Monday, July 21, 2008

Good Shepherd Youth Group

Youth from Good Shepherd Parish in Alexandria came for a week to do various work projects in Pedro Santana under Fr. Murphy's direction.  Among their painting projects was a very well-done artistic one.  The Youth Center (run by the Kirby family) now features both the emblems of the Vatican and the Dominican Republic.  Special thanks go to Kat Dunford, Katie Norberg, Oscar Saravia, Michelle Vasquez, and Esteban de Los Santos Alcantara for their fine work.  

Photos above are a group shot with Fr. Murphy and various shots of the emblems.  

May God bless the youth of Good Shepherd, their chaperones, and especially their leader for the week, Leo (a seminarian in formation with the Companions of the Cross).

Last Mass; Mission Accomplished; Heading Home

After celebrating approximately 3,000 Holy Masses, administering 1000 Baptisms, and clocking 60,000 kilometers on his motorcycle in service to the people of Banica, Pedro Santana, and over 40 mission communities over the past five years, Fr. Gee celebrated his last daily 7am Mass and headed home.   (See to appreciate all the incredible work that Father Gee has done over the past five years.)

Photos above show him making his daily holy hour before Mass (as he has done faithfully throughout his time here), his last Mass, and departing for the airport.   

Mission accomplished, Father Gee.  Ad multos annos!  

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Farewell to Maria Egger

The youth of St. Francis parish in Banica (and the 18 mission communities) have been blessed the past two years to have had the very generous service of Maire Egger.  After graduating from college "Maria" (as she is known here) has served in various positions in service in both Banica and Pedro Santana.  

As a catechist she has done tremendous work in forming the next generation of Catholics.  I have seen her in action during her last month here and she is indeed a very talented catechist.  As a talented musician she also has been giving violin lessons with the result that 4 young ladies in Banica now play the violin rather well.  These young ladies will maintain their repertoire by playing at daily Mass now at least once a week.    

The farewell fiesta for Fr. Gee this past weekend was also a farewell fiesta for her, as she leaves this week with a heavy heart.  She commented to me today, "I wish I could stay here another year."  

Photos show her bidding farewell after Mass in Banica last weekend to some of the youth, leading her violin students during the farewell Misa, and then a goodbye visit to some of the children in the pueblo of Pilon.  

Que Dios te pague, Maria, for all that you have done these past two years bringing children the love and knowledge of God.  

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Grateful Community, a Great Priest

This weekend was 5 years in the making.  In God's Providence the people of Banica and the surrounding pueblos were blessed to have Fr. Daniel N. Gee as their shepherd since May 2003.  With untiring dedication to the spiritual welfare of his flock Fr. Gee made a lifelong impact on the people of St. Francisco de Asis Parish and its many mission chapels.  

Approximately 500 people attended his farewell Mass and reception.  There were tears on many faces.  

Photos show preparations for the party, standing room only Mass, the party, and most especially shots of the newly named "Fr. Gee Basketball Court" - a fitting permanent reminder of how much he has done for the youth here.  

Our Lady of Hope Youth Group

Fr. Belli and Ed Rogers (parish youth director) brought down a great group of teens and chaperones to work on several chapels this past week. One of the teens said to me today, "I have never been happier."

How true it is that the youth receive as much or even more than they give during their experience here. A week or more spent in a simple, materially poor place offers much opportunity to experience the wealth of God's grace and the pure pleasure of one another's company.

Photos above show the teens at work and then after the last of several holy hours prayed this week. (Fr. Belli is a great priest and he made sure to reserve extended time for prayer and Eucharistic adoration for the group during the week.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Historic Technological Moment!

For the first time in the history of Banica (founded 1504) there is a fully operational cell-phone tower in its midst. The tower is visible from the 2nd floor of the rectory (see photo). Various opinions have been offered about the impact that this will have on the lifestyle here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Baptisms

Baptism is both the fruit and seed of missionary work and today was my first chance to administer the sacrament. It was about an hour-long trek by motorcycle up through the hills to get to the pueblo of Manyaya - and there awaiting the Sacrament were Antonio, Gabriel, Milsin, Sonia, Marta, Annet, and Yahaira. The chapel in Manyaya is named for St. Anthony. I myself was baptized in the Church of St. Anthony (Ozone Park in New York City) and so today reminded me to be grateful for the Sacrament of Baptism in my own life.