Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jerry's Post

I can't believe I am on the flight back to the United States. This trip has helped me not only understand myself but also people I serve. This trip has taught me that just saying yes impacts more people than I could ever imagine. My life has been full of moments where yes was important for me but I could have never imagined that saying yes to serve Gods people on Guatemala would be so impactful. The example of Fathers  Greg and  Michael helps me to know how to serve Gods people. God willing when I am ordained a priest I hope I can have the same sense for the poor in need and in spirit. 

Looking back on the past week I can say without a doubt I could not have done anything without the other nine members of our group. This group is amazing I truly believe that this group can change the world. I hope that some of us can return to San Lucas and help the people as professionals. 

The day that had the most impact on me and my vocation was Ash Wednesday. The pastor of the parish of St. Luke asked Father  Michael to go to a smaller parish St. Andrews and have the Ash Wednesday mass. I  felt it would be a good idea to tag along . I never thought that I would distribute ashes and Holy Communion  to the Guatemalan people. This trip was truly amazing. The fun did not end there because Father Michael had the late mass at St. Luke's . I had the same opportunity however, this was a like different because there was more people attending this mass. As an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion  I went from the front of the church all the way  back to the front stairs of the church building. Looking out there was so many people wanting to receive Christ. I was the one person that could give them just that. I was truly humbling to think that no matter what these people were going through I could give them Christ to help them through that burden. This action of giving Christ to others sets my heart on fire to continue to serve God's people.  

The other members  in the group have different ways of giving Christ to these people. Patrice and Heather have a motherly love for the children we encountered. Char,Raven, and Rachel have a sense that as medical professionals they could help in the clinic. Beth has a passion for education that I know will be put to good use whether in the US or in a foreign country. Becky has a passion for not only educating students about history, but also educating students about other cultures so that we can truly be global citizens. Katelyn  has a passion for Spanish culture that will serve her well in the future. Her knowledge of the Spanish language will continue to grow and I know she will help others in Chile or wherever the Lord is calling her to serve the people as a physicians assistant. Last but certainly not least Father Michael has a deep love for all of God's people. His priestly service not only helped Fr. Benjamin at the parish but it showed the seminarian at the parish and myself what it truly means to be a priest of Christ. His willingness to hear confessions,preach and say mass was truly inspiring. I hope Fr. Michael continue to go to the mission to share his priestly love with he Guatemalan people.

 My prayer is that this group will always keep this fire in their hearts. I pray that they share this fire with others wherever they go in life so that others may be set on fire with the love of Christ. God bless!





Sent from my iPod

Friday, March 7, 2014

Be Love

As I reflect on the week the one word that is ever present is love. Love for a simpler way of life. Love for tradition. Love for strangers. Love for family. Love for service. Love for asking the tough questions. Love for Christ. 

I was blessed to experience Christ this week in more ways than one, and since Christ is Love my heart couldn't be filled with more joy. When we visited Fr. Rother's parish in Santiago I was able to stop in the perpetual adoration chapel for a prayer of thanksgiving. The feeling that often comes over me when in adoration at home was present in Guatemala, which was a beautiful revelation that Christ's presence is a constant unchanging force. The people of Guatemala beautifully portray what it means to be His disciple. Their prayer is genuine and humble and was an inspiration to witness. Some whispered their prayers out loud while others cried openly in His presence. One gesture that moved me was when they leave adoration their back is never turned towards the Eucharist; their eyes are always on Him. Another reminder of reverence for God is the pathway that was created from the tabernacle to the alter where the monstrance was placed. The pathway was made out of pine needles which I believe is also symbolic of palms on Jesus' path when He entered Jerusalem. 

I could go on forever about how and where I felt God's presence, but I will contain myself. As I type a final blog on the last stretch of our journey I look around and I am still surrounded by Love. I am blessed to be a part of this beautiful group of people who came together with a common goal. As we learned together we all, in a very unique way, fell in Love this week. Some with a culture, some with a joy for service, some with a passion for justice, and some with a zest to spread awareness. As we all begin to head our separate ways (even now some are sleeping, some are studying, some are grading papers, and some are reconnecting with loved ones) the Love we found in San Lucas Guatemala will never leave our hearts. It will be forever embedded in our memory as a truly life changing week. Thank you for sharing in this experience with us and for your continued support, and prayers as we all strive to live out what we learned; Love. 

- Patrice 

Passion and Service

“Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” – Frederick Buechner 

This week we have been responding to a call to serve, a call to engage the world. Each of us has come to Guatemala with different strengths and passions, but we have come together in confronting the experiences and challenges we have faced over the past week. 

On Tuesday night, we watched a documentary about Father Greg Schaffer, the man who gave life to San Lucas Toliman through his spirit, compassion, and loving work. Prior to leaving Minnesota, he was happily serving as a religion teacher and priest, ready to live out his life in this role. However, he was called to do more. In 1962, Father Greg accepted a position in a mission church in San Lucas. Over the course of fifty years, Father Greg gave his life to the San Lucas Mission. Alongside the Guatemalan people and other North American missionaries, he helped transform San Lucas from a town without electricity, running water, adequate homes, healthcare, and education into a dignified community. When Father Greg died on May 24, 2012, he left behind a legacy that brought San Lucas and surrounding communities dignified work, homes, healthcare, education, hope for a better future, and much more.

Seeing how much one humble and loving man impacted a community, and an entire country, was absolutely heartrending. Father Greg’s story helped me to remember that we all have the power to change the world. Father Greg never imagined the impact he would have on San Lucas, or the impact the Guatemalan people would have on him. He simply came to San Lucas and responded to what the Guatemalan people needed. In the process, the Guatemalan people won his heart, and he in turn gave all of himself to the people. We are all called to serve others, and accepting that call, that vocation, is critical. Serving others can take many forms, and no single form of service is the “right” way. However, any time you can share joy and love with others, you are sharing a part of yourself. 

It has been an absolute pleasure to accompany this incredible group of students along with Father Kesicki. It has filled my heart with joy to serve in and be transformed by Guatemala again, and to watch as a fresh group of students has confronted the difficulties of service, social justice, and solidarity. I have seen everyone share pieces of themselves as they have opened their hearts and minds to the San Lucas Mission and to the Guatemalan people. This week has certainly transformed our entire group in the bonds we have made with each other and with the Guatemalan people, in the memories we have shared, and in the commitment we feel to continuing to remember and to serve San Lucas and Guatemala as we return to our “normal” lives, changed forever.


4500 Foot Mountain vs Gannon Group

Gannon: 1
Moutnain: 0

As a group we hiked (scaled) a 4500 foot mountain!! It took a lot of cheering and support but we all did it!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Guatemala in Warp Speed

It has finally hit me that we are at the end of Thursday - our 6th, and one of our last, day in Guatemala. In this amount of time I have managed to see 3 cities, ride a boat, learn about the culture, build a stove, quality check coffee, tour, play in dirt, learn how to have fun again, reforest, throw some cement water at others, shop with Chona, take a live in class, climb up a mountain, and name a spider Marco. Yes, to all of you at home, I know you can't believe the last one...but what I can't believe is that we did it! We came thousands of miles to service others, but I personally know that they have serviced me. 

As I said it before, every one of the people I have met has managed to be influential in suc a short period of time. However, I want to tell you all a little bit more about Chona - as I am personally inspired by her perserverence. Chona was extremely young when the civil war broke out. In such a short amount of time she managed to lose her husband and has yet to know what happened to him; although it is assumed he was killed. She was left alone to raise 3 children and had to move on a nightly basis. I can honestly say that I do not know how I would react had it been myself in her shoes. But she chose to react with bravery. She chose to pick up 11 children from a neighboring village knowing the police would stop her. She chose to help raise notice for the mission alongside Father Greg. And she chose to adopt another child knowing she had 3 of her own. She chose to live a life under God. But not only this, she chose to tell us her story. It is because of her story that I realize we do not have to crumble in times of difficulty. Our choices make us everything that we are; for the better or for the worse. If we can consciously remember how much our personal choices matter, we may be able to see the way in which we can impact others. 

So, thank you, Chona. Thank you for being here to make sure we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Thank you for being so open and for trying to touch every heart that you meet. I truly appreciate and am humbled by you. I will wear my skirt with pride and think of you.

Like so many of the people I have met throughout this week, the people I have bonded with in my group...I will miss you Guatemala!


"We live in a beautiful world" -Coldplay

Most everyone who knows me is aware of the profound impact that living in Chile last summer has had on my life. I fell in love with the culture, the language, and the people. This passion, curiosity, and admiration that I have for Chilean culture is what inspired me to apply to co-lead this service trip to Guatemala. Although I researched Guatemalan culture before I arrived, I truly did not know the culture until I was able to experience it. Subconsciously, I think I was expecting it to be similar to Chilean culture because when I think about Latin America, I cannot help but recall my experience in Chile. But in truth, I could not have been more mistaken. I quickly learned that even though both are Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, the cultures and people are extremely different. Neither is superior to the other; both are profoundly beautiful and complex in their own ways, and I believe the same idea applies to all cultures.

The most obvious difference between life in Valparaiso, Chile and San Lucas, Guatemala is the modernization versus the extreme poverty. When I was in Chile, it almost felt like the United States at times because of the technology (metro, computers, smart phones, etc). It was definitely a simpler lifestyle than in the U.S. but there was still access to those luxuries. In Guatemala, many of the people live in extreme poverty. Our group had the pleasure of building a stove in a family's home, and it was literally an open shelter with a dirt floor. I have seen poverty in Chile, but I have never been immersed in such extreme poverty like we experienced this week. It was honestly shocking to witness this reality firsthand. Truly, it is almost impossible to understand unless you experience it. 

The Guatemalans are the strongest and most humble population of people I have ever known, in both mind and body. The women wake up at 4 AM every day to start making tortillas and to prepare other food. They do laundry for hours, balance and walk with very heavy buckets of water on their heads, weave clothing, and take care of the children while the men carry 150 lbs of wood on their backs and work for hours and hours every day for very little ($3/day). In the U.S., people complain about having to get up at 7 AM for work or school and making minimum wage. Truly, we are blessed.

Even though Guatemalans have experienced such hardship through the Guatemalan Civil War, oppression, witnessing the disappearance and murder of loved ones, and living in poverty every day, they are very much content with their lifestyle and are intimately connected with each other through their incredible faith in God. It is very evident that it is this faith and community with one another that gives them such an unshakable inner peace. It was such a blessing to be able to share in their lifestyle, learn about their culture and, in particular, to be able to use my Spanish to communicate with them. I feel that I was able to gain a better understanding of the culture and the people because I put so much dedication and persistence into my Spanish skills. Most of the Guatemalans I talked to were really impressed/touched that I have such a fervor and inclination for their language. It makes me really excited to keep learning and improving it for the future so that I may continue to connect with Hispanohablantes.

I have had so many meaningful and moving interactions with the Guatemalan people but I would like to share one in particular. We were at Ash Wednesday mass at 7 PM after a hard day of service, and I was sitting next to a woman and her ten year old daughter. They both smiled very warmly at me, and I initiated a conversation with them during the few minutes before mass started. Their words and mannerisms permeated with a gentle curiosity and tenderness. The little girl sat very close to me as if I were a family member she had known all her life. I was amazed by how quickly and easily she decided she could trust me. When mass ended, the little girl gave me a long hug, referred to me as "amiga," and sadly expressed that she was going to miss me. For me, this moment was really powerful because I could really feel God's presence, and it demonstrated the intimate connectedness that all humans are meant to share regardless of differences in culture, language, lifestyle, or beliefs.

This week in Guatemala was more beautiful and more fruitful than I ever expected or imagined. When I was in Chile, I discovered that my vocation is to work with Hispanic populations as a medical healthcare provider in the U.S. and/or abroad. The service I have done and the interactions I have had with the people here have reaffirmed my love for people, cultures, service, and the Spanish language, and I truly believe that I am headed in the right direction. Although I feel a sense of sadness upon leaving Guatemala, I feel empowered to finish school, graduate, and use my passions and gifts to make the world just a little bit better. As Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, one said, "We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with great love." Now those are words to live by. Gracias por todo, Guatemala. Hasta la proxima vez. 

Paz y amor, 

“Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13)

“Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13)


These words from the prophet Joel of the Old Testament are part of the first reading from the Mass for Ash Wednesday.  The words of the prophet introduce us all to the Lenten journey of conversion by challenging us to accept the invitation to a real conversion of the heart.  We can only be changed from within, when our attitude shifts from self-focus to focus on God and our neighbor.  Our group participated in the parish Mass yesterday evening in a packed church.  Some of the young women of our group had gone to the store sponsored by the women’s cooperative of the San Lucas Mission to buy traditional Guatemalan clothing and were excited to wear them that night for Mass.  This excitement did not come from a need to stand out with style, but, rather, from a sense of being a part of the local family who has welcomed us with such joy and hospitality.  This simple action on the part of our students is a concrete expression of the Lenten conversion that has been taking place in all of us this week.  As we reflect each night on our experiences, it is so beautiful to see the true transformation of hearts that has been taking place over the last 5 days. Our eyes, our ears and, most of all, our hearts have been opened to a genuine experience of Solidarity—we have been treated by our Guatemalan hosts as brothers and sisters, as neighbors and friends.


Our group will be working on the re-forestation project this morning and, later in the day, will have the experience of buying food in the market for a local family.  Yesterday and the day before, we assisted in the construction of stoves.  The builders were very patient and encouraging, giving us a share in the tasks such as laying bricks, mixing cement and laying cement. 


I have been “put to work” as well by the local pastor celebrating Mass in the parish church and in one of the mission churches.  Our seminarian, Jerry Stumpff, came with me to the mission church of San Andres yesterday afternoon to assist with Mass.  I am sure he will have several stories to tell of the very rich experience of faith that we encountered there.


Patrice and Katelyn continue to show their capacity to lead as they have done all year in preparing for this trip.  Raven, Beth and Rachel have proven themselves quite adept at laying cement with competence and precision.  Char and Heather have been giving us their wisdom every evening with great insights laced with terrific humor.  Becky, my faculty colleague, has been the anchor of the group and is glad to be back in San Lucas after 5 years.


Still more work to do today.  Lent has now begun.  Pong├ámonos en camino!

Fr. Michael Kesicki