Posts Tagged With: Mission of the Redeemer

Missionary Adventures and New Relationships

Desert Day – 2/10/12 – alongside a little stream (“arrollo”) just outside of La Puerta, an ejido (“rancho”) of General Cepeda,Coahuila,Mexico– 2:27 p.m.

 

When I was looking for a place to sit, I knew it would be a challenge since we have so many kids with our group. I told myself I had to find a place where the silence was deafening & where I couldn’t hear any other voices. I found that place. The sun in shining. The sky is clear and blue. A little bush behind me gives me shade to sit in. The stream wanders by lazy and carefree. A gentle breeze keeps me cool. God’s presence is so strong all around me, out here in the beauty of his creation. I can’t imagine being an atheist and not having anyone to thank for this.

Just looked back at my last entry, and it’s been since November 19th that I’ve written in my journal (when we were here for Intake). God has done so much for me in the past 3 months & it’s time to reflect on that. December was a fairly slow month. After the Donor’s Dinner I went back to my parents’ house for the rest of the month. Took that opportunity to visit with friends and family. About mid-December Fr. Bill Melancon, a personal friend of mine, who’s pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Erath, gave me the blessing of speaking at all 5 of the weekend Masses. It was fun getting to hang out and catch up with Fr. Bill. Got to spread the word about lay missions. Many of the parishioners were generous and either gave me donations or signed up on my address sheet. I was also able to speak at the LifeTeen meeting after the last Mass on Sunday night. It felt good to reconnect with youth ministry. Later on I was blessed to celebrate Christmas with my family and even got to visit with my nieces who live in the Houston area.

January was the month where A LOT happened. 🙂 And by that, I mean that it was filled with lots of good stuff. New Year’s Day I flew out to South Carolina to visit my cousin Jonathan for a week. Before our visit in September 2010, we hadn’t seen each other in 9 years. We vowed to never wait that long again and are trying to do yearly visits (or in this case, a year and a half). We are two peas in a pod and partners in crime. 🙂 Getting to spend time with him, his wife & son & her family was truly a blessing. I really, really enjoyed my visit and hope we can do it again soon. I was even blessed to be able to visit with his mom, my Aunt Anna, whom I hadn’t seen since my grandpa passed away. Missed her a lot so it was really good to see her too. From South Carolina, I flew to St. Lucia to help lead a one week mission trip. Me and James Franke (FMC’s short term missions coordinator) led a group of 16 students and 1 priest from the Newman Club @ Adelphi University near NYC. They’ve done mission trips with us in the past, and one of their students even spent a month with us last year in St. Lucia for the Summer School of Missionary Evangelism. Getting to lead a short-term mission trip for the first time ever was awesome. It really brings a whole new perspective to mission work. Getting to reconnect with some of the friends we made in St. Lucia last year was another huge bonus. And of course, feeding off of the energy of these students really gave me a boost & helped me to renew my missionary spirit.

 

Oh yeah, what happened after the St. Lucia trip was quite interesting! 🙂 I flew up to Kalamazoo,MI so that I could go to BentonHarbor, MI. Why, might you ask? Well, a few months prior to that I met a girl named  Nina Koziuk on CatholicMatch.com. It’s a Catholic relationship/courtship website where you can set up a profile with a picture, bio, and other info so that you can network with other Catholic singles who feel called to marriage. I had seen their ad online and in church bulletins. I’d even heard from people I know who told me about successful relationships/marriages that came about because of this website. So, being 30, ready for a relationship, with nothing to lose and ALOT to gain, I signed up for the website. Met Nina one night in a group chat room and we really hit it off quite well. We share alot of the same ideas and opinions. We are both involved with ministry, and most importantly we share a passion for our Catholic faith. It’s the most important thing in our lives. After we’d been talking for awhile and realized how well it was going & how much we enjoyed it, we both acknowledged a desire to meet each other. It was the next logical step. As good as it was up to that point, we knew that it had potential and that we needed to meet in person to see if it was real. Yeah, I was nervous, especially when I stepped off the plane in Kalamazoo and realized that in mere minutes I’d be meeting her face-to-face for the first time ever. “No turning back now” and “oh crap” were the two main thoughts running through my head. :-p

 

I was also worried if meeting her face-to-face would live up to my hopes and expectations. Of course if it didn’t, then better to find out sooner rather than later, after having invested more time and putting my heart out there even more. But PRAISE THE LORD! It lived up to and far exceeded my expectations!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 She is as beautiful in person as she was in her pictures and on Skype video chat. We clicked right away and really got along well. Visiting with her parents  was alot of fun and truly a blessing (stayed at their house while Nina stayed at her place). Visiting her other family members and friends , going to the church parish where she works, and ESPECIALLY getting to attend Mass & Eucharistic Adoration together was absolutely amazing. I knew going into this visit that I might come out of it with a girlfriend. All I needed was her dad’s permission and of course for her to say yes! Haha. 🙂  Well both happened and so now I’m proud to say that I’m blessed to be in a relationship with the beautiful, the one and only Nina Koziuk! I know from talking to other missionaries who’ve been in long-term relationships before ending up married that the distance apart is not easy but it is a blessing. I’ve learned that time apart is as important as time together, so I’m really looking forward to what these next few months bring our way.

I guess the last thing to talk about is my new mission post! Exactly one week ago me, Luis (my mission partner), Mr. Frank, Mrs. Genie, and Simon Peter (their son) left for the FMC Casa de Misiones in General Cepeda. Our purpose in coming here was two-fold. First of all, we came to put on a 3 week Intake for the four Mexican missionary families that we have living here in General Cepeda. Three of them have been connected with FMC for many years (Raul & Marta, Tono & Mari, and Gallo & Rita). One of them (Juan & Linda) got connected with us this past year. Our thought was that even though they were already our missionary families we wanted to give them the same blessing that all of our other missionaries (including myself) received from Intake. We wanted them to have talks, studies, and discussions about the Si Senor teachings on the practical aspects of living a missionary life. We wanted them to study the Book of Acts & John Paul II’s encyclical “Missionof the Redeemer”, which is all about the Church and missionary work. Besides them getting to do all of that, we also wanted the four families to form community with each other. I’m blessed to be able to say that it’s already happening. That’s a good thing because we want evangelization and missionary work to continue to thrive here even when there are no full-time FMC missionaries from American stationed here. I personally think that this mission house and these missionaries also have the capability of becoming a training and staging facility for Mexican missionaries to be sent out all over Mexico and Latin America. This Intake is a vital first step in that direction.

Our other purpose in coming here was to install myself and Luis as full-time missionaries. For however long God has us here, this is our house. My four previous trips here have all been short-term trips. This time around is a whole different feel. It’s our home now. These four families are no longer just nice people to visit with during our trips here. Now they are our co-workers in the vineyard. The people we visit and evangelize have a deeper connection with us now that we live here. I think too that me and Luis will have even more time to bond and get settled in here once Intake is over. Once it’s just the two of us living here, we’ll have more of a chance to do things together and bond as a mission team. Needless to say, but I think our first week here has gone really well and the rest of our time will continue to go well for us. There’s so much more I could say, but my hand is getting tired and I don’t have enough pages in my journal. 🙂

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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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