Friday, January 18, 2008


This week I am preparing for my first visit back to the US after seven months here. I feel very much at home here and am looking forward to a good year, with lots of possibilities. But I am also looking forward to going back to St. Thomas as well as to visit friends in the Twin Cities and family in the Philadelphia area.

Today it got up to 81 degrees here; I checked the weather in Ames and it’s well below freezing and probably won’t get above freezing next week. BRRR! After a cold and rainy few days at the beginning of this month, it’s been incredible weather here – cool at night and generally sunny and warm during the day. But the dry season has begun and it’s already extremely dusty everywhere, particularly on the dirt roads around Dulce Nombre.

This past Wednesday I went to Dulce Nombre and Fr. Efraín and I talked about projects of the coming year. he has a great desire to combine spiritual formation and social development in a very poor parish.

A first priority in the parish will be religious education of children. This weekend there’s a training for new catechists and next week there’s a training for returning catechists. He figures that there are about 225 catechists in the parish and more than 3000 children in the first four grades. There will be several more study days for the catechists throughout the year. There is a team that will plan and lead these training sessions and I will help as much as I can.

He also wants to develop a pilot project on the construction of silos to store basics grains, primarily corn. He has a friend who can teach people how to make silos. We talked about the scope of the project. I think he’d really like to train folks in all the 45 communities of the parish but the costs of this would be prohibitive. However, we talked about a pilot project in five communities.

Padre Efraín has experience in projects like this in his previous parish where they set up a revolving fund so that as people paid off their loans money was made available for projects for other people. That is what he hopes to do with the silo project.

Campus ministry at the Catholic University campus is going slowly. I will miss the first four weeks of classes as well as some of the retreats for new students. I regret this, but there will be more retreats, meetings with faculty, and many more opportunities when I return in February. There is no lack of work to be done and the director of the campus, Dr. Francisco Castro, is very supportive of campus ministry and is looking for ways to strengthen the program and really wants my assistance as the program develops.

Though I’d love to do more in this, I guess that patience and persistence are what I most need at this point. This is a great contrast to the developed program in campus ministry at St. Thomas.

As I go back to Ames, I wonder how I am going to react to all the contrasts – not only the weather, but also the ease of life I had there. It isn’t that life is hard for me here; in fact, I feel as if I am not doing all that much. But for most people here things are hard and everything takes a long time.

When I mention to people that I will be gone for a few weeks back to the US, someone almost invariably asks, “Will you take me with you?” Sometimes this is said in jest, sometimes they are very serious. I wonder what makes people so willing to leave family, friends, and home; something is very wrong here. And so I am glad when I can find ways to help make things even a little better for folks – often just by being present with them and helping them see their own dignity and worth.

But still the question resounds, “”Will you take me back with you?” But, as one person mentioned to me, I will in some very real sense take them back with me in my heart. And I hope that I will be able to share their joys and hopes, their pains and sorrows with the people I’ll meet back in the USA.

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