Friday, March 27, 2009

Sorry - long time, no blog

For several months we have been without regular access to internet (needing to depend on local government-run internet centers which have poor internet service).

Lack of internet access combined with lots of work has resulted in no blogging.

A new internet system is expected to be installed in the parish by Easter. Then the blogging can resume and will include updates on the following:

- 2-day parish pilgrimage to Higüey
- very successful catechist workshops that trained over 30 catechists from every community in the parish - Samantha Kepler did a tremendous job running the workshops!
- piano classes for junior high and high school students (given by Samantha and myself)
- visit by a group of friends of mine from Queen of Apostles Parish (Alexandria) and Our Lady of Angels Parish (Woodbridge)
- visit by Marymount University students to do service project in Fr. Murphy's parish
- visit by George Mason University students (including my mom as one of the group leaders) to do service project in various communities of the parish
- profile of the two tremendous American volunteers serving here (Tom Brock, the director of the Parish Center, and Samantha Kepler, who serves the parish in various capacities including as a catechist, catechist formator, and director of the choir)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Article in the Arlington Catholic Herald

Please see this article on our parish school - and please give money if you can!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Priesthood Vocations Retreat

Seven young men from the parish recently participated in a weekend discernment retreat for young men considering the priesthood.  Over 50 young men from the Diocese of San Juan de La Maguana participated.  

I didn't pressure any of these young men to participate - I just made the announcement at the weekend Masses and they each told me that they are sincerely considering becoming priests.  

Two weeks after the retreat I hosted a dinner for them at the rectory so that we could talk about their experience.  These are some of the "cool" kids in Bánica and so it was inspiring to hear them speak sincerely of their interest in the priesthood.  Most of them spoke of the aspiration to be a man who preaches and who helps others.  (Priests in this region dedicate themselves not only to sacramental ministry but also do a lot of community organizing and working with public works projects.)  

Please pray for them: their names are Hanibal, Lewis, Joel, Sterling, Nito, Nuno, and Mello.  (Two more wanted to participate but were unable: Martire and Macho.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vocation Field Trip for the Señoritas

Last week 63 teenage girls from Bánica and several neighboring campos piled in to the parish bus and Land Rover for a vocations field trip.  Samantha and I had the pleasure of introducing them to the consecrated religious life!

 First we visited the Missionaries of Charity who run an orphanage in the nearby town of Las Matas (no photos taken at the request of the Sisters).  Then we visited the Cathedral (most had never seen it before) where we prayed and Samantha gave the girls a brief reflection on discernment.  The day concluded with a visit to the cloistered Franciscan Sisters in San Juan.  

It was an unforgettable experience for the girls and I am sure that the Holy Spirit assisted at least a few to begin to hear their call to the consecrated life.

Photos show Samantha giving a talk to the girls in the Cathedral in San Juan, listening to a talk by the Mother Superior of the cloistered Franciscan Sisters, and then a shot of the whole group in front of the monastery.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Award-Winning Parish School: Colegio Parroquial San Francisco Javier

The youth are the hope of tomorrow and so their formation today is central in the mission of the Church.  The parish school here in Bánica, now in its 5th year of operation, is contributing marvelously to this mission.  

The "Colegio" currently enrolls 175 students from pre-K through 8th grade.  The teachers are dedicated and hard-working and the fruits of their labor are seen in the students' national test-scores which rank better than any other school in the District.  

The school day here in the Dominican Republic is half of what it is in the US; older students attend during the first half of the day and younger students attend in the afternoon.  Photos of the two groups are shown here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Robust Youth Apostolate!

Unlike American youth whose lives are often inundated with stress, media, and over-activity, the youth of Banica are in a much different situation. Their lifestyle is very easygoing (perhaps too much so), and they lack sufficient activities. The good news is that this makes them very much available for participating in religious activities.

Here are photos of three youth groups that meet weekly. Approximately 60 high school students participate in the youth group here in the town of Banica; 30 in the nearby pueblo of Sabana Cruz (mostly girls), and 25 in the nearby pueblo of Higüerito (mostly boys).

Please pray for them, and especially for those among them whom God is calling to the priesthood and religious life. Certainly there are a good number of such vocations among these 100+ young men and ladies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi: The Annual Pilgrimage of thousands to Banica

The town of Banica was established in 1507, and sometime between then and now the pious belief became established that St. Francis of Assisi appeared in a nearby cave. For many years now thousands of pilgrims have made pilgrimage from across the nation to visit the cave (which is no easy ascent) and celebrate the Feast of St. Francis (October 4).

The annual event includes several processions and features two Dominican musical traditions: “Salves” (African style chants sung antiphonally in Spanish) and the playing of the “palos” (long thin drums similar to congas).

Photos below show the two processions (the first on September 24 to begin a Novena of preparation; the second on the feast day of St. Francis).