someone else.” We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences in life. Inevitably your outlook on certain issues will be different than that of those whom you love. That’s why you have to be considerate and take into account what your loved one has gone through, in order for you to be sensitive to how things affect them. A simple joke or a seemingly small issue for you could be something that touches upon a very sensitive area for your loved one. And because you love them, you have to be prepared to pay attention to these small things and act accordingly or avoid them if at all possible.
-“A small deal can become a big deal, in both good ways and bad.” As I stated in the last paragraph, small things that are not heeded can create problems. But it also works for good. A simple note, a quick hello, a little hug, or a meaningful compliment can make the day of the one you love.
-“Daily personal prayer time is a must, no matter how many other spiritual things you do.” Imagine trying to run a car on fumes. Or sustaining a friendship when virtually no meaningful communication exists. That’s essentially what you’re do to your relationship with God when you don’t pray. Aside from that relationship suffering, you also won’t be able to get what you need to live your life lovingly for others. The same can be applied to your relationship with your loved one. Without communication, your relationship will wither and die. And if you don’t relate to God daily in prayer, then you won’t be able to relate to your loved one in the way that you need to.
-“The ugly truth is better than a pretty lie.” Sometimes we are scared to reveal unpleasant truths about ourselves or our pasts for fear that the other person will stop loving us. If they do stop loving you, then it was not the right kind of relationship. However, chances are that they’ll love you anyways, because they can see through the imperfections. But if you hide truths from them, or if you lie about something (even if it’s in a seemingly innocent or protective sort of way) in order to make yourself look better, then your relationship’s foundation is weakened. A pretty lie is still a lie. But an unpleasant truth honestly and freely revealed, is still the truth. Doing that will help you to build trust with the one you love and it will help you to be vulnerable in a way that is good.
-“Loneliness and stress can be cruel masters or great motivators.” Loneliness and stress are two of the leadings causing of people doing dumb stuff. It’s because they focus so much on the problems of loneliness and stress as well as the by-products of these two things, that they lose sight of the solution. Sure it’s easy to wallow in misery and self-pity when stress and loneliness are knockin’ at your door. But just imagine how much better things could be if you allowed these two things to motivate you instead of torment you. Instead of seeking wordly things that will never fill the hole in your heart, allow loneliness and stress to motivate you to do charitable works, or to pray more, or to seek the company of others. If you do this not only will you grow, but your relationship with your loved one will grow as well.
-“Love is a choice that is worth your time and effort.” Sometimes love feels great, both literally and figuratively. But our modern culture lies to us when we are tricked into believing that love always feels good. Love is sometimes hard. Love is sometimes painful. Love is sometimes confusing. It doesn’t just happen. You have to choose it. Yet it’s always worth it. And what is love? Love is doing right and growing closer to God. If you want to show your loved one that you truly care for them, then do right and help them grow closer to God.
-“Trustworthiness and vulnerability go hand in hand.” You cannot trust someone if they cannot open up and be vulnerable with you. On the other hand, you cannot be vulnerable with someone if you cannot trust them. It’s kinda like the chicken and the egg question. I’m not sure which has to come first. I just know you gotta have both.
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My visit with a pretty blonde in San Diego

I knew that title would get your attention 😉

Friday, December 21st, 2012 – 6:00pm – 28,000 feet – somewhere between San Diego & Dallas (continued at 8:00pm @ 28,000 feet somewhere between Dallas and Lafayette)

Well, my first ever visit with my friend Anne is officially over. And what a visit it was. After our friendship began online roughly 2 months ago (we met on CatholicMatch.com), I could tell that I liked talking with this chick. Not only did I enjoy it, I looked forward to it. She’s beautiful, smart, loves God, & is emotionally and spiritually mature. Two beautiful little girls. A loving and supportive family. Oh, and she started talking to me when I was still doing missionary work out of the country. Did I mention that I had a ridiculous beard when we started talking? She gets some extra points fer sure. Her striking up our initial conversation 2 months ago in spite of my situation helped me to realize that she’s a special girl and that I DEFINITELY wanted to get to know her better.

So we agreed on meeting up December 19th-21st. She was already on Christmas holiday from her teaching job and her girls would be with their dad. The timing was perfect. We decided on California for our first visit because we both believe that a man should be a man and pursue the woman. Specifically we decided on San Diego because we wanted a neutral location where it would be just the two of us getting to know each other better. I stayed at the Cabrillo Inn on Rosecrans St. and she stayed at another hotel about 10 minutes away. It was the perfect setup. On Wednesday morning, the day we met in person for the first time, it was a slow and relaxing morning. She finished up a few errands back home before she drove into San Diego. I slept in and then had lunch after a leisurely morning strolling along the waterfront at Shelter Island, which was a short walk from my hotel. When she let me know that she was on the way, I took a shower and freshened up a bit. Wanted to make sure I looked really sharp and smelled really good for our first meeting. 🙂 I was a little nervous and kinda self-conscious when we first met and hugged. But over the next few hours as we explored Old Town, had dinner at a Mexican restaurant (where we got randomly serenaded by a mariachi band as we ate) and talked, that nervousness and self-consciousness started to fade and continued to do so throughout our time in San Diego. Of course there were a few moments of silence and/or awkwardness on my part, but nothing out of the ordinary. After all, it was our first meeting, and there was no one else there but us. No family or friends to counsel/guide/distract/visit with us……….you get the idea. So yeah, I guess that added a little pressure, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Probably my two favorite highlights were church and coffee. We got to go to noon Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego. Being able to go to Mass and to be able to share it with someone special was amazing. It’s something I don’t get to do very often, though hopefully I will in the future. The Our Father during Mass also gave me an excuse to hold her hand for the very first time. 🙂 As good of an excuse as any I could possibly think of! I also really enjoyed the time we spent at coffeehouses Wednesday and Thursday night, as well as sittin’ beachside earlier this morning at Mission Bay. These were the times when we were solely focused on each other. We didnt’ have any distractions and we could talk as much as we wanted. Probe and pick each other’s brains. Get to know each other better through pure, unadulterated conversation. Right before we left the beach this morning to head to the airport, we agreed that we both enjoyed our time together and that we wanted to continue to get to know each other. I felt blessed that we both agreed on that. And I could tell by all the subsequent texting back and forth during the course of my travels throughout the day (along with the abundance of smiley faces contained in those messages), that we were both happy with where things are at. 🙂 So as of now, no relationship status change. We wanna do things right and take it slowly. But, the future certainly does look bright!

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Mission Bay Beach

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Many thanks to Anne for taking this picture. Had to take it to prove that I was actually in San Diego 🙂

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Hotel Del Coronado all lit up for Christmas

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beachfront at Coronado Island

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best bathroom graffiti ever! GOSH!

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Saint Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego

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view of San Diego from my hotel balcony

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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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St. Lucia – The Final Countdown

Saturday – September 3, 2011 – 11:00am – Benedictine Convent @ Mount of Prayer, Coubaril, Castries, St. Lucia

So, it looks like we’ve come to the end of the road here in St. Lucia. (cue the sappy Boyz 2 Men music) When I came back here on August 25th, it was with the intention to follow my original plan. I would remain here until the end of November and then return to Big Woods for Year End Review. However, right before I came back, Mark informed me that  on their family retreat, they discerned it was time for them to leave St. Lucia. They were in need of some time to rest, recuperate, and re-energize themselves. So they will be in Oregon with their family until they return to Big Woods at the end of November for Year End Review. Even when I first heard this, my initial reaction was to stick to my original plan of remaining here until it was time for Year End Review. After all, I do have a problem of sticking to my commitments. A worthy reason to remain, by anyone’s standard, in my opinion.

But as I got back a week ago and really started to think and pray about it, my mind started to change. For one thing, I realized that if I stayed here by myself, I would not have the benefit of the missionary community life. And this is something I REALLY need. As contemplative and solitary as I can be at times, I know that I need to live in community in order to be as spiritually strong as possible. It also seemed like all of the various little signs we were receiving pointed to  us leaving St. Lucia and moving on to a different mission post. Now keep in mind that I believe we were meant to be here. God called us here and allowed us to be here. We were able to accomplish many things and make many friends. But, now it is time for us to move on. It is time to go, because we believe God is calling us out of this place.  (Speaking of plans, I heard one time that if you want to make God laugh then make plans.)

So once I decided it was prudent for me to leave St. Lucia at the same time as the Eckstines, my plan (haha) was to go straight to General Cepeda and spend some time there as a missionary while waiting for Intake 2011 to arrive for their mission immersion experience in November. Well, that kinda fell through (lack of sufficient funds in my missionary account). Now it’s confirmed that I will be returning to Big Woods on Wednesday September 21st to help out with Intake and to do whatever else Frank and Genie need me to do. Then, when Intake goes to Mexico in November I’ll accompany them. So, I’ll still get to go but not for as long as I’d thought and with a large group instead of just a few full-time missionaries.

There’s still alot of blessings for me this way though. For one thing, I get to exercise the virtue of obedience by respecting Mr. Frank’s insight and wishes by returning to Big Woods from here. I also get a wonderful opportunity to get to know the new missionaries and maybe start getting a feel for who my new mission partners might be next year. Being close to home ain’t too bad either. Always good to be able to see loved ones, family, friends, etc…. I really think too that the community life at Big Woods during Intake will do much to refresh me and renew me even further. Recapture some of the zeal and passion of being a missionary. This has also been a good experience of seeing how God can change our plans and work contrary to our reasoning and logic in order to get us to a certain point where we can experience certain blessings.

Logic would have told me to stay in Lafayette so that I would not “waste” money on two plane tickets and already be at Big Woods for Intake. But then, I wouldn’t be able to say good-bye to everyone here. I wouldn’t be able to tie up loose ends. I wouldn’t be able to finish up my time at my mission post with my mission partners. Logic would also have told me that I should go straight to Mexico from here. Experience “normal” missionary life in General with other full-time missionaries and without a big group . See what day to day life is really like there as a missionary.  But as I said earlier, this would mean that I lose out on all the opportunities I have at Big Woods. Come to think of it, the theme of my whole first year in missions has been life not as I expect it, with plans changing many times. But I can tell you that because of this, and because of the many other blessings and challenges associated with this, my first year as a full-time foreign lay missionary has been a time of enormous spiritual growth and insight.

Praise God for such an awesome first year, & here’s to an even better 2nd year. God bless!

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Madrid – part 2

Sunday – August 21, 2011 – 3:00pm – Starbucks next to Hotel Husa Moncloa – Madrid, Spain

World Youth Day 2011, Madrid, Closing Mass & Vigil…… Closest thing to organized pandemonium I’ve ever experienced. Lest I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning of the day. Woke up for breakfast at 7. Everybody must have stayed up late the night before, because I was the only Magnificat Travel pilgrim there for the first 30 minutes. After a few sips of coffee & some conversation with the other pilgrims, I headed back to my room and took a shower and got dressed for Mass at 9. After Mass, we had a meeting for those who were planning on attending the overnight vigil and closing Mass. Went over some logistical details and then went our separate ways for a few hours of free time. I walked a few blocks down from the hotel to a Spain souvenir shop to buy a small Spain flag to add to my collection. After I got back to the hotel, I finished my packing for the vigil and also got some last minute things and a bite of lunch from the grocery store around the corner. Took a nap until 2:00 and then made my way down to the lobby to meet the other pilgrims for our 3pm departure.

Then the madness began.

From the very moment we arrived in the first subway station, the crowds were insane. We had to squeeze (literally) onto every subway car. Making our way through the various hallways at each station was like being in a rat race/maze. The lines and crowds as we arrived at the Cuatro Vientos airfield just continued to multiply like crazy. We passed through the first gate only to realize that we weren’t actually inside the official seating area yet. As we got close to the gate for the actual seating area, we just got squished into a humongous crowd and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually we got word that they had completely closed off the gate. Apparently the WYD organizers had underestimated the amount of space that each pilgrim occupies and thus overbooked each section. So, we just plopped down outside the official seating area, in a section that was not far from where we were originally supposed to sit. Then we just hung out and started taking it all in.

Ate. Got water. Danced with pilgrims from other countries. Proudly waved the Acadiana flag while I danced. 🙂 Observed/watched the sheer number of people outside the airfield. Just the people outside the seating area had to be at least half-a-million people. At one point I even heard the band L’Angelus playing! Seeing as how they’re from the Lafayette area and we by chance happened to sit next to where they played was awesome. Felt like a little piece of home was with me and it made me quite happy. Didn’t get to actually see them, but just hearing them was good enough. After a few hours of participating in and observing the madness, most of our group decided to head back to the hotel. Among other reasons, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to see anything or receive communion. We also figured that the crowds on the subway would be a little too intense after Mass in the morning. So at roughly 8:45 we started back towards the hotel.

There was still somewhat of a crowd as we headed back since alot of other people had the same idea as we did. The crazy thing too was that we ran into some Lafayette people on the way back. Seems to be a Lafayette thing, with going somewheres far away only to run into people from Lafayette. Actually had fun on our trip back to the hotel. Partially out of joy for leaving the pandemonium (people as far as the eye could see, literally). Also due to delirium! 🙂 Sang and hooted and hollered with pilgrims form other countries as we travelled on the subway. Finally got back to our hotel at 10:45. So if it took us 2 hours to get back without a big crowd, then I don’t even wanna think what the subway was like today after the Mass ended.

Threw my stuff into the room and made my way to the hotel bar where I guzzled down 2 Cokes and hung out for awhile with the other pilgrims. Back to the room at midnight to take a shower and then passed out. Woke up around 9:30, just in time to watch the Closing Mass. After observing the crowds yesterday in person and today on TV, there had to be at least 1.5 million people. My personal estimation is more like 2 million. The cool thing was realized that all those people were there because of the Pope and our Catholic Faith, and most importantly, Jesus. At the end of the Mass the Pope blessed religious articles so I had my mission cross and a few other things blessed. Packed my bags and then headed to one of the hotel meeting rooms to attend 12:30 Mass for our group, since most of us did not attend the Closing Mass in person. Got a few logistical instructions after Mass and then headed home. We have supper at the hotel tonight at 8 & then we board the bus to the Barcelona airport at 10pm. (Our flight leaves tomorrow morning).

I suppose this is gonna be my last journal of this pilgrimage. I must say that it was truly a blessed experience, a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. Got to see and do so many awesome things. Looking forward to being at home with friends and family for a few days before I head back to St. Lucia for my last few weeks. It’ll be nice to start posting pictures and journal entries online, and start going over the whole experience in my mind and processing it. Really excited to get back to St. Lucia. Get to see my mission partners, the Eckstines. Miss them alot. Get to see all of my friends that live there. I think I’m most excited about going back renewed, refreshed, and revitalized. Want to finish my last weeks there on a strong note.

And now, Europe, I bid you adieu! Until next time……….

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Gregory Peck knows karate & I’m goin’ see the Pope this summer!

Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011 – 4:15pm – School room in Marian Home Mission House – Castries, St. Lucia

Yes yes yes, the title of this post is definitely meant to raise eyebrows and cause you to come and read my blog. Indeed I have stooped to the level of chintzy news writers. But, all for the sake of my blog and God’s kingdom, right? 🙂 The Gregory Peck reference has to do with a homily, yes, a homily given by our pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Marchand. Msgr. Bonifacio was talking about turning the other cheek, and mentioned something about Gregory Peck knowing karate and would get back at the bad guys, and that it wasn’t the best example. He really is a joy to have as a pastor. While he is not of the same culture as us missionaries, we have in common the fact that we’re not from St. Lucia. This helps us to gain insight from him on how the people are and the way they interact and operate. Slowly but surely we’re  using this information to more solidly establish relationships and get more active in our ministries.

It’s ironic that I’m talking about this right now, because I feel like this journal entry mirrors what our ministry has been like in our time here. I’ve known for awhile that I needed to do it and get active. But that’s all I’ve had, the desire to do it. A few times I’ve tried to do it, or got close, or thought really hard, but nothin’ goin’, u know? Had some thoughts cross my mind as to what I wanted to say/do, and gathered some really good ideas. It seems though that I needed to get to a point where I let go and it would just happen. I wasn’t planning to do my journal right now, but it just kinda came together as a culmination of the previous events of the day. A big motivation for me doing it is that I had this really strong feeling that it was time. Even if I didn’t know yet what I was going to say, I knew I needed to say SOMETHING. Anyhoo………….

The other part of my journal title is somewhat self-explanatory. Indeed, I am going to see the Pope this summer. World Youth Day 2011 is being held in Madrid. I had the most amazing experience of my journey with Jesus when I attended World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. It was the most tangible glimpse I’ve ever had of the Catholic Church as Universal. As soon as I got home from Australia, I knew that I’d love to go to Madrid in 2011 but I just never realized that I’d get the chance. So, once I officially joined FMC as a missionary, I knew that I might get my chance. John-Paul Summers, the youth minister for FMC decided to organize a group to go. I kinda thought about it, but never seriously. To be blunt, I didn’t know what my summer plans were, and what my mission post would be or what the work would entail. However, in the past few weeks, I firmed up plans to come back to Louisiana in July. From the 11th to the 15th of July, I will be volunteering at Faith Camp. It’s a huge part of FMC’s family and their ministry, and I really wanted to experience it especially now that I’m a full-time missionary. After that was confirmed, I began thinking about Camp Hardtner, a Christian summer camp that I attended as a camper, counselor, and adult volunteer. It had been three years since I’ve been able to go (summer 2008). You know, that thing called life kinda happens. So, I contacted a few people after I realized the last camp session of the summer was right after Faith Camp, and voila, I’m back! I’m really excited to be going back, even if only for a week. The chance to be at a place that I really love is priceless. Life has shown me that I need to enjoy the blessings God gives me because you never know where life will take you or if you’ll ever have another chance to see that person or visit that place.

While we’re on that subject, I should mention to that right after my week at Camp Hardtner, I’ll be doing another three day silent retreat at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. It’s a retreat house run by Jesuits, and they model their 3-day silent retreats off of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Me and Dad have done several of these, but it’s been 2 or 3 years since we’ve been able to make one together. I’m pretty sure I could make one by myself or with some friends, but it’s something that I’ve only done with my dad. And guys being guys, you take whatever chance like this that you can get, if it means you’ll get some good male-bonding time.  So, my timeframe for the months of July and August look something like this: July 11th-15th – Faith Camp @ Camp Woodmen in Abbeville, LA. July 18th-26th – Camp Staff for Middle High @ Camp Hardtner in Pollock, LA. July 28th-31st – Silent Retreat @ Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. August 8th – 22nd – World Youth Day Pilgrimage, visiting London, Paris, Cordoba, Rome, Assissi, and Madrid. I would assume that I’ll be flying back into Lafayette 3 or 4 days before Faith Camp, and just spending time with my family and friends. Same with the time in between each trip/event I’ll be involved with. Hopefully I’ll get some chances to pass on some stories and knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained from being in foreign missions.

The other big thing on my mind is Ash Wednesday. Lent is one of my favorite times of the year. The whole penitential aspect of it really excites me. Something about freshly committing myself, and by God’s grace becoming holier and more loving, captivates me. My Lenten strategy has varied from year to year. What do I give up? What extra thing do I do? This year, I felt like as a foreign missionary I had a decent handle on having already given up lots of stuff. Was there something extra I could do? I hadn’t really thought about my Lent this year, and what I was going to do. Now, Ash Wednesday rolls around and I still didn’t know. During my morning prayer and my morning routine, I committed myself not to worry too much or to force myself into something. Eventually, I’d figure out what God wanted me to focus on for Lent. Little did I know how soon my answer would come. During morning prayer, as I was tempted to daydream and lose focus, it dawned on me. I need to focus. It comes as a way to address the larger problem of not being present. So easily I get caught up in the past or future, that I forget to live in and be dedicated to the present, which is the only moment we have. Ergo, I have decided that I will ask God to give me the grace to notice every single time during prayer, meals, fellowship, ANYTHING, that I’m tempted to lose focus. Then, I can re-focus and re-dedicate myself to the task at hand. PTL.

As I finish my journal entry, I think of a few things that need some prayer:

-For Patricia, Dylan, & Marlin Monero. Patricia is a nurse at the Marian Home. Her relationship with the father of her children is bad. These boys need guidance. By God’s grace, we’re able to help fill some of that need. She also needs to relocate to a different house/piece of property. Long story, but big headache. Please pray pray pray.

-For Sabina. She’s a local resident who attends daily Mass at our chapel. In her home she is helping care for unwed mothers and is also fostering children. Every month she also does a lot of work to supply food and other needs of the local poor. We’ve been blessed with her bringing us into this ministry, but there is so much need.

-For all of the FMC missionaries. This is a season of getting established at various mission posts and finalizing plans. Pray that God’s will be done.

-For me and those on my mission team that will be travelling back to the States this summer. You already know my travel plans. Some of the Eckstine kids (along with Mark) are also going to be attending Faith Camp, and they may have other travel plans as well. Pray that our time away from our mission would renew us, and that we would have lots of opportunities to share about missions and to evangelize. Please also pray for safe travel and for the funds we need to do all of this.

God Bless!

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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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Slight change of direction and other miscellaneity

Friday January 7th, 2011 – Approx. 7:45am – Kitchen Table @ Big House @ Big Woods (Facing Pasture)

Ok, so I don’t even know if “miscellaneity” is a word. I was basically trying to say “other miscellaneous things”. Anyhoo, as the title suggests, things have changed slightly for me. If you refer back to my entry from (date omitted), you become acquainted with my missionary friend (name omitted). Wonderful person and wonderful missionary. You also heard about how we were not honoring our singles commitment and were called out on it. Well, since then, we’ve been striving to follow that commitment, but at least on my behalf, have not totally succeeded. According to the letter of the law, we were doin pretty good. But I noticed that even though I acknowledged that we were not a couple, I was not orienting my thoughts and prayers and will in that direction. It’s like I was living it on the outside and not on the inside. Furthermore, just the sheer speed at which everything happened and the sheer speed at which conclusions were reached and certain feelings expressed SCARED ME! (And it’s not just cuz I’m a guy and afraid of commitment. :p )

I felt like the outcome was already a foregone conclusion and that at least on my part, there was no wiggle room or opportunity to change my mind. Not only that, but I also felt like I was too prepared for the future as opposed to simply embracing my call to missions, rejoicing in where God has me, and putting that as my priority & being faithful to that. I feel like I definitely took things out of God’s hands and put them into mine. Yes, there is a point, and here it is. I’ve decided to take a step back.  And while I do fear that I’ve possibly damaged our friendship in some way, I still feel very much at peace and that I’ve made the right decision.  As excited as I already was to go into missions, I’m now even MORE excited!  I feel like my heart, my intentions, and my prayers are now where they’re supposed to be. And if I’ve gotten to know (name omitted) well enough during our friendship, I think she’ll be OK with it too. It’s just a great feeling to know that I now can be totally open to whatever God brings to me in missions, and to do so with an undivided heart. It’s also exciting to know that anything else God might wanna do in my life is now possible. And in the spirit of fairness, I feel like I should also mention that it was not any kind of one-sided thing. I assume as much responsibility for the situation becoming what it was.

OK. Enough about that. Now onto the “miscellaneity”. We actually leave for St. Lucia on the 19th instead of the 17th. Can’t remember what the change was for, or if maybe I just misunderstood the date. What I can say is that 2 days is like a blink of an eye compared to how long I’ve been waiting to get to St. Lucia. J So I think I can handle it. All in God’s time. I’ve been blessed in a lot of little ways too as I prepare to leave. I was able to shave down the amount of stuff I have quite significantly. The amount of clothes I have now is much more manageable and pretty darn close to what I think I can fit in my bags. Speaking of bags, I sent out an appeal online for anyone that could spare a large duffel bag. I figured that if I had a large duffel bag, I could roll my clothes and pack them really tightly THUS freeing up more space in my other big suitcase for things like books, toiletries, etc….. A good friend of mine from back in da’ day, Catherine Lemoine, pulled through and dropped one off for me to my mom at the trophy shop. Merci Cat pour ton generosite!

I also got a nice little bit of spending money cash given to me earlier in the week. Brother Henry Gaither, of The Brothers of the Sacred Heart, came to visit Big Woods. I met him a few months ago at St. Pius X parish in Lafayette one Sunday at Mass. He was giving a talk about and handing out literature for CNVS (Catholic Network of Volunteer Services). CNVS is a directory/network of volunteer and missions opportunities both stateside and abroad.  We’ve kept in touch since then, and when he was in New Iberia for a lunch meeting we worked it out for him to pass by Big Woods to visit. It was good catching up with him, and me, him, and Mr. Frank chatted for awhile before he had to leave. As he was leaving, he handed me a wad of cash, & I’m sure he emptied his wallet to do so, since religious brothers aren’t exactly rich. Merci a toi aussi pour ton generosite!

I was also blessed to get a few Christmas presents that were much appreciated and needed. My parents gave me two nice bottles of cologne (Cool Water and Dolce & Gabbana). These will come especially in handy if my missionary duties keep me too busy to bathe! 🙂 I also got an MP3 player which has allowed me to take the multitude of CD’s that I have and condense them onto a little tiny device that’s the size of a cellphone. Space comes at a premium in missions, and this will help me save lots of it. I also received a digital camera. Up until recently, I had a film camera that I would use to take and develop pictures and then convert them to digital format so I could share them online. Well, I fell out of love with yesteryear and it’s devices, and was happy to embrace the ease and convenience of a digital camera. It’s a lot easier to use, much less expensive in the long run, and is much more useful to me while in missions. I’ll be able to take pics and video and keep people updated more quickly and easily. And if there are any of the pics that I really want to get developed, I can go to Walgreens or Walmart and some point and get it done.

Oh yeah, one more thing, we have our plane tickets bought, a place to stay, and ministries already lined up in St. Lucia! 🙂 Last but not least, I went to the UL men’s basketball game last night. Me and Beau (Frank and Genie’s son) used my parents tickets since they’re outta town. It was very enjoyable actually. I knew I’d enjoy the game and I also enjoyed hanging out with Beau, and chatting and just having a guys night, you know?

Well I hope all is well with y’all. If you have any prayer requests I can add to my missionary prayer list, please let me know. God Bless!

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IT’S GONNA BE A ROUGH LANDING

3-14-10 (continued)

How can i go back to normal everyday life when I’ve seen how much of a blessing life as a missionary can be. On the other hand, I know exactly why I have to go back to Lafayette. I have to grow in patience and obedience until the time is right. So these next few months will be filled with fulfilling my obligations in the “real” world as well as preparing myself to enter foreign missions. Now I know that nothing is impossible with God, and that I can get through these next few months. I’m really looking forward to beginning to learn that I’m a missionary for Christ no matter where I’m at. I’m looking forward to continuing with Lifeteen Ministry @ Cathedral.

I know that I will grow in love for my family and friends. And of course, I am definitely looking forward to being as involved with FMC as possible. Hopefully I can keep in touch with my fellow missionaries, both short and long term. Joe and Brooke’s wedding is coming up this friday, there’s mission formation every week, and then of course there’s the Come & See weekend in June out @ Big Woods. All in all, the next few months will be challenging, frustrating, long, exhiliarating, rewarding, and most of all BLESSED. Gotta go now, this time for good. Think I’m gonna pray a chaplet of Divine Mercy during the flight. Lord Jesus, help me to grow in love and charity. Help me to always be ready and willing to give of myself for the sake of your kingdom. St. Francis Xavier, patron of missions, pray for us. Missionary family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us. Amen!

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STILL AT 30,000 FEET

I was also blessed and inspired by my fellow short term missionaries. The energy of the university students re-energized me. They jumped right into the mission and were a good example to me. The married couples who were among the group of short term missionaries were also wonderful people who helped me to learn and grow alot. And as someone who aspires to be married one day (God willing), I was particularly drawn to the beautiful, holy, Catholic young women in our group. In a perfect mix of inner and outer beauty, I saw all the things that I hope God blesses me with in a spouse. I saw a love for others, a love for missions, joie-de-vivre, and so many other things. **To be continued later today….. we’re approaching Dallas for our landing and i gotta put my stuff away.**

Okay, I’m back. At gate B-10 in Dallas waiting to board my flight to Lafayette. I didn’t realize it at first, but when I arrived here, the time change had gone into effect. That meant instead of arriving in Dallas at 5:15 and boarding my plane at 6:45, I landed at 6:15. It’s a good thing I didn’t have any checked bags to slow me down. Got through customs very quickly and arrived at the gate with two minutes to spare. **Gotta go. boarding the plane**

BAck again….. waiting on the flight to depart from the gate. As I was saying, I was blessed with great young women to fellowship with. Whether one of these women is my future wife, or whether it’s someone else, I was most blessed by their presence. Next on my mind is what is gonna happen now that I’m going back home. One part of me has no idea how I will survive the next few months until Missionary Intake 2010 with FMC in September. I want to be in missions so badly and it’s something I really feel like I’m called to.

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