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Reflections on Community, Part II

Posted by on May 2, 2010 at 2:42 am
Category:Mission Trip

Visiting a place like the Dominican Republic, you might think that we stood out like American tourists, English speaking with our matching t-shirts and lighter skin- and for one missionary, her “exotic” red hair. While we did indeed stand out like a rather sore thumb, we were lovingly embraced because of the blessing that is the universal Church. As missionaries in the name of Christ and the Catholic Church, and not tourists, we were welcomed into community at the orphanage, Christ in the Garbage School, Sunday Mass at the cathedral, at Eddy’s funeral, and during the Mass and fellowship that we shared on Thursday at the humble village church. United within the Catholic Church, all our differences disappear. Language barriers, cultural norms, musical preferences, the color of our skin- it all fades into the background in comparison with the commonality of our identity as sons and daughters of Christ and the love that is given in the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist.

At Hogar Immanuel, from the very first day, we were (literally) welcomed with arms wide open. There we were, 24 missionaries, most of whom the staff and children had never met before, and yet their hospitality and loving acceptance was undeniably genuine. As was mentioned in an earlier post, we brought some of the children to Sunday Mass at the cathedral. Fr. Taillon was blessed to concelebrate with the Bishop that day for what turned out to be Confirmation. At the same time, the rest of us missionaries were in good company in our back pews, sharing smiles, handshakes, and “Paz” (peace) with the Dominicans in attendance. There was a sense of oneness in the cathedral that day, no matter how different we may have been.

Perhaps the greatest witness to the universality of our faith came on Thursday, when we celebrated the Sacraments of Baptism, Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist. Many of our missionaries (those who have been Confirmed) were asked to be godparents for nine of the orphans. Those who are not yet confirmed chose to spiritually adopt one of the children, making a commitment to pray for them often. We were all honored by the invitation, but also humbled by the beauty and simplicity of the faith we witnessed. The baptisms were held at the orphanage itself, where we alternated between English and Spanish hymns, but came together in welcoming these children into the Church.

Please join us in praying for the children who were baptized:

Luis Miguel: Godmother- Casey Shalkowski,

Fernanda: Godmother- Liz Rosbottom

Yanilda Massiel: Godmother- Sarah Cullen

Jarion: Godfather- Steve Crawford

Dariel: Godfather- Andrew Raucci

Massiel: Godfather- Dr. Rick Ohnmacht

Jeffrey: Godfather- Cameron Shalkowski

Godmother- Kathryn Robenhymer

Junior: Godfather- Fr. Taillon

Jessica: Godfather- Jordan Ashton

After the baptisms, we made our way down the dusty road to the local church where the 24 of us and the orphans joined with the villagers for their once-a-week Mass. Fr. Taillon had gone ahead earlier and was able to attend Adoration and to hear confessions. What a witness- many of the children came for Reconciliation right after school!  The church itself is small- nothing like our beautiful churches. The are no stain glass windows or elegant statues. A few pieces of religious art hang to the sides of the sanctuary, and a crucifix, donated by some of our own parishioners, hangs behind the altar. Despite how bare and simple the church appeared, as soon as the music began- lively, spirited hymns and clapping- the Church was alive. Fr. Taillon prayed his way through Mass in an array of languages,  but the message was one we could all understand. At the sign of peace, many of the local women gave us big hugs and looked at us with eyes full of hope. Celebrating the Eucharist within such a community easily left us feeling grateful for all that we have and take for granted, but I think that we would be remiss to see the challenge that it set before us: to cultivate a faith that is as real, trusting, loving, and alive with the Holy Spirit as what we witnessed that day.

Below is a glimpse into the village community and the Mass that we shared with them

Written by Sarah Cullen


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