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Diocese of Rockville Centre

2011 Mission Trip to Misahualli, Ecuador

Rosie, Matthew & the Entire Team

What an incredibly blessed couple of days we´ve been having here in Misahualli!

While your missionaries I´m sure will share so much more with you upon return home, we wanted to give you another update about what we´ve been up to.

Sunday evening´s Youth Night at the Church in town was beautiful. We had a good number of young people of all ages gathered to play soccer, have an egg toss, sing songs and pray together. Some of the missionaries put on a skit for the youth and Fr. Lachlan was able to lead adoration for a short time. Our Lord´s presence and our opportunity to adore Him with the Ecuadorian youth in this way was an incredible blessing. It is not something that any of the Ecuadorian people, reminding them it is a place they can call home.

Monday morning we awoke earlier than usual, as we had a long day ahead of us. We began our day in prayer and headed out to a very remote village called Tres Hermanos which had never before had Holy Mass celebrated there. To get there, we drove part of the way and hiked the rest of the way. The trek was a challenge, with a lot of mud and streams, but we rented the team tall rain boots and supported each other along the way.

What an incredible gift it was to finally arrive. Though we were full of mud and a bit tired, the faces on the people and their warm welcome was worth it all. Witnessing the very first mass of this village was overwhelming. It has moved us all to a beautiful appreciation of the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist and just how blessed we are to have the opportunity to receive Him so regularly back home.

We were able to play with the children, have a wild soccer game in the rain and speak with the men and women about our own experiences of faith through our testimonies. Some of the men of the village, in their incredible hospitality, guided us nearby to some caves and showed us some more of the beauty of their incredible country. We trekked back home and slept so soundly, with a greater understanding of how the Lord walks with us, loves us and gives Himself to us so humbly. We, in turn, are coming to understand more and more how all of us are called every day, whether on mission in another country or back at home, to give of ourselves and bring Christ wherever we might go, even when it is difficult.

Kyle Blackmer

Sunday morning we attended mass at the church in Misahualli. Madre had enlisted the help of many of our fine musicians to provide the music for the celebration. My teammates worked for hours the previous night rehearsing countless new Spanish songs - I'm sure that their accounts will do more justice to their struggles than mine does. The work paid off, though, and provided the mass with a beautiful soundtrack.

Pununo SchoolAt the end of the mass, we invited all of the kids to a youth night that we were hosting that evening. I was able to speak with several small groups and those who did not live in Palmeiras or in other far-off villages promised to return for the fun! Matthew, Justin, and I had a conversation with two boys upon leaving the church. We talked for fifteen minutes about our homes, towns, and parishes: trying to get a sense of each others' environments. They were surprised that our towns were as big as Tena and that thousands of people attended mass in our parishes. The three of us were getting a lot better with our Spanish, but the kids in Ecuador spoke so rapidly and we had to ask for repetitions constantly.

My group traveled to the nearby village of Pununo after mass. This was a community right outside of Misahualli - right before the scary bridge on the way to Palmeiras. When we arrived, Madre asked us to invite people to the school for prayer. This was our first true outreach of the trip and several of us were definitely stepping outside of our comfort zones. But this, we realized, was a huge part of what missions is, and why we had traveled to the middle of the Amazon - so we dove in. With Rosie and Justin, I went from house to house - though really their homes double as shops and makeshift businesses - and asked individuals and families to come pray with us. the first woman said that she was busy, probably minding her shop. The next building, however, was a general store where a woman stood with four or five small kids watching a t.v. blasting the sound effects of a violent cartoon. The woman seemed very excited and eagerly agreed to have the family join us. The two caballeros next door did not seem so keen on the idea because they had already been to mass in Misahualli.

Kyle Blackmer

An Update For Everyone On Our Progress...

College students have perennial problems managing money, and at this time of the year our bank accounts take a major hit just like everyone else’s.  But the funds of our team missionaries would be particularly low if it weren’t for the support of so many families, friends, and businesses.  When we accepted our call to Ecuador, each one of us also promised to raise $1600 for our travel arrangements and to aid the people of Misahualli.  Though we are still working to collect more funds to give to the Sisters and the people we will be serving, we want to take this opportunity to thank those who have helped us in our efforts, to ask for continued support, and to update everyone on our progress.

In addition to requesting contributions from our families and friends, each member of our team has taken part in many fundraising projects including the following:

  • Claire, Julie, and Justin spoke to the parishioners of St. Aiden’s Church in Mineola who provided us with tremendous support.
  • Joe enlisted the help of the Long Island Catholic, Newsday, and several other news organizations to promote and advertise our efforts.
  • The parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Church in Marcellus, NY, blessed me with their kindness and have generously supported our team.
  • Tina, Danielle, Chiara, Stephany, and Jon raised support from households in the towns of West Hempstead and Garden City.
  • KK and I received much generous support from the businesses of Nassau Boulevard in Garden City.
  • Our good friends the Geminder family and their parish at St. Mary’s Church in Amityville have strengthened us with their prayers and contributions.
  • We also are most grateful for the support of Hofstra University and Adelphi University’s student governments.
  • All missionaries have sent personal letters in request of support and prayers from family and friends.

Rosie, Matthew & the entire team

We are halfway through our third day here in Ecuador. We arrived in Misahualli yesterday late afternoon and settled into our cabins. To our surprise, the Family Missions Company missionaries were able to secure very nice accomodations for us which include beds for each missionary, bedding, clean showers with hot water and three delicious meals a day. The Lord has truly been so generous and has blessed us with these gifts, no doubt encouraging us and challenging us to live by the Gospel passage which says, "To whom much has been given, much will be expected¨ (Luke 12).Pununo Village 
Last evening at dinner, we were welcomed to Misahualli by the Bishop of this diocese. He shared his deep gratitude for our presence and our service to the people and gave us a special blessing. After dinner, Fr. Lachlan traveled to a nearby jungle village to celebrate mass and baptize a baby there while the rest of the group gathered to go over the plans for the next day. We all ended our day with prayer and journaling.
 
This morning we rose early for morning prayer and song. After breakfast, we were split into two groups. One group was able to witness an Ecuadorian wedding in one of the nearby jungle villages. This wedding united the parents of the baby that Fr. Lachlan baptized just yesterday! We were blessed to have lunch with the bride´s family and play with the children there. The other group met with another community and went door to door, inviting them to come to mass, and engaging with them in fellowship.
 
After returning to the main village, we got into our work clothes and have been at the church and convent doing projects to improve the buildings inside and out. We have been washing, cleaning and painting the inside of the church, as we will be witnessing two weddings and a baptism this evening. Others have been mixing and pouring cement for the sisters´ driveway and patio.

Kyle Blackmer

“There is great dignity in labor.”  These were the words of Father Augustino, the Franciscan friar and leader of the CFRs in Paterson, New Jersey.  The CFRs, or Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, are a group of religious brothers committed to lives of evangelization, asceticism, and service to the poor (following the example of St. Francis of Assisi).  Our mission team spent a day working and worshiping with these extraordinary men of God in preparation for our journey to Ecuador.

We began the day with a beautiful time of worship in the friary’s chapel.  The small room was decorated with brilliant 19th Century French stained glass and the joyous sounds of our voices.  Not only are the brothers tremendous leaders in the community and completely devoted to service, they are also incredibly talented musicians.  Singing at the tops of our lungs was a fantastic way to start our retreat day.

After our prayer and songs it was time to get down to business.  Several members of our group (John, Danielle, and Matthew) spent the morning evangelizing at a local abortion clinic, but the majority of our work revolved around refurbishing the friary.  Formerly a decrepit brick building in a poor Hispanic community, the brothers’ home is being transformed into a comfortable and beautiful house for the Lord.  To help the brothers along, members of our team took up several home improvement tasks.  Meaghan, Allyssa, and Matthew stained the wood paneling and door casings of the third floor, Chiara, Claire, and Kristina painted the second story hall, Will, KK, and I removed the drop ceiling from the front office, and Father Lachlan hung light fixtures in the dining room.  It was incredibly rewarding to see the progress that we were making and it felt wonderful to change this place to something suitable for these men who have given their lives to God and the service of those less fortunate.

Several hours of work flew by and before we knew it, it was time for mass.  One of the most intimate, personal masses I have ever witnessed, it’s safe to say that the Holy Spirit was present to inspire our team and the CFRs.  Father Augustino’s homily was tailored to our visit and focused on service to the poor.  He did not just concentrate on the materially impoverished, however, but more so on the poverty of those who have not realized God’s love for them.