Sunday, July 21, 2019

MY "TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL" AND WEEKEND HOMILY


Last night I went back to my home parish, the one I grew up in down in Rhodelia, to have Mass while the pastor is on vacation. 
I was reminded of one of my favorite old movies, The Trip To Bountiful (see below). 




THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
The film, set in the post-World War II 1940s, tells the story of an elderly woman, Carrie Watts (Page), who wants to return to her home, the small, rural, agriculture-based town of Bountiful near the Texas Gulf coast between Houston and Corpus Christi, where she grew up, but she's frequently stopped from leaving Houston by her daughter-in-law and her overprotective son, who will not let her travel alone. Her son and daughter-in-law both know that the town has long since disappeared, due to the Depression.
Old Mrs. Watts is determined to outwit her son and bossy daughter-in-law, and sets out to catch a train, only to find that trains do not go to Bountiful anymore. She eventually boards a bus to a town near her childhood home. On the journey, she befriends a girl traveling alone (DeMornay) and reminisces about her younger years and grieves for her lost relatives. 
Her son and daughter-in-law eventually track her down, with the help of the local police force. However, Mrs. Watts is determined. The local sheriff, moved by her yearning to visit her girlhood home, offers to drive her out to what remains of Bountiful. The town is deserted, and the few remaining structures are derelict. Mrs. Watts learns that the last occupant of the town, and the woman with whom she had hoped to live, has recently died. She is moved to tears as she surveys her father's land and the remains of the family home. 
Having accepted the reality of the current condition of Bountiful and knowing that she has reached her goal of returning there before dying, she is ready to return to Houston when her son and daughter-in-law arrive to drive her home. Having confronted their common history in Bountiful, the three commit to live more peacefully together. They begin their drive back to Houston.


WEEK-END HOMILY

"ORA ET LABORA"
Prayer and Work




Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset
about many things: only one thing is required.
Luke 10:41-42

Because I didn’t really understand it, I never used to like this Martha and Mary story very much.  In fact, I believed that Martha got a bum deal here.  Here she is slaving away in a hot kitchen, trying to get a meal on the table, while her sister Mary has parked herself in the living room with the guests, listening in on the living room conversation.  Even when poor Martha comes into the living room, mopping her brow with her apron, to ask for a little help, she not only doesn’t get it, but she also gets a quick reprimand for being such a workaholic.

These days, I understand the story a little better. Jesus is not condemning good deeds or hard work in order to praise contemplation.  In the sequence of the gospel, Jesus has just finished telling the story of the Good Samaritan, in which good deeds are praised.  In fact. we read that in the gospel reading last week. Remember the ending?  Jesus ends that story by telling his disciples, and us, to go and do the same.  What he is doing here is simply reminding Martha of the primacy of listening to the Lord and also reminding her why, and for whom, she is doing all her work to begin with.  So this story is meant to balance the story of the Good Samaritan, not contradict it. Discipleship is not a matter of either/or, but of both/and.  It’s a matter of action and contemplation.

I learned this from the Benedictine monks over at Saint Meinrad when I went to seminary there and later, after I left the Cathedral, when I worked for them, until I retired. The motto of the Benedictines is “Ora et Labora” - “Pray and Work.”  Monks, whether they are Benedictines or Trappists,  don’t just pray all the time, they also have to work to support themselves! The spiritual life is about both sitting at the feet or Jesus, listening like Mary, but it is also about getting up and doing your work of serving others like Martha and the Good Samaritan!   

Now I suppose this story can be read on many levels.  In fact, in the fifty years that I have preached on this text, it has spoken to me on a variety of levels, depending on where I was in my own experience.  At some point, after I had picked it up and read it over many, many times, all of a sudden it took on a new meaning.  As I read it over and over, I kept saying to myself: “This story is about self-worth.  This is about self-worth!”

I know these two women.  For years, they lived in my head and they have been arm-wrestling for years over who is going to be in charge of my thinking.  For most of my life I’ve sided with the busy and anxious Martha.  But recently, as I’ve gotten older, Martha is really getting on my nerves.  Mary, after all, is the smart one.  Both of these characters want to serve the Lord, but they do it for different reasons.  Martha is that part of me that believes that I am not really worth much unless I do a lot.  Martha is that part of me that is always anxious, always lecturing myself, saying that I ought to be ashamed of myself for not being perfect.  Martha is that part of me that believes that if I accomplish a lot, then maybe I can make up for my deficiencies.  Martha is that side of me that believes that my worth is directly tied into what I can do.  If you have a Martha in your head, I am sure you too are totally exhausted most of the time by your busyness about many things.

I’ve discovered Mary’s point of view.  Mary knows that she is already loved, and so she doesn’t have to do a thing about it except enjoy it.  Mary is that side of me that wants to believe that God already loves me, no matter what, just as I am right now, whether I do anything this week or not.  Mary is that part of me that wants to believe that God loves me and I am worth something just because I am, not because I am a priest or I’ve earned a few degrees or I can pastor three or more parishes at once.  Martha always leaves me anxious, but Mary leaves me encouraged and gives me mental rest.  Martha is always trying to do something to get God to love her while Mary understands that she is already loved.

Many of us grew up believing that God’s love is conditional.  We grew up believing that God loves us when we are good, quits loving us when we are bad and starts loving us again when we shape up. That is actually very poor theology.  Even though we have to work to feed ourselves and help others, God’s love for us does not have to be earned.  True, God calls us to better actions and behaviors, and certainly God does let us reap what we sow, but God never withholds love from us, no matter what we do or fail to do. That, my brothers and sisters, is the “good news.”






Saturday, July 20, 2019

VOLUNTEERS REPORT IN FROM THE ISLANDS - part three




THEIR SIXTH REPORT
Thursday 7-18-19




Today, Dr. Sherman  was invited to observe surgery at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in downtown Kingstown. It was quite an honor and hopefully the beginning of strengthening even more our relationship with the Ministry of Health. We have sent down quite a bit of surgical equipment from SOS already. 
This is a stock photo from their website. 



While Dr. Sherman was at the hospital observing surgery, the rest of Group One was enjoying a fresh coconut and helping the local economy at one of the street vendors downtown before going to work at the soup kitchen.  Beth and Shanda, Group Two,  were over in Bequia island leading the computer camp. 



Lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls downtown.  Several streets are full of stalls. Many women sit all day hoping to sell a few vegetables from their backyard gardens. The competition is fierce. 



Housing, even in parts of the city, can be pretty tough. 



An open creek runs through downtown right behind the Cathedral. 






That's Chef Henry using two of the three large new soup pots we sent down! 



That's  Group One serving up lunches in the green aprons we sent down with the soup pots and some new dish towels! 



Today, it was spicy chicken and rice, sort of like jambalaya.   



Waiting under the shelter for lunch service to begin.



Hey, I know this one!  He shows up at the Pastoral Centre every morning with an empty jar for some coffee and a peanut butter sandwich! He can't communicate very well, but he always howls with delight when he sees me. 






That's Tim handing out a lunch plate and a drink at the soup kitchen.  He is grateful for his experience at the Louisville Cathedral's Sandefur Dining Room for the Homeless. 



They hand the plates through an opening in the window. I am happy to see some of the new dish towels hanging on the wall that we sent down with the aprons. 



The line begins to form as they start serving.   Only a couple of women were served. Women are normally served separately elsewhere. 



Karen at work! Children bring their containers to be filled and to be taken  back home to their families to eat. Adults are served on a plate. 




Dr. Paul at work filling the containers that the children brought to take back home.  



Karen and Susan have made some new friends. 




Two years ago, I led a traditional Wednesday Night Prayer Service at the soup kitchen shelter - 
scripture reading, a sermon, group reflection and lots of singing! 



COMPUTER CAMP ON BEQUIA CONTINUES FOURTH DAY
making a difference









You can see Saint Michael Church next door! The kids are in the parish hall. 








REFECTIONS ON THE WEEK FROM TIM TOMES
He's hooked!



It has been almost three years now since Fr. Knott first told me about his new work in the mission diocese of Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I have to admit my first reply was, ''Where?'' I immediately went to Google Maps. 

Since then I have been lucky enough to help Fr. Knott with the gathering, packing and shipping of countless material needs for two orphanages, the Pastoral Center (Chancery Offices, Bishop's House and Retreat Centre) and several of the parish churches. 


Its such a great feeling to know that one has made a difference. I already knew of the impact our ground work in Louisville had made even before arriving here this week. Now that I'm here I can see first hand and meet the amazing men, women and children impacted. Because of the generous financial and in-kind support of so many donors, lives have been transformed here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it shows. ''Thank you, Jesus!'' is a phrase I hear often here and it rings so true. Even still, the work and need is plentiful. 

What I have noticed in the few days I have been here is the enormous amount of opportunity and amazing potential. I can't help but think about the movers and shakers back home who would love to sink their teeth into something here. If you are reading this blog, think about what knowledge and resources you have that could be of assistance. Are you a problem solver? If so, call me! 


I have only a short while left on my first visit, but I know I'll be back. No doubt I will continue doing what I can to make a difference for the people of the Diocese of Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.




Believe it or not, Thursday night was "Kentucky Fried Chicken Night!"  It tasted better 
overlooking the ocean, I'm sure!


THEIR SEVENTH REPORT
Friday 7-19-19

A TRIP UP TO GEORGETOWN



A typical residential area of Georgetown, SVG



Like many places on the island, Georgetown is susceptible to floods. This one took out a bridge in town. Bridges and roads are regularly wiped out in tropical storms. 


A STOP AT SAINT BENEDICT ORPHANAGE
Sister Zita Retires - Orphanages Merge
Well Done Good and Faithful Servant



My friend, Sister Zita, had to retire from running Bread of Life Home for Children a little while back and return to her community's Mother House in Trinidad. She did a heroic job over the years, but the issue of her health became an unavoidable reality. God bless her for her years of dedicated ministry to some of the most vulnerable children of Saint Vincent. 


Sister Zita went into retirement knowing that we had purchased a new van for her children.
She had the honor of receiving the keys to the new van personally. 
Even though she misses her children, she has the comfort of knowing that they will be able to be transported in safety. The new van will be used by the children from both of the homes for children, now merged!  




The old van was even worse than it looks! 



Bishop County blessing the new van. 



Placing the CATHOLIC SECOND WIND GUILD logo on the new van in preparation to hand it over to Sister Nyra Anne for all the children to use. 





A handover of the keys to Sister Nyra Anne to the new van to be used by the kids from both orphanages now merged. 

   

Sister Nyra Anne, who is the administrator of Saint Benedict Home for Children, was able to absorb the children from Bread of Life Home. From what I hear, after a scary interim, the children have adjusted to their new home quite well. 

   





                  


One of the bedrooms in the orphanage. We bought that bunk-bed in the back of the room when the two orphanages merged. 


Everybody loves Tim! 


Holding little Jeremiah. 


Tim gave my little friend, Daniel, a greeting and a special treat from me. 


Many of the kids seem to latch on to someone. 


This little girl kept calling Fergal "Santa Claus." She has a good memory. He plays Santa Claus every Christmas. 




Susan has a fan! 


Showing off for the camera!


The power of candy to make friends! 


A TRIP UP TO SANDY BAY


A STOP AT MARY STAR OF THE SEA CHURCH
Where We Have Sponsored Extensive Renovations
The People Are Very Pleased



The Anglican Church occupies the bottom floor. The Roman Catholic Church occupies the top  floor.




Tim meets up with the church furniture that he worked so hard to help gather up and send down. Other of his collected items are sprinkled around various churches around the country. 



Two of the six ceiling fans we sent down. 



BACK TO GEORGETOWN

A STOP AT THE GEORGETOWN DIAGNOSTIC AND TREATMENT CENTER
Where Supplies Over Seas in Louisville Has Sent So Much

Medical supplies are very much needed. This hospital is located in the north end of the island and was donated by a large international charity. We supplied a lot of the supplies and small equipment. 





Hospital personnel, some of the hospital beds we have sent down and some of our volunteers. 





Yep, there's the label! It says S.O.S. Louisville, Kentucky!



Surgical equipment sent down by S.O.S. 





                                

Susan stands by one of the scales we sent down. I would estimate that we have sent down almost ten tons of surplus medical equipment in two containers. 



One of hundreds of boxes of needed medical supplies sent down



Some of the appreciative staff. 

KAREN CROOK'S REFLECTION


I know there has already been so much done here but the surface has barely been scratched. The need is so great. Everywhere we have visited, our presence has been blessed, as if we are doing so much when in reality we have barely done anything. The hospitals need so much more. 



The children at the orphanage were so welcoming and were so thankful for small pieces of candy because, beside Christmas, they barely get anything. We were greeted with a wonderful song played by one of the children who is actually a Special Olympics competitor. 



Sister Nyra Anne walked me around the orphanage and there are several special projects that would greatly benefit the children and the ladies who take care of them. 



I can say that the attention that Father Knott has brought to this area has made a tremendous difference. People know his name! We are all fortunate to know such a great man. I want to personally thank all who have supported this mission. I have seen first hand that a difference is certainly being made. 



My new best friend was the 7 month old baby, Jeremiah. As he woke from his nap, he was handed to me and I held him for the rest of our visit. He didn’t want anyone else. (see phto above)



Thank you for such a wonderful experience. 



Karen







Waiting for the whole group to gather to go out for a farewell dinner before leaving in the morning.


THEIR EIGHTH AND FINAL REPORT
Saturday 7-20-19 





FLYING HOME TODAY 



This photo sums up the whole trip. It was a blessed time for all.

Four of our five volunteers are flying home today - Tim, Karen Paul and Susan. Beth is staying for a second week of computer camps. She will fly home next Saturday. They will leave Saint Vincent at 3:15 pm on Saturday and will land in Louisville at 12:05 am on Sunday morning.  







A Special Thank You To Fergal Redmond


                                    

Fergal has done the lion's share of organizing work for this trip. We thank him for all his effort to make this a memorable experience for all involved. He will be going back to Ireland soon to visit his family. He certainly deserves a vacation, but knowing him, he will be back to Saint Vincent as soon as possible. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

VOLUNTEERS REPORT IN FROM THE ISLANDS - part two



THEIR FOURTH REPORT
Tuesday 7-16-19



Susan Sherman reading at Mass in the Saint James Chapel in the Pastoral Centre. 
That statue of Mary came from the Louisville Ursulines.


SCENES FROM THE MILTON CATO MEMORIAL HOSPITAL IN KINGSTOWN
where we have sent a lot of medical supplies



Karen is back at Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown SVG today negotiating with hospital personnel about the possibility of Supplies Over Seas sending down more surplus medical supplies. 
Grace Walters (hospital administrator) on right.
Andrew Williams (deputy hospital administrator) on left



As far as the eye can see in both directions, materials we sent down to the hospitals, clinics, schools and churches in our latest shipping container.  Seven tons of it! It has all been distributed. 

Things for the third container are already filling my garage! 



Milton Cato Memorial  Hospital's main entrance. 



A typical ward at the hospital. 




Many of the waiting areas are outside the hospital as Karen found out. It's cooler! 



Part of his left foot was amputated. (permission given)




Most of us notice the cemetery right behind the hospital, but we think it is better not to mention it. 



TOURING AROUND THE ISLAND



Today, four of our group visited Father Mark (on left) and his mother (in the recliner we were able to get for her) in his rectory above the church. Father Mark is pastor of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in the town of Layou on the west side of Saint Vincent island. The parish includes mission churches in Rose Bank (St. Martin de Porres) and Rillan (Sacred Heart).


He is a master gardener. The garden around the church and rectory are meticulously manicured. He is also responsible for most of the landscaping around the Pastoral Centre. 



Our Lady Queen of the Universe  Church in Layou
This is a photo taken when I was at his church leading a deacon retreat three years ago. 



Saint Martin de Porres Church in Rose Bank
This photo was taken in preparation for Christmas last year. 




On Tuesday, the team visited the new POLYCLINIC in the town of Stubbs up on the east side of Saint Vincent island.  



Dr. Franklin James, Dr. Paul Sherman and Sandra Davis
Some of our medical equipment sent from SOS here in Louisville was obvious throughout the clinic. 



Instruction to nurses on wound dressings - what is to be used on what type of wound. 



Dr. Paul, himself a retired orthopedic surgeon,  talking to a physical therapist. 



Young boy with cerebral palsy getting physical therapy. 



Patients at the Polyclinic waiting room. 




Joe, "the Scottish harmonica man" being entrusted with the 100 harmonicas we sent down. He will teach interested kids. He, himself, plays the guitar and harmonica simultaneously at the Cathedral in Kingstown and at other musical occasions.





I have been thinking about getting my own place down there and I do like fixer-uppers, so 

I should probably consider this. I don't think anybody lives there any more, but you never know. 

It looks like a set for the movie,"Pirates of the Caribbean!"

By the way, some of the"Pirates of the Caribbean" movies were actually filmed in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines!  You can still visit some of the movie sets they built. 

THEIR FIFTH REPORT

Wednesday 7-17-19



One panoramic view of the island of Saint Vincent.



Group One joins Group Two at Saint Michael's on Bequia island.



Day Three of the Bequia Computer Camp - Great Success

Our computer Camp is a rousing success. The numbers have grown since day one. I guess the news is out and the weather has improved! 
All our laptops are in use, even the teacher's! It looks like we need more used laptops! 

If you are reading this and know where we can get some more, please let me know. We will probably need to offer the camp again next summer! 



Group One visits the Computer Camp



Group One is fascinated at what the kids are learning - and at the age they are learning it! Notice that tiny little girl has her own computer. (see her also in above above) 





Shanda, Beth and the whole Bequia Computer Camp class on break. 



How many bosses does it take to organize a picnic on the beach for volunteers? 
Only one, if he's Irish! No one else seems to have a clue! 







Look what washed up on the Bequia beach! I think it drifted all the way from Ireland! 



Tim reading at Mass at the end of a long day!



That's it for Wednesday!