Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Celebrate Life

Greetings from picturesque Nicaragua! As I write to you today, I’m aware of so much rich life contained within this area of our planet Earth. And all of this richness amidst so much poverty. For example, as I sit in my office here at Cantera I can see gorgeous and abundant plants, trees and flowers. But even more importantly, just outside the office and ‘over the wall’ there are presently, eleven beautiful and gifted youth working away at painting the front wall of Cantera’s offices in honor of our 20th anniversary. I will send photos soon and you’ll see the beauty and creativity of this project.

All sectors of Cantera’s involvement, both urban and rural, came up with the ideas and the artist directing this activity wove them together into this beautiful manifestation of hope and life. All the figures and symbolism intricately woven into this work of art represent the wide variety of Cantera’s works and activities. We are very proud of what has been accomplished and are hopeful for the future of this Center of Communication and Popular Education.

Three Sisters of St. Joseph work here in the midst of many committed Nicaraguans, attempting to influence the future of this beautiful but very, very poor section of Central America. Today, the youth promoters from the rural areas, where I am present in the areas of spirituality and community health, are putting some final touches to this impressive work. They take great delight in working painstakingly on each section. Daniel, Sulma, Maria Elena, Belkys, Alba, Norelis, Nadesda, Jessica, Brenda, Fernando and Dominga are wonderful examples of our hope for the Nica future. They are leaders in their rural areas and share and live the leadership training and enrichment they have received. Needless to say, we’re very proud of each of them.

Yesterday I encountered two other particular examples of beauty and life as we visited families in the comarca, Los Filos. One stop was to greet our promoter, Johana, who had given birth to a beautiful little girl, Sabrina. I was delighted to hold her and gaze on this newly arrived gift of God, a miracle of life, a new dawn, a new expression of hope for the future. Did I care that my khakis were wet from her diapers? Not at all! We then went to visit a widow and her two adult children, Blas and Patricia. Dona Benita is a wonderful example of the valiant woman who tends her large farm built on a hillside at the ‘end of the road’ and does so with joy, gratitude and an energy that is remarkable. I kid you not; hers is the LAST dwelling greatly separated from any other neighbor at the end of a LONG, VERY NARROW set of tire tracks that is pure MUD. We went up hills and down hills and slid and ‘danced’ in the pickup. But our very capable driver and friend, Pedro, did an excellent job of keeping us upright and moving forward! I had visions of spending the night with Benita and family as it began to rain, but we hopped into the truck and off we went, back over the terrain we’d traversed a couple of hours before. The Senora was so delighted to see us and had prepared lots of boiled corn for us to munch and some special tortillas to take home with us. Of course, there was fruit from her trees, as is always the case when we visit our campesinos/campesinas.

All of the above is to say that I celebrate LIFE daily here in Nicaragua with and through our people who are such good role models for me. And at the same time I’m so aware of the injustice that permits such poverty within our family of sisters and brothers for the grand majority here and in so many parts of our global village. I’m grateful for the privilege of sharing life with my Nica family and at the same time give thanks for each of you who are supportive, interested, and share this mission with me.

Love and gratitude,
Your sister, Jeanne

Friday, September 5, 2008


"preparing the shrine"

As I report once again from the land of the Nicas, I am aware that several more folks have been checking this blog periodically. That feels good and it helps me be more aware of our connectedness no matter where we are geographically. It also reminds me of how small our beautiful Earth has become because of our relationships. I’m grateful for each of you as we journey together.

We continue to experience LOTS of rain and because of that, greenery abounds. We have very fertile land here and are more than able to feed ourselves AND many others, but agricultural products are being exported for a higher price in order to produce biofuels in other countries. That does nothing to adequately feed our own people. And for sure, the people who labor to produce the corn and soya don’t gain anything more for their hard work.

Most recently I spent a Sunday with our folks in Los Planes de Cujachillo as they celebrated their religious feast of Our Lady of Nancite. I had experienced quite similar celebrations in Peru but of course, each country has its own history and traditions. I started out very early so as to arrive on time at the bus terminal in order to hop on a bus that ALWAYS leaves at 7:30 a.m. – but it became evident that this is not the case on Sundays! There are always alternatives and so I caught another bus that took me part way and then jumped into a ‘mototaxi’ (motorcycle with space attached for anywhere from 1 to 6 people depending on how crowded the driver considers safe!) These three aspects of the journey cost me a total of 10.5 cordobas (about 60 cents). A couple of taxi drivers offered to take me “the distance” for 100 cordobas! I laughingly told them I wasn’t a tourist and would decline their offer! They were good natured and laughed along with me. Light skin is worth the effort!

"during the procession"

I was early of course, and so I waited and eventually the makings of the motorized shrine came along. Final preparations were made and we started our procession which was probably six kilometers long from the beginning point to the chapel. My friend, Jose, suggested that when we came to the end of the paved road I get into the truck cabin with him. That was especially appreciated because by the time we arrived at that point it was pouring. I had my umbrella which I was trying to share with an older woman who kept getting out the “range” of said umbrella, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get pretty wet! The nice thing is that one dries out rather quickly - and so it was.

For those of you who are wondering about “the hair”, I did manage to keep it dry! We were accompanied by a sousaphone, trumpet and drum and we sang and prayed and shouted and other appropriate things. The people were delightful and were pleased that I made the effort to accompany them. It was not important to them that they were drenched to the skin. Young and old alike were enjoying this special event so dear to them.

As we drew closer to the chapel there were three places where a rope had been tied at some height above the road. There were plastic bags hung along the rope and each contained some food item like a banana, a pineapple, beans, chips, candy etc. and when the truck bearing the picture of La Virgen de Nancite was underneath it, there occurred loud playing of instruments, shouting and joyful ‘noises’ as the rope was loosened and it was a ‘free for all’ with everyone scrambling to get something! Mass, complete with six baptisms - including precious, identical infant twin girls - followed the procession. After Mass we enjoyed a kermes, a variety of many wonderfully prepared typical foods. All in all it was a wonderful time to celebrate with the people.

"traditional accompanying folks"

Thanks for “tuning in”. I appreciate each of you and your interest and support of me and this Nicaraguan venture. Hopefully, you’re learning something about our people and the lives they lead albeit, very different lives than most of us are accustomed to. May we be instrumental in whatever way we’re called to do so, in making life more equitable and just for our sisters and brothers wherever we are. Thanks for whatever you do in this regard.

Love and Gratitude, Your sister, Jeanne