Sunday, October 28, 2012


Today the student Ohio Dominican University joined the seminarians at the Josephinum for mass. They all then went to the Columbus Zoo free day of fun!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Return to the USA!

We have all safely returned to the United States.  We will be posting reflections and many photos over the next week.  Stay tuned.

Days 3 & 4: House Building

Hello everybody! It's time for an update from the building crew. We spent the last two days working on a house for Paula, an elderly woman who lives close to the railroad tracks in San Salvador. The tracks are no longer in use, and thousands of people now live on the land in makeshift houses. Most of these people do not own the land they live on. Many of the houses are made from bolted-together sheets of corrugated aluminum. Some are made from cinder blocks or brick with concrete floors. Many houses do not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Because so many people in this area do not have adequate living spaces, the local parish sponsors house building projects. They provide the materials and volunteer labor to build wood frame houses with composite walls and durable lamina roofs. Because of the difficulty of finding people with the time to build the houses, they are only able to construct 3-4 of these a year, and there is a long waiting list.Nan, the Maryknoll lay missioner who works with the local parish, is our leader and guide on this project. Our goal is to build a new bedroom and covered kitchen for Paula this week. Our crew includes Jeremiah, Natalie, Brian L., Brian O., Donald, Derlis, Dillon, Peter, Rick, Jamie, Fr. Dave, and Estevan, a local carpenter who Nan hired for the job. Our bus driver Jorge has also pitched in both days that we have worked, as have a number of young people from the local parish. Upon arriving at the building site on Monday, our first task was to clear the rocks and level the ground where the house will be built. So we all jumped in with shovels and picks and somehow managed to split a lot of rocks without splitting anyone's head. The next task was to dig
postholes and mix cement to set the posts for the frame. Monday afternoon and most of Tuesday
was devoted to this work. We coated the frame with motor oil in order to keep it water proof.Building has turned out to be challenging work, particularly the task of getting the frame aligned and level. We would not be able to do it without Estevan's expert guidance and the help of the other Salvadorean volunteers. Vanessa, Eric, Pablo, and Brenda are teenagers from the local parish who have built many of these homes. They each took time out from school and other obligations to help us on this project. They are missioners in their own country and we have all been inspired by their generosity (and saved from making mistakes by their skill). Jorge, our bus driver, has also been very generous by volunteering his time to help build Paula's new home. Paula has been very hospitable to us. Tuesday she fed us delicious snacks of Yucca root and tortillas.All in all, we have been having a good time. There has been a faux pas or two - Jeremiah managed to cut Paula's leg with a pickaxe on Monday (he swears it wasn't intentional, but we are skeptical). Fortunately she was not seriously injured and very graciously forgave him. And then there was the "Eclipse" t-shirt that Donald wore on Monday. He claims it is from the Red Cross and not the film, but we're skeptical of that as well. After taking Wednesday off to visit the sites of the murders of Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit priests and Maryknoll missioners in the 80's, we are returning to the building site on Thursday. If God is willing and nobody loses an eye, we will finish Paula's house on Friday.-- Peter

(Peter is a first-year seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum. He hails from the Diocese of Charlotte, NC.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 7: Orphanage

Today was one of the hardest days of my life; I had to walk away from two amazing 2 month old girls, who are twins Rut Verience (Ruthie) and Joselyn Marlena (Josephina). Through out the week I have grown very close to them, even though they can’t understand me and they don’t talk back. It’s the touch of holding them, and when they reach up and touch my face and then wrap their little fingers around one of mine that makes me heart just melt and I know they know how much they are loved. Or when Josephina is sleeping and you tickle her oh so chubby cheeks, and the most amazing smile graces her face. It is a love that is hard to explain in words because it is overwhelming. Having to say goodbye was heart wrenching, but when I placed Josephina back into her crib and picked up Ruthie for one more kiss, a very awe-inspiring sense of hope came to me. Hope that next year I will be blessed enough to come back here, hope that in that year they are loved more then they are now. Hope that one day I will be able to adopt them and never have to say a good bye like that ever again with them. This hope that came over me was directly from God, I know for certain.
 All of us that had the opportunity to serve this orphanage have grown attached to these wonderful kids. They have a very little to call their own and yet they beam with Christ’s love and joy. Many of the kids only cry when you sit them down, they just want that physical touch of love, whether it is a hug, a kiss or simply just holding their hand. Having to say good bye for all of us was terribly hard. Most of cried like the babies we were holding in our arms. One thing that really touched us the most was the Sister that runs the orphanage came over and gave us this farewell speech that I will never forget. She said “Keep studying, keep trying, keep serving in your communities, and remember you are the future of your country.” We all cried harder, she kept thanking us after she finished. I personally was speechless; she not only opened up the orphanage to complete strangers but had such wise words to send us off with. She was a prime example of the love of Christ, and how hospitable the people here in El Salvador are. This week has turned my life completely upside down and I could not be more thankful for it. We have had many laughs, along with cries this week and have learned so much about the history of El Salvador and the people that live here. One major thing I have learned this week is love truly knows no barriers. Whether it is a language that hinders a conversational aspect of communication, or an ocean that stands in between the people you love the most, love shines through, love breaks down the barriers and wins every time. And we soon realize that los niño’s at Saint Vincent de Paul’s Hogas de Nino’s didn’t need us to come down here and play with them, but we, the people of ODU/PCJ, needed to be here. Thank you to all who have been praying with and for us on this journey, and a Muchas Muchas Gracias to the people of El Salvador, you forever hold a very special place in my heart, and I cannot wait to see you all next year! Love—Raegan (Raegan is a Junior at Ohio Dominican University, studying Early Childhood Education with a minor in Theology)

Day 7: House Building

Today was our last day with Paula - our last chance to laugh with her, snack on her delicious yuca and potato treats, and work on her new home. These moments are always bittersweet as we have fallen in love with her spirit and her courage but must soon return home. But Paula will not leave us so long as we cherish the memories that she has blessed us with. In reflection the past couple of days, a number of us recalled that she kept inching closer to our work site, peeking over to see what was going on. Every time we'd glance back at her Paula would smile. Or when we would sit on her porch attempting our broken (and humorous) Spanish and listen to her devotion to Mary, her faith in God's providence, and her friendship with her dog. It was in these moments of relationship and conversation that she was so real, so beautiful, so human; Paula was just like us.
For me personally, the one-on-one talks with Paula hit a chord. I've been seriously discerning mission work and had Larry, a friend and Maryknoll himself, translate and ask for her prayers. She looked at me in a way that I can only describe as the way a mother looks at her child and knows he will make it in the end, with unconditional love and hope in. She told me that we are called to the Spirit, that fire for justice and love and faith, and that I should not be afraid anymore. God would provide all that we need. Obviously, Paula's words of hope in someone she barely knew shook my very bones; I started crying. I cried on the bus ride, and even now doing this blog, I'm choking up. Though she is trapped in the social disease that is poverty with little material possessions, she is rich. Her faith in God and people are testaments to that, and they are things I will never forget.
The tears of love and solidarity we cried together will forever be on my cheeks and in my heart. And though we say goodbye, Paula will go with us wherever we are, because she is part of the fabric of our lives now.

-BrianL  (Brian is a Senior Philosophy/English double major at Ohio Dominican)

Los Niños

Day 6: Day of the Martyrs

Today was definitely a day unlike any other. After opening our morning with a prayer ritual combining Christian prayer and Mayan spirituality, we visited three sites where martyrs gave their lives here in El Salvador. The Mayan/Christian prayer illustrated how open to Christianity the Mayans were with the cross as the center of all creation and where humanity and divinity meet as well as a profound appreciation of the beauty of God's creation.
The first site we visited was the University of Central America, the setting for the assassination of six Jesuit priests, their cleaning woman Elba, and her daughter Selena. After a brief tour of the chapel and the museum of the martyrs featuring the clothes the Jesuits were wearing at the time of their murders, we met with Fr. Rafael, a Jesuit priest who had lived and worked with the martyrs. His witness to them and to his own story of returning to El Salvador from Spain shortly after their murders was awe inspiring. We then visited the rose garden planted on the site where they had died and were buried by the gardener who was the husband of Elba and father of Selena and saw the room in which they were killed.
The next site was the hospital chapel where Archbishop Romero was shot while saying mass. We were guided in the story and a meditative prayer by Sr. Mercedes, a Carmelite nun. She asked each of us to think of one word which we thought best described Msgr. Romero and later challenged us to pray that our word might be made manifest in our own lives. While questioning us on our motives and feelings on this trip and in this place, she told Donald to stop answering because he was giving seminarian answers and she wanted to hear from the college students. The opportunity to see and touch the spot where he died and to see his personal effects in his small room there made it real for us in a very personal way.
We then had lunch at the soy project, which was surprisingly tasty. After lunch, Sr. Carol led us to the site of the killing of two lay missioners and two Maryknoll sisters she had known. After a reflection, we were able to have mass in the church built there in their memory. It was the first time I have ever seen a nun chase cows away so they don't join us for mass, and where Fr. Sizemore reminded us to never forget all we had seen in Nicaragua. It was definitely a day we will never forget and which will challenge us for the rest of our lives. -- Donald

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 5: orphanage

Day 5 in El Salvador was filled with adventures at the orphanage between running kids up and down stairs and playing ball outside it is fair to say we are all very tired. But it was nothing but a rewarding experience. We took the babies ages 6 months to a bit beyond 1 year outside to play. We spent the whole day in the sun playing, scream, and throwing fits. The babies ate lunch and took a nap and that was the perfect opportunity for some rest. After a short nap we took ourselves it was back outside for may playing. Today was a special day because our hearts were filled with joy not only from the kids but the people who normally work there. They were so thankful to have all of there for extra hands. Day after day they do all that work by themselves and it’s so hard. They kept thank us for the work because a major load was taken off their hands. We are all so thankful that we are loved and that we have been given this opportunity to serve. --Melissa (Melissa is a junior at Ohio Dominican studying Biology with a minor in Chemistry) Ps. Raegan is adopting Josaphina and Ruth the twin babies --Raegan (Raegan is a junior at Ohio Dominican studying Early Childhood Education with a minor in Theology)

Day 4: Orphanage

Today our group set out to each of our service sites. Some went to anorphanage while others went to assist in the building of a small house. Ijoined in service at the orphanage. We arrived early in the morning to learnabout the history of the orphanage and found out that the orphanage is statefunded, but relies greatly on the generosity of donations. There are currentlyaround 139 children in the orphanage, and to our shock, there was at one point600 children. We were anxious to meet the children and get started. Immediatelythe faces of all the children lit up upon seeing us. To them we were notstrange faces or foreign voices but rather new-found friends.

We were split into three groups to assist in different parts of theorphanage. Raegan had a fantastic time with the young babies, many under theage of one. Mama Ginny and Papa Tim, as they are now called, had a blast whileworking with the special  needs children.Melissa, Anna, and myself were kept busy with the two-year-olds all day.Working, or rather playing, with these children was a blessing to all of us;not once did it feel like work or a burden. We continually found ourselvessaying 'gracias' to the Sisters and caretakers for allowing us to come. Thisday turned out to mean so much to us, and we found ourselves surrounded withinstances of God's grace again and again.

These children who have no homes to call their own, no families, and noparents were still filled with happiness and joy. They had smiles on theirfaces all day, and those smiles were not just because a few strangers came toplay with them. Those smiles were from their sincere happiness and contentmentwith their lives. Those smiles were from the love they have for those who carefor them day in and day out. It is hard to imagine a life without family,without a home, without our own possessions, or without parents. I now see howblessed I am to live each day with family, health, and education. I do not knowif I would have the strength to see the joy and beauty in life if I were anorphan. Those children have so little yet find so much to be happy about. Inever thought I would find myself to be so inspired by children who can hardlytalk, but here in El Salvador the grace of God has done so.

Another instance of God that we were fortunate to encounter today wasthrough our bus driver. This man was hired to drive us to and from theorphanage, yet he took it one step farther - he gave of himself. When wearrived we filed into the orphanage, and our bus driver followed us. All day,for over six hours, this unselfish man came with us and played with thechildren. He chased the two-year-olds, rocked the infants, and played catchwith the special needs children. This was not in his job description yet hewilling helped. Not once did he complain, and not once did he seem unhappy tobe there. His help was greatly appreciated, and his positive attitude and smilemeant so much.

The women who worked in the orphanage also gave a glimpse of the beauty oflife and the grace of God. These women work everyday with children for 12 hourshifts, yet they have endless love and care for these children who are nottheir own. One woman in charge of the two-year-olds works with the entire groupeveryday and then goes home to three children of her own. Each moment sheshared with the children, however, appeared that each one of them belonged toher. She clearly had a special place in her heart for them all and gave themhugs, kisses, and kind words all day long. She, like the rest of the workers,not once complained, looked tired, or sought alone time from these children;she was genuinely happy to spend each and every day with them.

Seeing the grace of God shine through the children and those who helped atthe orphanage today was imspirational and made my heart smile. These childrenare the sweetest little things looking for love, 'bebos' (kisses), and hugs.They only cry when you stop holding them, and they smile when you speak to them(even in English). We all quickly formed bonds with the children, and I cannotwait to be reunited with them tomorrow. While I worry about what their futuremay hold when they leave the orphanage, I know that God will hold them in thepalm of his hand, and they will forever remain in my thoughts and prayers.

-- Kelly

(Kelly is a sophomore at Ohio Dominican University studying history. Thisis her first trip to El Salvador).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rec time!


Day 3

It is election day in El Salvador!  For the capital city of San Salvador, there were candidates from all the major parties standing for alcade (mayor) and for the city council.  Several districts were also electing members to the national legislature. 

The pending election has been an important part of the background of the country the entire time we've been here.  Along all the highways, there are campaign signs, party flags, and banners extoling the various parties' slogans.  The main two parties, the FMLN (center left) and the ARENA (center right), have the most supporters.  They also have some of the catchiest slogans.  For FMLN, party of the current mayor, the main slogan is "Con tu voto... el cambio sigue" (With your vote, the change continues).  For ARENA, the party out of power in San Salvador, the signs mostly say, "Defiende tu voto!" (Defend your vote!).

Because of the election, our Maryknoll leaders suggested that today would be a good day for us to remain within the retreat center compound.  We were intially confused when they suggested this; I, for one, was disappointed that we would not see the Salvadoran democratic process in action.  Once our missioners explained why it was prudent for us, as foreigners, to remain discreet today, it was a sobering remidner of the great suffering that the Salvadoran people have endured in the past forty years.

It was only in 1992 when the long-running civil strife between left and right was settled in a treaty of reconciliation.  Despite the settlement, and the uneasy peace between the government and the former rebels, there still exists the possibility for political violence, particularly during times of transition and election.

Our day began with Morning Prayer and Holy Mass, and Fr. David led us and the Assumption Sisters in the celebration of the Third Sunday of Lent.  We heard the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, and it was particularly poignant to hear how we, as missionaries, are called to give not only physical water, but also living water, to those we have been called here to serve. 

After Mass, we gathered for breakfast, which was a great example of Salvadoran culture.  Surprisingly, what Americans would call "dinner rolls" and refried beans were an integral part of our meal, and fresh Salvadoran papaya and coffee helped wash it down. 

When we finished breakfast, we gathered in the retreat center hall to meet the entire Salvadoran delegation of Maryknoll lay missioners.  It was a great honor to meet such dedicated men and women who, along with our missioner guides Erica and Rick, have given over their lives to the service of God's suffering people in El Salvador.  We learned about the various projects that they are undertaking to help provide for the physical and spiritual needs of the Salvadorans, from orphanages to housing to sustainable foods and gang-violence prevention. 

We also had the great joy of helping the lay missioners divide up the toiletries, toys, clothes, educational materials, and religious articles which the schoolchildren of the Parish Church of St. James the Less so generously donated.  The missioners were so excited about what they were going to be able to do for the men, women, and children they serve with the items that were given, and it was a special experience of solidarity and communion to share the moment with the missioners.

During the presentation of the projects operating in the country under the auspices of Maryknoll, the Maryknoll Fathers and Sisters arrived.  By the time everyone arrived, all of the Maryknoll family in El Salvador was gathered together in our retreat center!  We learned about the missions of the fathers and sisters, including work with AIDS ministry, parishes, prison ministry, and solidarity with the Salvadoran poor. 

After the presentations we went to lunch, and we enjoyed some outstanding roasted and fried barbeque chicken, with french fries and cabbage salad.  To go with our meal, the sisters provided pineapple nectar.  The members of our delegation got to spend lots of quality time with the Maryknoll fathers and sisters, and it was also joyful to see the Maryknoll family reunite in one of their rare opportunties to be together.

Once lunch was over, we gathered once more in the retreat center hall to hear a presentation from Fr. John, one of the Maryknoll fathers who lived through turbulent 1970s and 1980s and who knew the Servant of God Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose cause for canonization as a martyr has been opened in Rome.  Fr. John's story enthralled us: he was a witness to history.  Father was on the steps of the Cathedral Church of the Savior of the World (Salvador del Mundo, the title of our Lord for which the country is named) as Archbishop Romero's body was carried out of the church in 1980. 

More than just a story of the Archbishop's martyrdom, Fr. John shared with us the great impact and influence of his life and ministry on the Salvadoran Church and people.  He emphasized the Archbishop's faithfulness to the magisterium of the Church and his unwavering dedication to the Church's teaching on the preferential option for the poor.  We asked Father many questions, and what was originally supposed to be a thirty-minute presentation ended up lasting almost an hour and a half.

We took the opportunity for a Sunday afternoon siesta after Father's presentation, and when we had returned once more to the retreat center hall, we watched the 1989 film 'Romero,' a biographical motion picture about the life and martyrdom of the Archbishop.

Once the film was completed, we prayed Evening Prayer together, ate dinner, and came back together for a time of reflection on the day's activities.

For me, the discussion of the Servant of God Oscar Romero on Election Day in El Salvador was very profound.  Not only did the Archbishop's sacrifice give spiritual hope to the people, but his life, ministry, and witness in death also helped eventually lead to the country's current competitive, mostly-free elections.  El Salvador still has a long way to go toward justice for all its citizens, but thanks to the leadership of Archbishop Romero and the Maryknoll fathers, sisters, and lay missioners, not to mention the Salvadoran people themselves, there is great hope for the future.

-- Dillon Barker (Dillon is a seminarian for the Diocese of Nashville, in his first year of study for the priesthood at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus).

Lunch with the Maryknoll missioners


Greetings All, Here are some updates on the group:

Brian S- is now known as Donald (due to 18.75% of the group being named "Brian"), he also fell out of his chair during a presentation.
Ginny L- She only found out that she would be coming one week ago, and is having the time of her life. She is happy to be here and is loving the country and it's people.
Kelly L- is the youngest of our group, and has offered a beautiful perspective on serving Christ through serving the poor.
Fr. Sizemore- has celebrated Mass for us each day, and offered some beautiful sermons that are preparing us for service with the people of El Salvador.
Tim S- Has been attacked by two bugs, but remains glad to be here.
Brian L- is on his third trip, he is so very glad to be joined by his younger sister. He is also discerning applying to be a Maryknoll lay missioner.
Dillon B- also only found out that he would be coming a week ago. He has done a great job of cantering at Mass, and is making plans to return next year after two days.
Peter A- Has really enjoyed hearing about the history of El Salvador, in addition to the particular ministries of the Maryknollers.
Melissa- has been excellent with her Spanish. She got a small cut on her knee while hiking yesterday, but has covered it with a band-aid.
Natalie G- is enjoying her second trip to El Salvador, and was invited by a group of local artisan drummers to assist with mountain-top entertainment.
Brian O- had a small liturgical incident, no one (human or Divine) was harmed. He has also enjoyed experiencing the local eateries.
Regan- has been the real trooper of the trip, being limited by her previous foot injury (which requires her to be in a walking cast), has not dampened her spirit or high pace of activity.
Dr. Caridi- (as he requires us to call him). Led his team to three consecutive loses at the traditional (ODU) Salvadorian game of "Catch Phrase".
Anna- Is having a great time, and had some particularly good Banana ice cream yesterday.
Jeremiah- is really enjoying the integration of his alama mater ODU, and current institution, the Pontifical College Josephinum.
Derlis- has proven to be completely indispensable in his native Spanish speaking skills. He has been a real leader in the group.

Another update on the activities of the day is on the way.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 2

Our first full day in El Salvador! We started the day with Mass then hit the capital, San Salvador.
While in the Capitol we saw the Cathedral and got to visit a Dominican Church called "El Rosario." We had the privelage of meeting Fernando, a Dominican brother studing to become a preist. Fernando shared with us the history of the beautiful church that he refered to as an Oasis in the surrounding commnity.
We also visited the memorial that honors the innocent people of El Salvador that were victums of violence and  have died or gone missing in El Savlador. The many names on the wall opened our eyes to the realilty of the suffering of the country.
 After a stop in the neighboring museum we headed to lunch at "El Pollo Real," it was delicious!
A few ice cream cones later the group visited a Christian artisan community in the heart of the city that welcomed us with open arms and helped the group understand life in El Salvador. This is a loving community that reaches out to the citizens of El Salvador to share the word of the Lord while helping them grow and prosper.
Our adventurous day ended with a steep climb to the top of "El Puerto de Diablo," the devils door, at sunset that had the most beautiful veiw of El Salvador including volcanos, mountains and the ocean.

Day 1

The group had an amazing first day in the beautiful San Salvador.
We enjoyed joining the locals in a procession celebrating the way of the cross.
After, we celebrated Brian's 22 birthday El Salvador style.

Friday, March 9, 2012


We have landed in Miami, Florida and are about to board the plane to San Salvador where we will begin our adventure!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Packing with St. James the Less

As we set out on our adventure tomorrow, it would be great to look at some pictures taken from our packing at St. James the Less. The kids did a great job helping us pack up all the wonderful donations and we are so thankful for what they have done. The community in El Salvador will be very happy to receive such great things. This selfless act these kids did will have a great impact on the lives of many down in El Salvador.
Wish us safe travels and we will keep you posted!

Packing up donations!

The children and teachers of St. James the Less school in Columbus chose El Salvador as their service learning project for the year. They raised money, collected donations and make books for the Ohio Dominican group to take to El Salvador. Members of the El Salvador group went to St. James on Wednesday, the 7th to pack up the suitcases with the help of the children. We packed up 14 suitcases full of donations! We are thrilled to be able to give these items to the people we meet and serve in El Salvador. Thank you St. James!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The group meets

This evening ODU Students joined Seminarians at the Pontifical College Josephinum for dinner.  This was the first time members of the group met in person.  The entire group is very excited to depart for El Salvador on Friday morning.  (The group will be joined by additional missioners not pictured.)
Dinner at the Pontifical College Josephinum