Saturday, June 23, 2018

BACK DOWN IN THE ISLANDS - Part Two

THE ACTION STARTED AS SOON AS I LANDED
Trip # 10 Will Be a Very Busy One


Pam (the Pastoral Centre housekeeper) and Collitta (the cook) treat me like a king when I am visiting. They wash and iron my clothes and cook my meals - something I do for myself at home. They are standing in the new kitchen we were able to remodel about a year ago. 


I had a meeting on Thursday with Sandra Davis (center) and Clyde Fitzpatrick (right) and Fergal Redmond (taking the photo) to make preliminary plans for my visit with the Minister of Health to plan the second shipping container of surplus medical supplies from  Supplies Over Seas in Louisville, Kentucky. 
The need for these supplies is critical, especially in the outlying clinics and the city hospital. 


A SURPRISE VISIT TO SISTER CARMEN'S 
Second Grade Class 
Saint Mary's School



I took them some packets of cookies and a new tooth brush. I recently sent them down some school supplies. 



Sister Carmen has 25 kids in her classroom, which is very small and divided from the next classroom
by a small screen. All the classrooms are packed with kids and crowded next to the next classrooms. The classrooms were also very, very hot. They have no playground because it is in the heart of the city of Kingstown. 
I was told, even in these conditions, the testing success rate is about 98%. 
I am told they make do on tuition that amounts to @$50.00 US dollars per semester per child for those who can afford it! 



LOCAL POLICE HELPING OUT



The local police help deliver a hospital bed for Msgr. George (age 89) who is recovering from a stroke at the Pastoral Centre.



Thursday evening Mass crowd at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Kingstown, SVG



At the grocery, we parked next to the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) van. Many countries have an embassy here. 



Neal, the maintenance man, at the Pastoral Centre looks like a Martian in his safety shield. 



A stunning view of the sea from inside the newly built Saint James Chapel inside the Pastoral Centre. 



You can also go out on a "prayer balcony" from inside the chapel for an even better look at the sea.

The bishop is very happy with it. Below is a photo of the old chapel with no windows and which held about 6 people maximally.  It was basically a walk-in closet. 




MY NOON MASS AT THE CATHEDRAL EXPERIENCE

I celebrated noon Mass today at the Cathedral. It was quite an experience indeed! I was sweating from the heat under my three layers of clothes. Outside the open windows (no air-conditioning), crowded in the court yard, were many, many of the 600 Catholic school children in recess - yes, 600! 

Along with that, there was a street person in the back of the church acting up and yelling something all during Mass. I was practically screaming all during Mass to the 15-20 people who had come for Mass! Last night's Mass, even though there were several kids in the courtyard, kicking a ball and screaming, was a piece of cake! Remember, they do not have a playground! 



This photo was taken from the church window right before the huge number of kids flowed out of the classrooms above and below the stairs. 
The Cathedral, and Saint Mary's School adjoining it, were designed by an eccentric monk-architect from Belgium who lived here many, many years ago. It looks like a castle made out of rough volcanic stones with turrets and arches and towers and winding staircases. The whole complex is surely a nightmare maintenance wise! 


MEETING WITH THE 
PERMANENT SECRETARY
Ministry of Health

Mr. Cuthbert Knights
to discuss a second shipping container of surplus medical supplies from SOS in Louisville.




Clyde Fitzpatrick, Cuthbert Knights and myself.
Fergal Redmond, who also attended the meeting, took the photo.  

Mr. Knights was very happy with the contents of the first shipping container. He talked about all the good it has done and about the ongoing needs of this island country. The meeting went very well. We will have a final word from the government soon about the funding needed for shipping. We hope to have a second container on site by November. 



IT HAS BEEN A VERY SUCCESSFUL TWO DAYS SO FAR

THE BUSIEST TWO DAYS ARE COMING UP

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

BACK DOWN IN THE ISLANDS - Part One









TRAVEL DAY 
Louisville, through Miami and Barbados, to Saint Vincent

After a two hour delay taking off in Miami, I was sure I had missed my SVG flight to Saint Vincent. But, miracle of miracles and a foot race through the Barbados airport, I barely caught my plane which they held up for us, I got to Saint Vincent around 6:30. Twelve hours isn't too bad! It could have been a lot worse!


American Airlines - Louisville to Miami to Barbados


Maybe I'll get a break this time! 
Well, I didn't! It was yet another super stressful trip!


The SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES flag. 


SVG AIR makes quick stops at three islands (Bequia, Canuan and Union) before landing in Saint Vincent from Barbados. It takes time, but you get a close-up view of several SVG islands on the way. 



The new airport in Saint Vincent (AIA). The runway is longer than the one at the old airport, but it still appears that you only get one shot at landing and take off! 




Entrance to my newly renovated headquarters. 


A few gifts for the kids have already been sent down (11 boxes in all) - a case of macaroni and cheese boxes, five cases of Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix, several cases of KOOL POPS for the kids computer camp, a hundred or so used ball point pens, cheese and cracker packets, a huge bag of hotel soaps, shampoos and lotions, a coffee maker and coffee pods for me, a used computer, a few little toys, some kids clothes, school supplies and many things I have forgotten. 
A BIG THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE HELPED ME IN THIS EFFORT


It will be a busy time with Masses, a deacon retreat and a few meetings, but I hope to visit Sister Nyra Ann and the kids at the Saint Benedict Home for Children on Sunday and drop of some treats. I want to see how much little Princeton has grown.  He was the first baby down there that I met. He was napping in his playpen. 


I will also visit Sister Zita at the Bread of Life Home for Children on Sunday and drop off some treats for those kids as well. Little Daniel has probably grown a foot taller since I last saw him. 







STAY TUNED FOR MANY NEW PHOTOS OVER THE NEXT WEEK

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

ANOTHER BOOK COMING THIS SUMMER


BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE


This summer I hope to finish a new book about  how one can create an amazingly rich and satisfying life through the process of deliberately choosing to do hard things for one's own good rather than constantly seeking one's own comfort and safety. 

It will be an autobiography of sorts tracing many of the decisions I have made, unconsciously at first and later deliberately, that  have led me to some incredible experiences, to some amazing people and to some far-off places that I could never have imagined for myself initially. 

The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to
battle past his personal and local historical limitations. 
Joseph Campbell

By sharing my own stories, I hope to challenge the prevailing culture that continually seduces us to  avoid any kind of suffering and to always seek the easy way and the road most traveled as the path to happiness and self-fulfillment.  The point is that some suffering is necessary and constructive. To have a full and richly rewarding life, many times you have to actually induce your own labor pains. 

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt 



Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by,
 and that has made all the difference. 
Robert Frost

Sunday, June 17, 2018

REMAINING FAITHFUL IN DOUBTFUL TIMES


... we walk by faith, not by sight,
yet we are courageous.

II Corinthians 5:6-10

I love those two dried up old Old Testament nomads, Abraham and his wife Sarah! They prove to me, over and over again, just how odd God can be in the way he does things, compared to the way we do things! 

Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their roots to this ancient couple. Scriptures tell us that Abraham and Sarah “had one foot in the grave,” Abraham being 99 years old and Sarah 90! They had been childless all their lives, but at those advanced ages God informs them that they were about to have a baby, the first of many, many descendants, descendants as numerous as the stars! Upon hearing this bit of news, we are told that Abraham falls to the ground laughing and Sarah snickers in her tent. After they quit laughing, they believed, hoping against hope, that what God promised, God could do! To their complete surprise, Sarah did become pregnant and delivered a son, Isaac. Interesting enough, the name Isaac means “laughter.”

Because of their faith, even when everything appeared to be completely and utterly impossible, they have been celebrated in the Sacred Scriptures as exemplars and models of faith for all believers including us!

Faith doesn’t amount to a tinkers damn, if it holds up only when the path is well lit!  Faith starts when darkness descends!  Faith becomes real when it is tested! The harder the test, the stronger the faith. Faith sometimes appears to be the stupidest response in face of the facts. Abraham and Sara’s faith was so strong that they actually believe what God promised in spite of the fact that every card was stacked against that promise coming to reality!  And yet God, as always, came through regardless of the so-called “obstacles.”

One of the things I have heard over and over again during the damnable sex scandal that rocked our church is this, “We will come out of this better than ever!” That, my dear friends, is a statement of faith! The person who makes a statement like that reveals that he actually believes Jesus’ promise that he “would be with us always, even to the end of time,” that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.” The person who makes a statement like that  reveals that he actually believes in the process of dying and rising, not just in the resurrection as something that happened centuries ago. The person who makes a statement like that reveals that he has faith and not just a set of beliefs!

My fellow Catholics, these are tough times for all of us. Not only have victims been hurt and perpetrators had their lives ruined, we have all been victims of collateral damage! It has been a dark time for me and for you as well.  Like Jonah the prophet, “My heart has fainted within me.” Like Jeremiah the prophet, I was tempted to quit thinking about God, to quit speaking his name anymore.  I was so demoralized that some days I could barely function. It took so much energy just to go out in public and to stand here in front of you. I felt like something I loved had been clawed to shreds by cats. Every bone in my body wanted to give up. I am sure that some of you felt the same way? 

Why bother? Simply because God is faithful to us and so we must be faithful to him! Even when I hit a new bottom, feeling like I didn't have a shred of faith left, I knew that I could not give up! Like Abraham and Sarah, I knew that God had the power to turn even this situation around. My faith in God is the only thing that  kept me going. Even though I could not see the road ahead of me, I was convinced that Jesus, who has promised to be with us always, that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, is still with us. As St. Paul puts it, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” I’m still standing! I am still going! I’m here to stay and I hope you are too! Faith is about the "big picture" and the "long haul!" Faith isn’t real faith unless it can survive a serious testing now and then! 

Let me end with a quote from Mother Teresa, a wonderful example of what faith really is! “What you spend years building, someone could destroy it over night: build anyway! If you find serenity and happiness, people may be jealous: be happy anyway! What good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow: do good anyway! Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough: give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God: it has never been between you and them anyway!”

Pray for your priests...and know that we are praying for you as well! Remember Abraham and Sarah who kept believing even when everything seemed completely and utterly impossible.

Speaking of so-called "impossible situations," please say a special prayer for me this week and next. I am leaving Wednesday for my 10th volunteer trip down to the island missions. At my age, it takes a lot out of me - especially the stress of traveling, the heat, the poverty and the almost hourly inconveniences! I will be giving a deacon retreat, filling in for a priest who had a stroke, visiting the two orphanages I help, meeting with the country's Minister of Health and finalizing plans for a computer camp for kids we are sponsoring in July. 

Why do I do it? I believe the words of Jesus that "to those whom much has been given, much is expected!"  I can't fix the world, but in my retirement I want to spend my last years "giving back" because I feel I have been so blessed, especially in my years as a priest!  It's the least I can do and I am more than willing to do it as long as I am able! For me, it beats playing golf! 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

START PRAYING NOW FOR ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL MISSION TRIP!



 I'M LEAVING WEDNESDAY ON MISSION TRIP 
#10
June 20 - June 28


It's Going to Be a Very Busy Visit 

- get there through four airports
- lead a Permanent Deacon Retreat
- preside at Sunday Masses in three parishes
- meet with Bishop County
- assess progress so far and review future goals
- visit the two orphanages I sponsor to assess needs
- meet with the country's Minister of Health
 - finalize plans for the July kids computer camp
- get back through four airports




I AM EXCITED, BUT ALREADY DREADING THE FLIGHTS

MAYBE THIS TIME I WILL GET A BREAK



Four of the eleven boxes already sent down for this trip - things collected mostly for kids. 

If you are in the mood, there's still time to help me help the Caribbean missions! 
1-503-303-4571




Bishop County, flanked by two of his Deacons. 




Some of the religious Sisters greeting Bishop County on the day of his installation as bishop of the Diocese of Kingstown, SVG. The Mass was held at a pavilion at a local Community College. 





























That's me baptizing six babies last December.










































THE BLOOD OF A MISSIONARY MARTYR
???????



Tripped over a concrete barrier in a dimly lit Barbados Airport parking lot going to the car with Bishop Gordon.



Tripped on a defective stairwell step in a Toronto Hotel when both elevators were
"down." I was leading a priest retreat to raise money for the missions. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

VISITORS FROM GERMANY (continued)

     
THE GERMAN VISIT TO KENTUCKY CONTINUES



This is me when I met Inge in Taize (France) @ 1973 when I was a newly ordained priest stationed in Somerset. 
We were in the same prayer group at Taize with her future husband, Bernd.  
Oh, the ravages of age! 



Doug and his mother, Bea Beard, from Columbia, Kentucky, came up for a visit. Doug's father knew Inge and Birgit's mother and father, when he was stationed in Germany during the Second World War.  They brought old pictures of visits to Germany in the past.  Such a small world! 

 

Our Lady of the Woods Chapel at Bellarmine University where I used to be chaplain for fourteen years!


NASHVILLE ROAD TRIP
"THELMA, LOUISE AND COMPANY"




All gassed-up and ready to drive to Nashville to visit the grave of Johnny Cash in their ENTERPRISE RENT-A-CAR! Now all they have to do is meet up with my friends, Phyllis and Jan. 


Seeing them off on their road trip to Nashville. 
Phyllis, Birgit and Jan (Inge was taking the picture). 



Birgit is a fan of Johnny Cash. Here she stands at the foot of his grave in Hendersonville, Tennessee, on their way to Nashville. 
His wife, June Carter Cash, is buried next to him. 



A Johnny Cash and his fan from Germany, Birgit, finally meet. 



"Thelma, Louise and Company" find a free lunch at a music festival somewhere in Nashville.  They are all seasoned tourists for sure! 



I knew I should not have let them go to Nashville alone. Now they will never want to go home! 
They had a great time! 


GERMANS MEET GERMANS




I took Inge and Birgit to meet my friend, Patricia (Tafel) Kirchdorfer, at the Episcopal Home. Patricia invited us to a nice lunch where we talked about places in Germany they both knew about. 



After lunch, we stopped in to see Anne and Tim Schoenbachler, old friends of Inge, Birgit  and their parents. They have visited several times here in the States and once in Germany. 



In the evening, we stopped at Daniel and Nell (on the left) Allgeier's house to watch the Triple Crown horse race from New York.  Donna, a neighbor, is on the right. Nell is the daughter of Phyllis who belongs to our "coffee shop group." Pictured below are Mark, Jan and Gary who also meet up regularly at Sunergos Coffee Shop on Preston. Phyllis put the pizza party together for us after the horse race. 






Sunday morning, I presided at Mass with Inge and Birgit in the front row. 





At Elaine Winebrenner's condo on Tuesday night. 



At Sunergos Coffee Shop with Mark and Phyllis.