Posts Tagged With: Marian Home

Seems like just yesterday………………………………..

September 19, 2011 – 11:00pm – Near Gate D @ LaGuardia Airport – New York City

Seems like just yesterday I got to St. Lucia to begin my journey as a full-time lay Catholic foreign missionary. And now today I head home after having arrived in St. Lucia exactly 8 months ago. I know it sounds cliche, but it really did go by quite fast. Then this week, and especially today, it didn’t really seem like I was about to leave and things didn’t really seem different. On the surface things were indeed different. Monday of last week I visited the St. Lucy Home and the Adelaide Home for the last time. Tell my friends there good-bye. Tuesday, we went to the beach by Tapion Hospital. Friday our pastor took us to the beach and treated us to lunch. Sunday, we went to Mass and then three different houses that we were invited to for visiting and to eat. We cleaned up the house and gave away all the stuff we couldn’t take with us. Then earlier today I made my last visit to The Marian Home. Not the way things would go in a “typical” week as a missionary.

But between all of these “good-bye” activities, life was normal. We ate, slept, went to Mass, ran errands, prayed, etc….. Sometimes it was slow with not much to do. Sometimes I watched TV or listened to football games on the radio. It just didn’t “feel” like things were coming to an end for Team St. Lucia. It hadn’t “hit” me yet that I was about to leave and might never come back. That was another thing I reflected on as I lay in bed last night. Why hasn’t it hit me? Why am I not feeling something? Why am I not having either a mountain top or bottom of the valley experience? Where is my rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts? Then I realized that I was focusing too much on that “aha” moment in order to make my experience more authentic and alive. Not that the “aha” moment is bad, but it’s only a sign or indicator. Even if it’s not there, the reality of the situation still is. In addition to that, I’m just one of those people that goes through spiritual dryness from time to time. Another way to put it is that when I try to do God’s work, I don’t always feel it. I usually have to remind myself that I’m operating through faith and trust.

Now I’m sitting here by Gate D at the American Airlines terminal. Both of my flights earlier today (St. Lucia to San Juan, and then to here) were safe, smooth, and uneventful. I’m almost surprised at how relatively trouble free and easy everything has been. No trouble with security or customs. Got my bag within 10 minutes of deboarding the plane (a miracle in an airport the size of JFK). Found an airport shuttle to LaGuardia right next to the baggage claim, and after a 10 minute wait, I was on my way here. Didn’t realize how late it was by the time I arrived here. Only place open is some little deli type of place with ridiculously overpriced pastries, salads, and sandwiches. Good thing I had two OJ’s on the plane before I got here. Waiting until tomorrow morning to try and get anything to eat, hopefully more is open.

My other hope for tomorrow is that I get bumped from one or both of my flights. Because of the $250 voucher I got from American Airlines during my trip back to St. Lucia on August 25th, I paid less than $175 for my ticket back home to Louisiana. So if I can get bumped from one or both flights, it means cheaper plane tickets next time around. 🙂 Once I get back home tomorrow, I plan on going to the store to grab a few small things and grabbing some stuff out of my parents attic. For that matter, I plan on getting rid of some stuff too and putting it up in the attic. Compared to your average American, I don’t have much “stuff”. But as a missionary, I have more than I should. Cutting down will make it easier to travel around. Then Wednesday morning, me and Dad are gonna hit up Le Table Francaise at Dwyer’s downtown before heading out to Big Woods to drop me off. Very excited about helping out with Intake, and I can’t wait to see what God’s gonna do. 🙂

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I will refresh you with living waters

Wednesday – June 15, 2011 – 6:15am – Marian Home Chapel – Castries, St. Lucia

One of the challenges I’ve discovered in my first few months as a Catholic lay foreign missionary, is that even though you may have grown enough to the point where God can use you as his instrument, you still are not perfect. I also commented last night as our group of SSME missionaries did Night Prayer, that the Devil does not like what we are doing and will come against us however he can. (Our scripture for Night Prayer was the one that talks about being on guard because the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour its prey.).

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been reminded that I still struggle with a lack of patience, joy, zeal, and humility. And since a big struggle in the past has been chastity (or lack thereof), the Devil has been throwing those kinds of temptations my way. It almost seems like the more and more I strive to be chaste and holy, the more temptations are thrown my way, and the more lies the Devil tries to get me to believe. On top of that, it seems like now that I’ve achieved a certain level of victory over sins of the flesh, that “sins of the spirit” that I mentioned earlier (impatience, lack of zeal, etc.) come at me with a fury. (Disclaimer: Even though I realize I’ve achieved a certain level of victory against sins of the flesh, I realize in humility that I must always be vigilant and on-guard and humble so that I do not fall back into these sins again.)

So taking all of this into account, you can see how my beginnings as a foreign missionary, though blessed, have been challenging and frustrating at times. This morning, as I was about to take a shower before Mass, all of this was on my mind again. Even though the wheels are always turning in my mind, I was puzzled as to why God allowed this to be on my mind at THIS time of day. As I step into the shower, turn the cold water handle, and feel a blast of cold water hitting my head, I think about how good it feels after a restful but sweaty night of sleep. Then I hear the Lord tell me “I will refresh you with living waters”. A sense of peace came over me. Thank you Lord for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

(Interesting sidenote: Right before my shower, I was reading Mrs. Genie’s 2nd book, and was at the part where she relates the story of how God revealed to her what their family’s missionary newsletter should be called. Having just read that, and then having the experience I just had, I decided that my missionary newsletter will be called “Living Waters”. It just seems so right and that it’s the perfect fit. Praise the Lord!)

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Vieux Fort Retreat – Week 1

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

here’s the link to my picture album on facebook, you might need to copy and paste it into your broswer.

Day 1 – Monday, May 23, 2011 – 9:00pm – Upstairs Living Room

I’m sitting here, writing this at the end of our first full day here. We arrived here yesterday around mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon getting settled in, cooking supper, and discussing with the sisters some of the things we would be involved with while we are here. Supper was delicious, and I think God multiplied our pasta, because there’s no way I’d have thought one pan of pasta would be enough to feed 5 adults and 10 kids, but somehow it did. I also really enjoyed chatting with Sr. Francis. We chatted yesterday and today about all kinds of things: ministry, culture, missionary work, etc… It’s nice to have somebody that I can talk to and discuss things. After night prayer, me, Sister Francis and some of the kids played Rummikub, a board game based off of the card game rummy. It’s an opportunity we had because of not having as much access to the internet here. Back at the Marian Home, we basically have unlimited internet because of the wireless signal we get from the sisters upstairs. And although we try and limit ourselves in our usage of it, inevitably you devote a little more time to that instead of devoting a little more time to ministry and fellowship. So, that was a nice change of pace. I think it will also help me to appreciate the contact I do have with family and friends. Since I won’t have it as much, I’ll appreciate it more. I’ll also be better able to enter into the “retreat” aspect of our time here. Ended up getting to bed around 10 o’clock (early for me). That was also due to not having as much internet access, thus not putting off getting the rest that I need. And believe me I need it since I wake up at 4am. (4:30 back at the Marian Home). I have to wake up that early so that I can get in my personal prayer time and Scripture reading before I take a shower, get dressed, and then go to morning Mass.

Today was a really nice day too. Woke up refreshed, enjoyed my personal prayer and Scripture reading time in the chapel downstairs (which has a tabernacle with Jesus Body and Blood! 🙂 ), and then joined the sisters in their morning prayer before we went to 6am Mass. (It was actually a communion service and will be the same tomorrow, since the priest is out until Wed. morning). After breakfast and morning prayer, me and Mark walked with Sister Francis on her way to a lab appt. and then headed off to the Super J (grocery store chain) to get a few things. Saw alot of locals and their streetside “market” where they sold all kinds of diff. fruits, veggies, and other things they grow. Passed by the local independence monument, and kicked myself for leaving behind my camera, although it’s such a small town and easy to navigate that I’m pretty sure I’ll pass by it again. After we walked home, we decided on a whim to go to the beach for a short while, about an hour. Besides wanting to go to the beach, we wanted to investigate our beach options. Since Vieux Fort is literally at the southern tip of the island, when you look out the west side of the house, you see the Carribean, and when you look at the east side, you see the Atlantic. Today, we checked out the beaches on the Carribean side. First off, I gotta say that we enjoyed our time at the beach. The kids were able to swim and play in the sand. I was able to take a dip in the water a few times and got to lay down and catch some sun. However, it was definitely a missionary beach experience, not a ritzy touristy one. Our trek that led us to our spot on the beach led us past rocks, pieces of junk and trash (litter is a big problem in St. Lucia), and some less than ideal walking spaces for such a large group. One of the guys that gave Mark directions on how to get to our beach spot had the world’s largest joint in his hand. At one point on the path, we walked past a free roaming horse and her baby (forget what horse babies are called). And I’m pretty sure I caught the scent of horse poo several times while we were at the beach. Like I said, it was both enjoyable AND interesting.

Made our way back to the convent, did my daily workout and took a shower, and had a pretty normal remainder of the day. Aside from our normal routine, one of the things Sister Mary did was to introduce us to some young girls nearby. She’s going to have some of the older kids help the girls with tutoring and I think she also wants these local girls to have someone to visit with, as I’m sure they dont’ get that very often. Me, and 3 of the Eckstines also accompanied Sister Mary to a planning meeting for a fundraiser for the Vieux Fort Children’s Society. It’s a non profit that has been formed with the hopes of starting a children’s home. Currently, the only children’s home on the island is in Castries (in the north), so the kids down here that are homeless, abandoned, come from abusive homes, etc… have nowheres to turn to. The meeting was a perfect example of Mother Theresa’s saying “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” Of course there were some minor details discussed that pertained to us, but 99% of our time there was spent watching and listening and doing nothing at all. I wanted to go because I had nothing else to do and wanted to spend my time as a missionary doing something constructive instead of being lazy. Another reason I was called there was to test my patience. I think too that aside from learning that and some other things from the people that were there, that hopefully they too were able to learn from our witness and presence. Came home after that, ate supper, and then did night prayer as well as some more retreat reflections and discussions.

The two themes that seemed to stand out today were Joy and God’s Guidance. Our scripture for God’s Guidance was 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, & the passage that related to Joy came from our morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. The summary of my thoughts on God’s Guidance was “God will send us brothers and sisters in Christ who can strengthen our faith and He will direct our hearts to his love and Christ’s steadfastness.” In regards to Joy I wrote “If we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and seek after the right values, we will have abiding & eternal joy.” Then during our night prayer tonight 7 of us were a assigned a gift of the Spirit to read, pray, and reflect upon. I chose the gift of Wisdom, which is something I yearn for and which fascinates me. I found some great references (Wisdom 6:12-16 & CCC #474) and my nugget of wisdom was that “true wisdom comes from God & helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding.” To demonstrate it, I came up with the following analogy: Knowledge is the certainty that the sun is bright and hot. Understanding is realizing it is that way because it is a gigantic ball of burning gas that emits heat and radiation. Wisdom is the ability to use that Knowledge and Understanding to warm ourselves, see where we’re going, or get a tan.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 9:12pm – Upstairs Living Room

Really enjoyed the day today. The rain stopped us from taking a walk around town this morning. We were also gonna take a walk by the lumberyard to see what materials were available for the work we need to do on the blind lady’s house. Ended up staying home all morning and doing alot of journalling and some reading. Ate lunch and took a nap. Woke up, prayed the chaplet and then we walked around town just to explore and familiarize ourselves. Got to see the Indepence memorial monument. Then did my workout and took a shower before supper. Had two different times today that we did our “retreat” portion of the day. So far, I’m really diggin’ this retreat aspect of our time here.

The gift of the spirit that I had to report on was Wisdom. True wisdom comes from God (CCC #474) and helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding. Reference Wisdom 6:12-16, Sirach 39, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:2-23, and Proverbs 2:1-15. Wisdom is being a good steward of God’s gifts in your life. Wisdom is know what to do with what you got. We need to be docile to the Spirit (malleable, flexible too).

Ministry reflection questions: 1.) What are my primary ministries? 2.)How are they going? 3.) Is what you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing?

1.) My ministries are primariliy visiting with the elderly at 4 different nursing homes, as well as having a ministry of prayer.

2.) They are going well. Both of them seem to fit well with my personality and gifts that God has given me. The necessity of both is evident. The elderly need someone to pray and visit with them. They need to know that they are cared for and not forgotten. My own life and spiritual journey, as well as the needs we encounter show me that my ministry of prayer is also important. I’m able to visit the Marian Home, St. Lucy Home, Adelaide Home, and Missionaries of Charity Home each week. Some of them I’m able to visit multiple times per week. On a typical day, my prayer ministry includes personal prayer in the morning (meditation, scripture, and intercessory prayer), Mass, grace at meals, morning prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, Noonday prayer, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Night Prayer.  At first I thought that I prayed alot because I wasn’t yet busy with what God really wanted me to do. But then it occurred tome that I’m supposed to pray because without prayer, which is my connection to God, which is how I receive God’s grace, there will not be much fruit that’s born in my life and in the lives of all for whom I pray and with whom I am connected.

3.) What I’m doing is NOT what I thought I’d be doing. I thought I would be teaching in a school and leading a youth group at a church. However, i’m not disappointed that this has happened. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the ministries I do, and how much I’m motivated to do them.

Random Reflection:

I’ll spare you the details, but I’m in need of the sacrament of confession. It looks like that won’t happen until tomorrow since the priest is out ’till then. I’m so used to having this sacrament readily available as soon as I need/want it. That has been a huge blessing for me. On the other hand, being in a situation where it’s not as readily available really makes the priest shortage so much more real to me. It also gives me an increased appreciation for the priests we do have, as well as helping me to appreciate all those who support and promote vocations. And since this time of retreat and prayer cannot be put on hold until I’m able to receive absolution, I have to deal with it the best that I can. I’m forced to live with and reflect on the tension created in my life and soul that results from choosing sin over God. I have to live with not having the peace of heart and soul that I could have. It also increases my desire to restore right relationship with God. Another thing I’ve realized is that it has almost forced me to confide in the protection and intercession of the angels, saints, and Mother Mary to protect me and guide me until I can receive the sacrament of confession and not be at risk of dying in a state of mortal sin.

The whole experience has also humbled me. It seems like my thoughts, reflections, and journaling is the best it’s been in quite awhile. My first guess as to why this is happening is because whenever I’m not in a state of mortal sin, a subtle form of pride creeps in. I allow myself to rest easy. “It’s ok. I’m in God’s grace. No danger for me. I feel at peace. I like not having to worry.” Yes, God wants us to have peace, but the Bible also tells us that we have to always be vigilant on our spiritual journey. The moment we relax too much, lose focus, and think that we have “arrived”, that marks the beginning of our downfall. So in a paradoxical and ironic sort of way, I realize my need for God and his mercy while I’m in this state of mortal sin. And I think this has allowed me to receive the humility that has allowed my thoughts, reflections, and journaling to be what they have been thus far. And while I’m discussing sin, it also occurred to me how many of our battles with sin occur because of giving ourselves excuses to do so. Under the guise of false concern, a defeatist attitude, or some other weak reason, we give ourselves permission to indulge in sin by not fighting against it.

One of these excuses, which is itself a sin, is the sin of presumption. It’s the sin whereby we presume that God will forgive us for what we are about to do. In other words with this sin we say “God forgive me for what I’m about to do, because I’ve already sinned and I might as well do this too since I have to go to confession later anyways.” Besides selfishly distorting God’s grace and mercy for our purposes, this also means we’ve fallen victim to the lie that when we’ve fallen into sin, all hope is lost & there’s nothing good we can possibly do. True, we have separated ourselves from God by our own choice to sin. But, we are still his child and we also still have angels & saints as well as our own brothers & sisters here on earth to put us on the right track again and assist us in doing good works. This is one area where for the first time, I feel like I was able to make some progress. In spite of my intial choice to commit mortal sin, I feel like I’ve been able to choose not to add sin to sin. It feels really good. I have a hunch that if God’s grace has allowed me to advance to this stage, then I’m really close to conquering this particular sin permanently.

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today started off differently than I had hoped it would. Sister told us Sunday that we’d have communion services Monday and Tuesday since the priest was out, but Mass would resume today. Well, I get to “Mass” and out walks the same layman that officiated the communion service the previous two mornings. He begins by telling us that the priest missed his plane. I hope the priest is ok, and my second thought was I sure hope he comes back tomorrow. The rest of the morning was low key. Mark and Lora went to the resale shop run by the Vieux Fort Children’s Society and did some other errands. I stayed home and watched the kids. About 10:00, the little kids were being too noisy and woke up the baby. So, of course he’s cranky and not happy with the world. Ellie tried holding him, I tried. And when he was trying to throw a tantrum, I tried quieting him, even spanked him a couple times. He finally calmed down a bit, but I could tell he just needed to get back to bed. So, after imposing threat of “getting in trouble with mommy and daddy” to get the littles to be quiet, I began my odyssey of getting the baby to sleep. I don’t have much experience with kids, but this one sure does fight the sleep. I sang the chaplet. He calmed way down, and his eyes even got a little droopy. But, now and then, he’d get a little whiney. So I finally decided to lay him down in his bed. Had to keep a hand on him, not so much to hold him down but moreso to reassure him that someone was there. He’s one of those babies that always has to have some kind of contact in order to not be whiney or fussy when trying to put him down for a nap. So, after at least 30 minutes of tahtah-ing him and reading a book to pass the time, he FINALLY zonked out. Praise The Lord! The only other thing really notable about the day we me and Mark walking to the lumberyard/hardware store. Yeah, I know, that’s how you can tell i’m a missionary on retreat. When the highlight of my day is walking to the lumberyard! 🙂 We needed to check out their materials and prices so we could get an idea of what we were lookin’ at to be able to fix up that blind lady’s roof so it didn’t leak. Mark figured $200EC (approx. $70US), which is not bad at all.

My first spiritual nugget of the day was a quote from the book “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual”. It states “….it is not likely that a person will love God unless he prays to him, unless he spends some time with Him as a person. It is the same with any personal relationship. Two people have to spend some time together or they will not develop a friendship and a love. The friendship will be broader than just the time they spend together. It will begin to penetrate all of their lives the deeper it becomes. But it is the time together that is indispensable for the forming of the bond.” I was drawn to this quote for 2 reason. First of all, it opened my eyes on how to approach my relationship with God. Do I really talk with God and spend time with Him everyday? Or do I just mentally acknowledge his presence, rattle off a few prayers, and call that a relationship? Second of all, it brought a whole new meaning to my discernment of marriage, and the process of friendship and dating that precedes engagement and marriage. It speaks to me of the importance of forming a friendship, a truly loving friendship that brings joy and happiness, and is centered on God. I also see in it the importance of devoting time to that special person. Of course, as a missionary, any friendships that I begin to form now will be long distance. But I feel like I can devote the time necessary to nurture these friendships, both in prayer and in conversation. Online chatting and video chat programs make it much easier to have some good face time. And in God’s time, I’ll have some actual face-to-face encounters as well.

Today’s gift of the Spirit was Understanding. During Ellie’s presentation of this gift, I came away with some good tidbits. I discovered that it is an intimate knowledge of God. Not just knowledge, but INTIMATE knowledge. (ref. Proverbs 2:3-13). Understanding will guard you. Understanding helps us to see what God is not; helps us to have a deep and abiding peace; helps us to be at peace with the mystery in life and to savor the mystery. I especially like the part about “deep and abiding peace”.

Well, I gotta go. Need to get MagicJack running on my computer so Sister Mary can make some phone calls home to the states. Then, gotta get back online and do some more researching of plane ticket prices.

Day 4 – Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

So, I’ve discovered that there are two reasons to not worry too much about what you’re going to do on any given day as a missionary. For one thing, it helps you to trust God and just be at peace with whatever he brings to you. It also saves you the trouble of saying that you’re gonna do something and then having to explain later why you didn’t do it! 🙂 Today was one of those days where I shoulda done that. It started off VERY well. I had been needing to go to confession since Monday, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, i was expecting Father to be back for Mass on Wed. morning. Well, since he missed his plane, I had to wait until this morning. He was very accomodating and agreed to hear my confession after Mass, and then even came over and met the rest of the mission team. We were also blessed to visit with Peter Fevrier this morning. He works for the Family & Life Secretariat here in the Archdiocese and was instrumental in getting us set up here with the sisters in Vieux Fort. Since the first day we arrived we were expecting him to come and visit with us. Today he finally made it here (he’s been VERY busy). I was thinking the whole purpose of him coming was purely practical. Maybe he was going to help us purchase supplies to work on Ms. Bibi’s leaking roof, or bring us food, or something like that. And while we did take a minute or two to briefly discuss practical matters, most of his visit was exactly that, just visiting. We must have spent almost an hour just talking about different aspects of pro-life ministry and things that are coming up soon. It was good just to sit there and visit with him, not have an agenda, and be blessed by his witness and enthusiasm. Later in the morning Mark mentioned that he and Lora would go by Ms. Bibi’s house sometime after lunch with the ladder to make some last minute assesments and then me and him would go to the lumberyard to get the materials we needed. Well, the rain changed those plans. Mark went to Ms. Bibi’s, by himself, without the ladder. And by the time he got back, the lumberyard was about to close, so we didn’t go. An unexpected blessing that I did receive came later in the evening. Sister Mary took me and Mark to visit a quadriplegic guy named Moses. He was probably close to my age. We briefly talked with his mom about building a ramp from their front steps out to the street, so getting him in and out would not be as difficult. Got to talk to him a little bit too. Understandably he wasn’t extremely talkative, but he wasn’t shy either. Sister even said that she was surprised at how talkative he actually was. I’m guessing he’s normally very quiet. Maybe having some guys there kinda made him feel at home and loosened him up a bit. I know Mark is the brains of the construction type of work, but i’m hoping to get a chance to just go and visit with him before we leave.

Our retreat time was good today, but we didn’t do quite as much as I thought we would. Can’t really explain why, except that it’s how rhythm of the day unfolded. In his homily this morning, father mentioned that “a wounded animal is the most dangerous. it’s desperate and has nothing to lose”. During our retreat time, Mark recalled this and posed the question to us: “how have we hurt or wounded each other?” Then as the discussion veered towards summer plans and what we would need for them to happen, Mark reminded us of Mr. Frank saying that we have to keep in touch with our donors, that way they can donate to us and so they can be blessed by our sharing and testimony. As Mark talked to the kids about whether or not they would be able to go to faith camp, he mentioned that if the Lord says no, then it’s a good thing. I echoed that by telling the kids how when God has said no to my heart’s desire (a loving relationship with a girl) he has blessed me with the incredible experiences of seminary and living life as a foreign missionary. Then I kinda reflected on all the wonderful things going on in my life right now, and realized that I am in a season of blessing. 🙂

Day 5 – Friday, May 27, 2011 – 9:34pm- Upstairs Living Room

Today was quite the day. Our team retreat this morning was really really good. The catalyst for the conversation was a question about how can things be improved. And that basically launched me and Mark on some really good reflections about what is so challenging about missions specifically for each one of us, and some of the things we hope to see happen in the next few months. It was very much a blessing to see Mark open up like he did, and Lora had some really good input too. I think it was the first time since we’ve been here that the three adults have really just laid it all out on the table. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we’re at diff. stages in life and still learning how to interact with each other. None of us is particularly outspoken, so it’s hard for us to just come out and say stuff. We also finally got over to Ms. Bibi’s house to start fixing her leaky roof. She’s the blind lady I mentioned earlier in the week. After Mark assessed the situation, and even went there yesterday when it was raining, he couldn’t tell exactly where it was supposedly leaking from. So we bought some tar-backed aluminum tape, and covered the holes and seams that we could. We’ll probably go back in the next few days with another roll or two to see how much more we can do. Got some really good action pics and got a pic of me and Mark with Ms. Bibi too. Me and Mark also got the chance to visit Moses again. I hung out with Moses and chatted while Mark made some measurements for the ramp out front and went around the house while the mother showed Mark a few other things. It was really good to chat with Moses. I felt like just being there as a Christian and as a friend was helpful. Not sure how many visitors he gets each day, but i know i wouldn’t mind having visitors myself.

Had some good reflections today too. So, you know during Mass, the penitential rite where we confess our sins to God and community? (“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, etc….”) As we were saying that during Mass earlier this morning, it struck me that I was just SAYING it but not PRAYING it. Then I got to thinkin’ about 2 things: 1.) How often do I say instead of pray? & 2.) Do I claim God’s forgiveness? What I mean by #2 is that this morning I noticed I was just saying the penitential rite instead of praying it. I wasn’t trying to claim God’s forgiveness and mercy. Naturally I then started reflecting on how many other times I’ve failed to claim his forgiveness. How much different would my spiritual  journey be if I did claim that forgiveness?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“….loneliness is the greatest fear of humanity. In isolation people cannot be fully human. Our experiences of life confirm this. People inevitably form into groups, associations, communities, organizations. Some are temporary, some long-lived. They have a variety of purposes, but all prove man’s need for sharing and living his life with others.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Day 6 – Saturday, May 28, 2011 – 10:00pm- Upstairs Living Room

So the first thing in my notes said “My prediction for today is that either we have a cleaning/work day or a beach day. We’ll see what happens 🙂 It definitely wasn’t a beach day. The morning started out with me accompanying Sister Mary on a few errands to prepare for the St. Vincent DePaul Society meeting later in the morning. Had to pick up some snacks and a few things from the store. Came back just in time for the start of morning prayer. Afterwards I decided to hand wash my laundry. I wanted to handwash for a few reasons. First of all, when I saw the clothes that Mark washed in the washer the other day, some of the shirts had a ridiculous amount of what i’m guessing was lint all over them. Not a fan of lint, so that had me sold on handwashing. Second of all, I had some little packets of Tide laundry detergent that was specifically formulated for handwashing of clothes. I bought them back in 2008 when I went to Australia/New Zealand for World Youth Day and I figured I should use up some more of it. Third reason was that I needed something to do. There wasn’t really any other work for me to do, and I didn’t wanna be a complete slacker either. Also felt like handwashing would be a way to toughen myself up a bit and sacrifice the ease and comfort I was used to. So after filling buckets (2), suds-ing, agitating, wringing out, rinsing, re-wringing out, and hanging up to dry, I was done. Took me about an hour or so. Did alot of reading the rest of the morning. After lunch, I checked email and then took a nap. Woke up, prayed a chaplet of divine love for priests, took a shower, and then went back into the house. After supper we had evening prayer and our retreat time for the day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my day.

(from earlier today) As I sit here, sippin’ on some coffee, doin’ my morning spiritual and scripture reading, a nice rain is falling. The doors and windows are open. A nice breeze is blowing. Several of the kids are sitting in the room, next to me, quietly reading. It’s one of those heaven moments 🙂

Oh yeah, one more thing. So as I’m sitting here, I’m wearing my Pope Benedict XVI shirt from World Youth Day 2008, and Isaac keeps pokin’ the Pope’s face and makin garbled goo-goo sounds. Methinks he likes the Pope! 🙂

Judging by the amount of good reflections I seem to be having and how having a small journal nearby makes it easy  to record them, I think I’m going to try and have some kind of little notebook on me at all times. Try to be more vigilant about rewriting these thoughts…

I was also doing some reflecting on friendships and relationships recently. I’m at that stage where my year-long singles commitment is almost up (Sept. 15th). And regardless of singles commitment or no singles commitment, I’m at that stage in life where it’s what I notice and think about quite a bit. My past relationships, my faith, and other life experiences have taught me alot about the opposite sex and how I interact with them and what to look for. One thing I’ve realized is that everytime I’ve acted unchastely or improperly towards or with a girl, it was simply a very misguided way of seeking true fulfillment. (If you’ve studied Theology of the Body then you’re familiar with this concept). It occurred to me that these actions represented my want and need to be able to open up to someone, for them to be able to see me as I am, and for them to open up to me too so that I can truly see them. I’ve also reflected on things I can use as a measuring stick for determining if I have a good connection with a girl or not. One of those is “Do I act chase with her, and do I also DESIRE to act chaste with her?” Chances are that if I don’t have unchaste desires or actions with her, then it means that she brings out the best in me, and that she’s a possible match. If however, I struggle with chastity in some way with a girl, then there’s a good chance that a good connection might not exist and that I need to be cautious.

I should be thanking God for my struggles because they show me what I need to work on. If these struggle were never made evident, then how would I know to correct them?

Romans 8:14-18

The gift of counsel makes us responsive to the enlightenment of God. It’s a good gift to pray for while at Mass, considering all the ways God enlightens us through the Mass.

When my mind wandered during our sharing, I used my ink pen to draw squares around all the freckles on my right leg.

You know, I kinda wish that one of the struggles I have right now, grumpiness, would disappear soon. No, I’m not one of those people that’s grumpy with the world. It’s just that being a missionary, even in a paradise like St. Lucia, is difficult. And i’m still working on trying to adjust to living with a family that has 10 kids. Sometimes adjusting to that plus dealing with my own shortcomings and struggles plus the normal stresses of mission life, it all makes me a little grumpy sometimes. I’m lucky that these kids being as good as they are, just kinda brush it off. But, they do notice it, and that’s what has me feelin bad. Whoever the patron saint of grumpy missionaries is, please pray for me! :-p

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How do you really know the Holy Spirit talked to you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011 – 9pm – Marian Home Mission House – Castries, St. Lucia

So, earlier today, we had our annual vocations rally for the diocese and I was on the discussion panel. At the very end, someone asked me the question “How do you really know the Holy Spirit talked to you?”, in regards to the call of missionary life. So I made a few notes and figured I’d expand a little on them and turn it into a blog entry.

#1 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because my decision to become a lay foreign missionary was something I arrived at through prayer, ALOT of prayer. My simple definition of prayer is that it’s conversation with God. So, because I had been talking with God this whole time, that’s how I knew it was him that was talking back to me.

#2 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because the call to lay foreign missions was a deep desire of my heart that never left me. God kept putting it on my heart and kept pursuing me.

#3 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because people in my life confirmed my decision.

#4 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because I am willing to accept the sacrifices and hardships of this calling in order to receive it’s blessings.

#5 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because when I looked back on all the experiences I’ve had, and the pattern my life up to that point, it directed me towards life as a lay foreign missionary.

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April 2011 Newsletter

For every Good Friday there’s an Easter Sunday!

“The Word of God will be fulfilled in our lives to the extent that we embrace it” -Fr. Jason Biscette-

To my Friends and Family,

Greetings from St. Lucia! It brings me great pleasure to be able to write you again. Can you believe it? As I write this letter I realize that I have been here for two and a half months already. Where did the time go?!? It seems like we were just getting here the other day and trying to get ourselves settled in. It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been here this long. But praise God that we’ve got lots of time left here and that there’s lots he has for us to do. So let’s get right to it. As the beginning of April drew closer, I started debating with myself about what to write to y’all. I said to myself “What is it that my benefactors need to hear? What is going to help them realize that what they do for me is vital to my mission work? How will they know that their sacrifices of prayer and financial support are indeed going to a worthy cause?” Finally I realized that I needed to put some faces to the stories from the mission field. So instead of this letter being a laundry list of things that God is giving us to do (and believe me, he’s giving us A LOT), I’m going to tell you stories of people that are part of our lives and ministry here in St. Lucia.

My first story is about one of the nurses here at the Marian Home for the Elderly. Her name is Patricia Monero. She is in her late 30’s, is a single mother, has two teenage sons, and works full-time. When we first got here and started our ministry at the Marian Home, she told us that she had two teenage sons. Being that we have lots of kids here (10 to be exact) we told her to bring them by sometime to meet the family. Little did we know how much we would get to know her story and be involved in their lives. The boys come over daily for fellowship and supper when they finish school. As a single mother who struggles to get by every month, not having to pay for after school care or worry about her boys’ safety is a huge help to her. We’re also able to assist them with school work and bring them with us when we go to church or do youth group activities. The opportunity to witness to Patricia and her boys through our simple, humble missionary way of life is a blessing for them and us as well. Her boys’ father is absentee at best, and at times has been a physically abusive alcoholic. Due to the breakup of her relationship with the father, she is having to vacate the piece of property that their house is on. At present, we have already assisted her with paperwork to obtain a piece of land in the countryside from the government. Mainly due to my mission partner’s construction skills, we also stand ready to assist in the construction of a new house, or in the relocation/renovation of her current house. Please pray for Patricia and her sons Dylan and Marlin in this tough time they face.

My second story is about a local pro-life warrior, Sabina. She lives about ten minutes walking distance from our residence, and occasionally attends Daily Mass at the Marian Home chapel. We first became acquainted with her when she invited us to help her prayer group to feed the poor in Castries. On the first Friday in March she escorted us to her house where we assisted in preparing food to feed roughly 400 people. The next morning we met her prayer group downtown and assisted in passing out food and drink, as well as using the opportunity to evangelize. We participate again in April and it looks like we’ll be able to help out on a monthly basis. She herself has had it rough, with lots of family members passing away. But in spite of the adversity she’s faced, her commitment to the poor and less fortunate is an inspiration. She also distributes clothing to the poor and homeless around town. In her house she is currently housing two young unwed mothers, and is fostering a child. While a lot remains to be done here to establish a widespread pro-life ministry network, she is certainly laying the groundwork. She is an answer to our prayers for pro-life ministry here in St. Lucia, and we will continue to assist her in whatever way we can.

It would be remiss of me to leave out our Saturday workday accomplishments as well. To this point we have cleaned up a large portion of yard waste and downed tree limbs, and have also succeeded in doubling the size of the vegetable and fruit garden. From donations received, a basketball backboard and hoop have been purchased and installed in the back yard.We’ve also organized a schoolroom full of books for distribution to area schools and the local library. Our future plans include reinforcing the rear perimeter fencing, renovating the basketball playing surface, and making a prayer garden. As I draw this letter to a close, I continue to ask for your prayers. Please pray for the success of our ministries, funding to attend various ministry events this summer, and for our spiritual and physical health. Remember to email me if you need anything (sidsavoie@catholic.org ) or visit my missionary blog at https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com.

God Bless,

Sid Savoie

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” –Lamentations 3:25-26–

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Old Folks, dominoes, and visiting nature preserves……..

(follow this link for pics – http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=279206&id=605007873&l=fd7e8d37df)

Monday, March 14, 2011 – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

Normally I’m not big on frequent journaling. I’ve never been one of those people who can journal everyday.  Just can’t do it. The urge has to come to me. The moon has to strike me right. I just have to be in the right mood, u know? For me journaling is less about writing down the daily details and more about relating experiences and lessons learned. Sometimes I go weeks even a month or two between journal entries. Sometimes it’s as frequent as one or twice a week. Just checked, and my last entry was written five days ago. But as you can tell by the title of this entry, got to experience some pretty cool stuff since last Wednesday.

Old folks and dominoes is my first subject of journalistificationessnicityalityment. In case you were wondering, that was an overcomplification of a word to make myself sound smart and to give some variety to my entry. Sometimes the struggle when presenting factualities is that you feel like you repeat a lot of words and sound boring. As you know from previous entries, my visits to the old folks in the Marian Home is an almost daily occurrence. I feel like I have a responsibility towards them, and because it’s one of the only constants in my missionary life here, it’s high on my priority list. At first I didn’t need to think much about what to do when I’d visit. We just sit down and visit with each other and talk. And to tell you the truth, that’s all these people really need. They need someone to give them the time of day. They need someone to show them that they’re not forgotten and that somebody cares for them enough to sit down and talk. You’d be amazed at how grateful and easily pleased these folks are.

That being said, even if it’s only on my part, it does get a little difficult when visiting multiple times a week to hold up my interest level. That’s the struggle of missions: maintaining your charted course, the course you know is right and needed, even when the romance level of it all has gone down. So, taking a clue from my mission partner whom I saw playing dominoes with one of the residents a few days ago, I brought the domino set with me. I was still able to visit and talk and pray with some of them. But, I was also able to extend my time there with the dominoes. Simple games like that provide an icebreaker. It’s often easier for strangers to open up over a fun and simple game than it is talking face to face. The game also gives you something to do during moments of silence. When these old folks find out they can also school me, take me to town Charlie brown for a good ole’ domino beat-down, it perks them up even more!:) Maybe if I can get over my fear of losing, I’ll bring the checker-board one day.

The other really great thing was that we got to visit Lushan Nature Preserve today. The proprietor/owner, Arthur, is a parishioner at our church parish, Sacred Heart in Marchand. He has repeatedly invited us to visit and we were just waiting until the right time. Well, when he told us that he’s busy when cruise ships come in, we figured that today was a good day to visit since no ships were scheduled. He came and picked us up in the company van. Huge blessing because we didn’t have to secure a ride or pay for it. Brought us over there and gave us a wonderful tour. It consisted of walking around and seeing the different trees, fruits, flowers, other plants, and wildlife as well. The only true “wildlife” we saw were various species, but at the animal cages we also saw some guinea pigs, dogs, and rabbits. There were also various stops during the tour where we got to sample some of the food. At the “produce hut” we got to sample a few different things that grow here: Grapefruit, Starfruit (also called 5-finger fruit), sugar cane, & bananas. While sampling the homegrown goodies, he also talked a lot about uses and growing seasons, etc…. Later on we stopped at another hut where some employees talked about some of the creole foods they bake and what they’re made with. Of course, some sampling was needed, and lemme tell you, it was GOOD!

To finish off our tour, we passed by a miniature grotto he created with a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace. We prayed together and then he brought us back home. I think though, that the truly amazing part of the tour was Arthur himself. Yes, the natural beauty was nice. The fruit was nice. The food was nice. Getting out of the city and relaxing and unwinding was great. But, Arthur’s witness to the Catholic faith and having a relationship with Jesus were the absolute highlight. Everything he talked about including stories of his blessed childhood and family life, as well as the trials he faced when trying to make a living in the years prior to opening a nature preserve on his family’s land, it all exuded his spirituality. This man’s connection to God was evident. He’s worked really hard at being a witness to Christian family life. He’s worked equally as hard at getting involved in ministries and bringing other closer to Jesus through the Catholic faith. He and his family make it a top priority to share the profits of the family business with many worth causes. Speakin’ of, it was very humbling too when he mentioned that he is going to make a donation to our missionary work. Also mentioned that he will bring us fruit and other local produce when it’s in season. Even invited us to have dinner with his family sometime. He’s also a very hard worker. All in all, he’s a great witness and sets a great example for the rest of us. Till next time, peace and God’s blessings!

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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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