Friday, October 30, 2009

The Minimum Necessities

Jeanne learning how to strip dried corn from the cob

Dear Blog Followers,

That doesn’t sound too flattering for a name but what do I call those of you who faithfully tap in hoping to find some updated news? Suggestions are welcome!

In a little more than three weeks, I’ll be northern bound, praying that whoever picks me up at the airport remembers my jacket and gloves! It’s hard to think about COLD when it’s so blooming humid and hot. It rained hard all last night but is bright and sunny today. I have come home soaked to the skin twice this week because of the heavy downpours we’ve had. The point is that we are now in the DRY season, WINTER. Well, it will never be winter here, but it will be dry….someday! I did manage to get my laundry dry yesterday, which was a minor miracle. One becomes grateful for any little thing….small breeze, bird call, a turned down boom box, a smile from a child, frosting on the end of your nose because you’re eating a piece of greatly frosted cake without the assistance of an implement, etc….you get the idea.

I’m looking forward to time home so I can connect with a number of you who so faithfully hang in with this far-flung friend. I’d also like to remind all with whom I’ll meet that red beans, boiled bananas and white rice are not items I’ll miss in my diet!!

I just received word that I will be able to connect with friends I’ve not seen for many years who live in Falls Church, VA. They are generously flying me to D.C. so we can reconnect and catch up on each others lives. I’m so grateful for so many friends and the various ways in which our lives have intersected and paralleled. While home I’ll make my annual retreat (Cleveland) and connect with my CSJ Mission Circle in Wichita right after Christmas. I’m grateful that I extended this visit in order to peacefully reconnect.

Two young friends just 'hanging out'

Life here continues to be hectic in terms of government – but not physically dangerous. The people continue to struggle for daily sustenance, especially in the rural areas where crops did not do well due to lack of usual rainfall. Some farmers chose to risk using seed to do a second planting and hopefully the ‘out of season’ rain we’re receiving will give them an additional % of harvest of beans and corn.

One of my favorite entertainments….bus riding…continues to amuse me. The other morning I took the wrong bus! Imagine, after almost two years here, I still do such things. Well, I immediately noted the error and hopped off at the next stop and boarded a bus that would take me where I wanted to go. Actually, it was a happy fault because this bus was much more comfortable and had fewer people on board. The usual flow of folks come and go….preachers of the Good News and seekers of a few coins, sellers of ballpoint pens and parasite medicine, people asking for help with medicines or operations, children singing and begging (this is one of the more disturbing aspects), a blind gentleman who is a ‘regular’ who sings a hymn and then hopes for a few coins… and the list goes on. These are daily reminders of the extreme poverty the folks live with. And there’s no sign that this will change anytime in the near future.

One of the blessings is that this year we did not have as many problems related to hurricanes and tropical storms. For that we’re grateful. Also, it’s dawning on me that we’ve not had a volcano threatening to explode lately. Since we have five active volcanos in the country, it’s unusual not to have one of them getting het up!

Pablo, Alejandro and Claudio discussing new latrine construction

I continue to visit our rural sisters and brothers and that’s always a joy. The community promoters are indeed an inspiration as they do their best to help their local area improve in small but meaningful ways. We meet with them monthly for an entire day and soon we’ll have a two day gathering of all the leaders from both rural sectors (Mateare in the north and Belen in the south) to report and evaluate and dream and plan. The group of women who meet every 15 days – that’s how you say ‘every two weeks’ in Spanish! – is also a joy for me. It’s not too hard to get there, but returning sometimes presents a challenge…but then I’ve always enjoyed challenges!! I accompany English speaking visitors on occasion and do written translation. I also am privileged to be Spiritual Companion for two women. Interacting with our “dear neighbors” is another ‘typically Sister of St. Joseph ministry’ which we enjoy. Joe Mulligan, SJ (from Detroit and Gesu Parish) and I connect periodially, especially at the ‘every 15 days’ Mass he offers at the Government Physical Rehabilitation Hospital. I visit there on Sundays, and on Saturdays I try to get to the women’s hospital and visit those who are there due to cancer related problems. So….I am privileged to be involved in a variety of activities and also just a lot of ‘presence’ with the people. This is in answer to several of you who ask, “What do you do?” I do keep busy but also take time to reflect and relax. I remind myself that being 71 should have some perks!!

I’ll close for now and send this on its way, thanking each of you for who you are and what you do each day to make God’s plan for each of us and all of us become a reality….a dignified, healthy, respected life in the here and now.

Blessings and gratitude,
Your sister, Jeanne

Monday, September 21, 2009

Alternative Approach to Celebrating One's Birth

Saludos amigas y amigos de una Nicaragua MUY, MUY CALIENTE! Greetings friends from a VERY, VERY HOT Nicaragua!

I think I´m doing better with blog posts. I know that many of you check in often and wonder what is going on down here and don’t discover a new posting. So…I am trying to be more current. Today I want to share with you how I celebrated, lived, survived my 71st birthday on September 8th!

Seventy-one years ago on September 8, 1938 I arrived during the wee hours of the morning…like 3:00a.m.!! I’ve been an early riser ever since!!

This year I began my special day for giving thanks for the tremendous gift of life, an incredible set of parents and two big brothers by rising early, spending time in prayer and reflection, preparing a special breakfast of bacon, a perfect omelet, coffee and toast and enjoying my surroundings. Shortly thereafter I left for our office in the center of Managua.

Together with Claudio and Vero, my companions in rural ministry, we started for the campo. We were destined for a farm unknown to us where there were pregnant cows waiting to be selected by two families. Well, I don’t know if they were really eager and waiting to be selected but such was their destiny that day. Claudio who drives the truck was not well, but insisted on going. Actually, we can’t do such trips without him! We nearly met OUR FINAL destiny when Claudio failed to see a stopped bus in the road ahead of us. Vero gently called his attention to the looming obstacle, Claudio jammed on the brakes, the truck slid cattywumpus on the road (providentially, there were no vehicles approaching from the other direction!) and came to a halt a little shy of the still stopped bus! Silence prevailed in the cab for quite a while afterwards as we got ourselves back into normal breathing and heart pumping patterns. Later, we picked up a fellow who SAID he knew where in the hills the farm was located but instinctively I began to question his certitude. I’ve learned to “read” the slight hesitation, the manner of speaking that says, “I THINK I know!” Well, we took the right arm of the road as directed and started DOWN a ‘non-road’. The farm was known to be in a VALLEY! Finally, after much cautious creeping over the ‘trail’ that was narrow, deeply crevassed and precipitous, we stopped to ask a local farmer the whereabouts of our destination. “Oh yes, it’s just a little further on, on the left hand side.” he said. Now, ‘a little further on’ is a very wide open expression down here!

We did finally come to the farm and gratefully got out of the truck confines. The family was delightful, the cows, calves, and other animals were friendly and they served us a glass of the universal solvent, Coca Cola, which we greatly appreciated. I had great fun inside the corral taking photos until both Vero and Claudio said, “Please come outside the fence!” I was making them nervous even though the family said the cows were gentle by nature, and so I found them to be! At last the two cows were selected…I’m never sure what the criteria is that is employed. One was chosen because it had no horns!

We then went to the “nearest” town, Villa el Carmen, to sign the appropriate papers. Now of course, it was noon time and everyone knows that nothing functions except stomachs during this time. We found a home where a woman was willing to feed us for a reasonable price. It was the family front room and we ate at their table with the family dogs participating. My meal was a gift because it was my birthday, which was thoughtful. Finally, offices opened and papers were signed and we returned to the scene of the “purchase” with the fellows who needed to return there and retrieve their choice of cow. Now it was time to start home….and by a much different route. We had arrived by the wrong route…a real road was very near the farm…so off we went toward home but before we were on the main road a large panel truck came careening around a curve at a far too great velocity. Claudio did a ‘graced’ maneuver and got us out the way of the menacing evil truck….second mini-miracle of the day!

Later that evening, as I was relaxing and waiting for a new group of volunteers plus Chepe, with whom I also minister, to arrive at the house I was thoroughly surprised and DELIGHTED to receive a phone call from my sisters at my home base, Goldengate Community in Detroit. I’ve forbidden folks to call because it is too expensive but somehow that command was ignored and I was so glad to hear their voices and greetings. It made my day!

Eventually, Chepe and the six new Capuchin volunteers arrived. I sent Chepe out for ice cream and pop and we had a great time chatting and getting to know each other. I had supplied the cake which Cantera gives each of us as we celebrate our day. It was a great ending to a very FULL day. Was I grateful for life? You know the answer!

The next day I was surprised by my women’s group in Los Planes de Cuajachillo with a fiesta. The cake was a large pineapple upside down version…very delicious.. and the children had prepared a sign with “Feliz Cumpleanos, Juanita” preceded by lots of balloons! I was gifted with their presence, singing, and…green peppers, tomatoes, a granadilla (a large fruit used to make a delicious juice), fresh milk, a pitahya (a, Nica purple fruit for juice), bananas and red beans. All of the above are products of their little farms and lovingly grown. I was surprised and humbled by their generosity. I had unnerved them prior to our gathering by not arriving, as I always do, on the 1:10pm bus from mid-Managua. They figured I wasn’t coming…and after all the preparations! Well, I arrived about 1:45 by truck with Javier driving. I had the inspiration in the morning to ask him if by chance he was going to Los Planes that afternoon! Well, it’s a good thing I was not traveling by bus…how would I ever have arrived back in Batahola Norte with all the produce gifts!!?? No one had thought of that! All in all it was a great birthday and I give thanks for all the folks in my life…both in the North and in the South…and in some further off places!

Life here continues to take its toll on the people as countries pull out of their previous commitments … some choosing to support African nations, others finding themselves tightening belts due to the international financial situation and still others who find it difficult to work with the current political situation.

Thanks for each of you and for your interest in our sisters and brothers of Nicaragua and in my journey with them.

Love and gratitude,

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nothing and Everything

translating for our Canadian visitors at the inauguration of a new, small rural library

I thought it about time for me to be dropping by and letting you know I haven´t been washed away with the rain nor melted by the sun. Actually, we´re having less rain this year than usual and that´s a difficult matter for our campesinos and campesinas. The crops of red beans and corn and vegetables need rain during the ´rainy´ season in order to have enough to eat during the six dry months. Hopefully, the rains will become more frequent and penetrating. Well….would you believe, in spite of the sun that was present 10 seconds ago, it´s started to rain!!

Our poverty situation seems to worsen daily and one wonders how and when that will turn around, but we keep on walking with the people as they discover avenues for having a better, more just life.

moving along with the pregnant cow project

There aren´t many amazing things to report, but then life in Nicaragua, like life in the States has its very ordinary times and I think that´s a good thing. Otherwise, what would be √©xtraordinary´???? I have been doing my usual activities…visits to the farm lands, meetings with folks, visits to two different hospitals on the weekends, entertaining our neighborhood children with my accent, spoiling the area dogs, etc. etc. I will be going to the annual fiesta in Los Planes de Cuajachillo 2 of the Virgin of Nancite. I wrote about this last year in a posting and it´s hard to believe that it´s a year already since that first experience. The people are waiting to see if I´m responsible for the rain during the procession last year! It seems the tradition is that it ALWAYS rains before and after the several kilometer procession but never DURING it. Well….last year it POURED all during the procession! If that happens again this year, I may be considered the cause….such power! Anyway, it makes for good laughter!

We now have new volunteers working with us and the Cultural Center in our neighborhood. These are all young women from the States….Amanda from Fargo, ND, Greta from Jefferson, WV, and three whom I´ve yet to meet who are part of the group sponsored by the Capuchins. I had supper with Greta and Amanda a couple of nights ago and they are absolutely amazing. They have finished college and want to do something to make a difference and so they´re volunteering two years of their young adulthood here in Nicaragua. And….they´re good cooks to boot!! We had great conversation getting to know each other and I´m so impressed with their open and dedicated spirit. The three ¨Capuchinas¨ are in language school in Granada south of Managua and will be back here in two more weeks. I find the young folks a source of encouragement and life for me and I´m grateful for the privilege of being connected to them and their journey.

Julie has returned from her CSJ meetings in Los Angeles and Dianne has been in Louisiana for a week now and will return on the 14th of September. So….I´m in charge of the casa and though I miss Dianne, the space is good too. Dianne will come back with ´goodies´ and that´s always fun…a bit of Christmas in the middle of September!!

Last night I was in contact via SKYPE with my Renewed Local Community of CSJs and it is such a joy to be able to see and hear my close friends. I don´t get to share the meal….however, you can´t have everything! Technology is such a gift and I marvel at what one is able to do these days.

Tonight we will go to our main theater and hear our very own Batahola Norte Chorale as they sing various arias from some operas. It´s truly amazing what they can do. These are kids from the barrio who have been taught to read and understand music and have incredible talent! I will attend with a friend who came here as a Peace Corps. worker and never left. She´s from ??? (actually, I don´t know where she was born and raised!) and is so relaxed and enjoyable to be with. She is a very important figure in the health sector working with the poor in Central America and beyond.

Having nothing more exciting to report, I´ll close, being grateful for each of you and all you do to make this world a better place. Thanks for your prayerful and monetary support.

May all be well with you and your families and friends.

Your sister,


Monday, August 3, 2009


Hola from Nicaragua as we begin a new month! As of last evening we are in the national fiesta of St. Dominic. This celebration will go on through August 10th which is a national holiday. We seem to have a great number of “feriadas” translated, ‘free days, holidays’. A small statue (and I mean small!) of St. Dominic will be taken from one parish of St. Dominic to another (actually staffed by Jesuits)….an interesting contrast, as the first parish is in the upper rent district and the second is in one of the poorest sectors of Managua. Needless to say, there is a lot of music and firecrackers and festivities.

This past month, among many other activities, I accompanied a group of high school youth from Milwaukee for three days of their two week stay. We enjoyed each other and I know they returned with much to ponder as they enter their senior year. It’s been a long time (like 37 years!) since I worked with teens but it was a delight to be with them. Part of the experience was to travel without all the gadgets and technology to which they are accustomed. They enjoyed chatting with each other and playing Scrabble and other such games. It was a different experience in more than one way for them! I minded saying good bye to them and I think it was a bit difficult for some of them to say “adios” to Nicaragua.

It’s also time for two young women, Christine and Laura, to complete their two years of volunteering at a local center near our home. Dianne and I have had the privilege of accompanying them and I will miss them as they return to another life back in the U.S. Many are the graces for me as I walk with another. I learn more about myself and my God as we share experiences, joys and struggles.

This past week we had a three day workshop on “Spirituality”. It was indeed renewing with Tai Chi, dance, artistic expressions, sharing and just good space and time. We have this opportunity every year at this time and the same two women come to guide us. I actually enjoyed dabbling in water color which is not something I readily do. My other painting endeavor was yesterday when I touched up the inside of the undulating tin roof in my room. I managed to not fall off the ladder or cover myself, or other than the ceiling, with paint and am satisfied with the result!

We are still in the midst of reports and the writing of projects, as several of our projects are completed at the end of this year. One such is connected to Scotland and a fine young man who has the responsibility of the Latin American projects has been with us these past days. I have been translating and communicating with “Chris”. When I was introduced to Chris I just stood there and smiled….it never occurred to me that “Chris” might be Christopher and not Christine!!! We all had a good chuckle as I explained my reaction!

We’re in the rainy season and there’s no doubt why it’s referred to this way!! We’ve had tons of rain and much of it comes like prolonged cloud bursts with torrents falling very rapidly, so rapidly that streets become mid-calf deep with rushing water and the houses of the poor which are not sturdily built, to say the least, are damaged or destroyed.

I will finish with this morning’s attempt to get to the office. I stopped and paid the water and electricity bill without difficulty. Then I waited for a bus…normally, they run frequently, but my usual bus didn’t come readily so I did what I know I shouldn’t do….hopped on a #110 which has never been a good choice! Actually, it wasn’t crammed this a.m. BUT I was so absorbed in my Sudoku puzzle that when I looked up we had passed my stop! The driver had a death wish and was driving very fast … however, it was my fault that I missed the spot! When I got off, I started walking to the office, thinking how lovely to see the Rotunda of St. Dominic with all its fluttering, multi-colored pennants flying in every direction and then realized that the route didn’t look quite right. I’m known for not having a sense of direction!! I had taken the wrong “arm” of the rotunda and was NOT headed toward the office. I corrected the mistake (perhaps I need a GPS system, but on second thought it wouldn’t work here because there are no street names or numbers!!!) and proceeded to have a nice long, exercising walk which I needed. So the positives were… that I saw the decorated rotunda and I got exercise!

Take care, each of you. Know that I’m grateful for your love and support. I carry you with me here in Nica land.

Peace and gratitude,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Day in the Life

I’m not sure where the time has flown to, but it’s been a month since my last blog! May and June seem like forever ago! Life has been a grand mix of many activities and travels. I’m not sure where to begin!

I’m including photos of my new ‘dwelling, hermitage, cocoon, postinia,’ so you can see where I lay my head at night. I’m grateful for the private space and so is Julie with whom I shared sleeping and living space, prior. Photos of the ‘southern belles’ working with the Nica folks in the post-construction cleanup process (explained later) are also included.

We’ve had several groups passing through Cantera for an ‘experience’ of Nicaragua. Many of these folks come from the States, Europe or Canada … and so the English speakers accompany them and fill in the blanks provided by Spanish words. A group of young women “newly graduated from high school” just returned to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Canadian visitors from a Catholic support group, “Development and Peace”, are in their second week with us. A group of youth from Milwaukee will be arriving this weekend. I have to admit that I get in on a few perks when I’m with such people. One of them is to ride in a mini-bus instead of a pick-up truck! At times, there are special meals or a new place to visit! And it’s always good to meet new friends and have conversations on many topics.

One experience with the gals from Baton Rouge was a ‘day in the campo’. The rural youth and the city youth spent the day together. They shared with each other about their lives, plans and dreams. Needless to say it was a revelation to the Louisiana group! They all helped clean up the local “nearly completed” chapel and surrounding area which was tough work in the beating sun, but they did a good job. They played and sang and danced and had a great time. In spite of the language barrier they communicated well! On the way back we had a horrendous rain storm and….the gals were in the back of the two pickups! They were smart and piled their shoes in the back seat with yours truly so that they were drenched also. However being INSIDE provided me with the “odor” of 24 athletic shoes!! They got drenched and muddied but were good sports…happy but tired and glad to take showers and get into dry clothes once we arrived back at home base. All in a day of life in Nicaragua!!

I’m still involved in the rural visits and work with women’s groups but at the same time I’m writing proposals and reports and translating those that are being sent to Scotland, Ireland, Canada, US, etc. I learn quite a bit by doing so. Some of our folks have had some training in English and so they do a “rough” draft before I get the product to ‘polish’. Of course, on the internet you have translation helps, but sometimes it’s downright comical. I was working on English subtitles for a video about a pre-school in a very poor area which is supported by a group from California. My friend, Marcelino, who does a wonderful job with graphics, videos, bulletins, posters, pamphlets…you name it….had translated ‘refrigerio’ (mid-morning or afternoon snack) as ‘nibble’. The statement was something like, “We provide a generous ….. for the youth so they are encouraged to return each day to the Center for the help they need..” ‘Nibble’ didn’t quite do it; ’snack’ was a better choice! I told Marcelino that ‘nibble’ is what rabbits do when they eat and they take very, very small bites! We had a good laugh. I find myself wondering what the Nicas hear me say as I use a ‘close, but no cigar’ word in Spanish!!! Keeps me humble and real!

Two weeks after I returned to Nicaragua I had an appointment with a recommended orthopedist at Hospital Militar. They took 2 x-rays (both on the same piece of film..very creative as they fit nicely!) and he pronounced the wonderful words, “You can take the boot off. Just be careful!” So as of June 5th I’ve been “bootless”! All is well ‘down there’ and I’m grateful for a body that heals quickly and well.

Another experience was spending 2 days in Leon at the University learning about the process of drying fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. We have several “secadores”, basically wooden cabinets with ‘fittings’ of solar panels and conductors of hot air for the drying process. We are working on having this as a possible micro-industry along with the production of honey and related products which is already in place.

Among other activities, we had an enjoyable celebration on the Feast of the Sacred Heart at the home of our friends, Mexican Religious of the Sacred Heart, and celebrated a 30th wedding anniversary of a couple from Baltimore (relatives of one of the St. Agnes Sisters) in Spanish, translated by guess who! I was conscripted to do so at the last minute without my permission! It was alright, but I find formal, immediate translation not my greatest gift!!

We have the SKYPE process down now so our monthly meetings as a Renewed Local Community involve not only hearing but also “seeing” each other. Another mode of communication that is now in place is Microsoft Live which we can use for meetings and gatherings between distant places. Modern technology is great…except when it develops ‘a mind of its own’!! I really appreciate being able to communicate freely and quickly with friends and family and am not quite sure how I survived during those 11+ years in Peru without it! I know, it was another era (1983-1995), AND I was younger, but ….

Well, I’ve gone on for long enough. Thanks for being interested and listening! Thanks also for your prayers and support and donations for us here in Nica land. It is all greatly appreciated – more than you can realize!

Your sister, Jeanne

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I've Been Saving it Up

Here I am…checking in after a too long absence! I returned from a month long “tour” in the U.S. on May 26th. My time there included 4 CSJ community meetings, a weekend in Indianapolis with Rich’s family, 6 days in Seattle with my cousins, days in Detroit enjoying time with my local community and other friends…..and time out for dealing with a broken fibula (for non-medical folks that’s the small bone in the lower leg!). I managed to accomplish this while with the family in Indy by stepping into a grass-filled hole while looking for Callie’s (family Spaniel) tennis balls!! I had excellent care at St. Vincent’s E. R. (one of Ascension Health’s members) and had a doctor who was raised in the Detroit area and whose college age daughter had spent her spring break in Managua being with the children of the worst place I have EVER experienced, La Chureca, which is the city dump which is totally beyond description! How’s that for a small, small world??!!

At any rate, the time home was wonderful and my ‘booted’ leg is healing, I’m sure! I need to make an appointment with a local orthopod so it can be x-rayed and approved for ‘boot removal’! I’ll do this next week. I’m being prudent and traveling to the rural area until the leg is completely intact. The drive there is enough to fracture ‘non-fractured’ bones!

I returned to my new dwelling and it’s a wonderful ‘hermitage’. Dianne and I are enjoying our community time together. Yesterday, we took advantage of a stipend she received from a talk with some young women concerning our work with gender issues. We took a ‘paseo’ (little pleasure trip) and purchased plants for our patio and looked for a small chest of drawers for my room. Well, we stopped at a roadside ‘shop’ where there were some beautiful pieces of handmade furniture. I saw a chest I really liked and was admiring it and asked what it cost. I was musing as to whether or not $40.00 was too much to pay when Walter, our friend who helps us with many things, said, “Juanita, the lady said $400.00, not $40.00!!!” Well, we all exploded in laughter at the very thought of it and we’re still laughing. The woman informed me in a businesslike manner that I could pay in cordobas (Nica money) and that she would reduce the price a little. We continued laughing while thanking her and retiring to the Jeep!! Last night during prayers, Dianne glanced at the piece we finally purchased in the “common market” in Managua for $42.50 and started laughing all over again!!

I’m looking out at our patio through my window at a wild orchid that is growing on the trunk of our lemon tree! Now that the rains have started everything is green and growing and lush. I never thought I’d welcome the rains but after more than six months of drought we’re delighted to have the rain. If it would just come in ‘appropriate’ quantities it would be enjoyable!!

For El Dia Mundial de La Tierra (World Earth Day, our youth did a wonderful job of painting a mural on the wall of a highly trafficked street and then doing presentations of theater, song, poetry, dance etc. on the theme of safeguarding our water from all that would contaminate it. The enclosed photos are of this event. The energy and awareness of our responsibility for the protection of our environment was moving. The police blocked off the street and detoured traffic on our side of the boulevard during the entire afternoon so people HAD to pay attention! Hopefully, we’ll all grow in the care and protection of our incredible world, especially our gift of life-giving, essential for living, water.

A little update on the chapel in Las Parcelas: materials have been provided for continuing construction of St. Michael the Archangel Chapel through contributions from my Renewed Local Community of CSJ sisters and my home parish, Gesu. The people have been using their initiative and working on the project and so are delighted that we’re helping them to further the project. Someday I’ll include a photo of a completed chapel. Now, granted you won’t see a cathedral or even a church…just a simple structure that will serve as a gathering place for the folks when Padre comes every two weeks to be with them for Mass…and for other gatherings of like nature. Thanks to those who responded to adding “a grain of sand” to the project.

I’ll touch base again once I’m “back in the harness”. Until then I’m translating project reports from Spanish to English for our supporters in Scotland and Ireland.

I’m so grateful for all that each of you do to make this world a better place for all our brothers and sisters. Thanks for your interest and support of this ‘pilgrim’.

Love, Jeanne

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Hola from Central America where the heat in its fury has returned. Until now we had experienced rather pleasant weather with breezes and warmth…but all good things must come to an end so that we realize what a gift we had!! Just kidding…I really don´t believe that!

We will soon enter into Semana Santa (Holy Week) which in Nicaragua signals vacation. Everyone seems to take off for some “other¨place. Well, we are going to do so, also. It´s important to enter into the life of the people, no? We will be at the Laguna de Apoyo where there´s a rustic cabin we can claim for the first three days of the week. Then we´ll return to Managua for the final days and observances of the Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday. More about the experience after the fact.

Most lately, we´ve been involved in checking on infrastructure matters in the farmland. That is to say….cement/iron tanks for holding the rain water which should arrive in mid-May and latrines. Today we will deliver materials for the construction of the latter and check on the progress of previous constructions. I accompany Claudio who is in charge of such matters and chat with the folks and renew acquaintances and make new ones. It´s a full day with lunch in the road under the shadow of a tree, our form of picnic. Claudio and I share what we've brought and just enjoy the sheer peace and serenity of the moment. I´m including a photo of a two week old calf, the offspring of one of our previously pregnant cows! We met this cute little fellow when we stopped to chat with Alejandro and Marta the other day. ´Tis the season for new calves and colts and many other creatures. The other day I was delighted to see at least 100 (I do tend to exaggerate, but this is no exaggeration!) guardabarrancos. This absolutely beautiful, colorful bird with two long thin black tail pieces with small black feathers at the tip, is our national bird. When the sun strikes them, they are iridescent! I believe the mating season was in full tilt!!

On a more serious side, just as you are experiencing the restrictions and anxieties of an economy in a downturn, so it has its affects here in an already depressed economy. We spend time trying to come up with ideas of how to fund our work with our Nica sisters and brothers but end up cutting back and trying to be creative while we search for new sources of funding. Just yesterday we were told that the $$ for the partial scholarships we are able to give to some of the poorest promising youth will run out. We´ve decided to pull back on the $$ for the high school students and concentrate on the scholarships for those who are studying in the university. These youth live far from educational opportunities and have to travel distances usually studying on Saturdays. These youth are our hope for the future. Pray that we will encounter a project that will address this need.

Well, the mangos have stopped bombing the roof and falling in our back patio! I´ll miss the free fruit but not the startling pounding on the roof all hours of the day and night.

The ¨Hermitage¨ is moving along but of course, nothing happens easily or without problems. As they were working on the bathroom plumbing it was discovered that the previous plumbing is in shambles….so poor Diana is living with a torn up floor and no bathroom facility. She troops across the street to our house and we´ll both be ecstatic when the whole project has a ¨finished¨ sign on it! It will be nice when it completed so in the meantime we wait and endure.

I shall close for now and look forward to seeing some of you before long…in less than a month. Take good care. May the remaining days of Lent be blessed with peace and growth and insight. Thanking you once again for your generosity in support, prayer and donations,
Your sister, Jeanne

Friday, March 20, 2009


I wanted to include the following in my last communication but for a variety of reasons, it didn´t happen!

So....I want to tell you of another project that´s taking place. The people of Las Parcelas, one of our rural communities, have dreamed of having a chapel in their area for MANY, MANY years. Well, they decided that if they never started...even though they didn´t have the resources and everyone put in their ¨grain of sand¨, as they say here, then maybe it would eventually happen. Well they did...and it is very slowly moving along but the people have great pride in their accomplishments, simple as they are. The photos show you what they´ve accomplished so far. The beautiful young woman in the photos is Karlita, the granddaughter of the matriarch of the community, Gertrudis. They have a framework up and a roof on. They´re trying to figure out how to pay for the cement for the floor. Anyone interested in putting in their ´grain of cement´??

Also, we don´t have Easter egg hunts down here....we have mango (mahn go....not mang o) hunts. Every morning and evening and in between, Julie and I check out our back ´forested´patio for the mangos that fall from the neighbors huge mango tree!! The law says, if it falls in your´s yours!! Well, we find them in plain view but also within plants, bushes, behind shrubs, inside´s fun and I love mangos!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Odds and Ends

Dear fellow journeyers!

An update or two on some of the matters that I’ve written about recently would be in order!

The “Share in the Repair (Well at Los Planes de Cuajachillo)” project is coming along very nicely. We met with the Water Committee on Wednesday of last week and were able to give them the $800 that resulted from the generosity of people of Gesu Parish, Detroit, during the Ethnic Meal event and also $250 from a friend who read about it in the blog. They were so very grateful!! Photos and thank you’s are in process. They will begin work tomorrow. They have accumulated their part of the expense from the small amount the people pay for each barrel of water they extract. Also, a generous person has offered the use of their crane. So, all in all…everything is moving along well…and we’re all grateful. Water is SIO ESSENTIAL and sometimes we take it for granted. It’s gift and needs to be appreciated and cared for.

Those of you who know about the ‘hermitage’ that is being constructed will be glad to know that it is moving along…not rapidly but moving!! This will give me a private space to sleep and reflect. It will be in half of Dianne’s patio. Photos will come later.

Pregnant cows have not been apportioned and will not be until the rainy season is upon us and the pasturage is green. The poor cannot afford to buy feed for their animals. They basically forage on the abundant foliage that is available only in the wet season. It would be risky and wasteful to try to nurture a pregnant cow until there’s sufficient for them to eat. More later as this project continues.

I thought I’d just share some random “learnings” with you … things that have occurred in the recent past that have helped develop my character! Renewing my residency status: each year for three years I must gather the papers necessary so that the Immigration Service can say, “Jeanne can stay here another year.” Now that sounds harmless, doesn’t it?? Uh uh!!

  1. One must go to the police station of your district and have them issue a paper with your photo and a statement that says, “Jeanne’s been good and hasn’t been in trouble with us during the past year.” However, one must go to a particular bank first and pay the equivalent of $1.50 and return to the police station with said form. I didn’t know that so it involved a quick trek to said bank before I could START the process. Actually, this process wasn’t all that difficult, just time consuming. I retrieved said document a few days later.
  2. Both Dianne and I had to write letters declaring my authenticity as a CSJ (not difficult).
  3. Two passport size photos must be acquired….they only come in sets of 8!
  4. Copies of current residency card and passport need to be furnished.
  5. Money must be paid….$27.
Now…this was the REAL HURDLE: A Certificate of Health must be obtained from the Public Health System. It is free and that’s a gift, especially for our poor people. One day you line up for a slip of paper telling you when you can return for the blood work, ‘other’ analysis and tetanus shot. The day assigned you return before 7:00a.m. and stand in another long line and receive a number and then wait to have said analysis and shot done. The tetanus person didn’t show that day so that necessitated another trek. Then the tetanus shot must be validated with a rubber stamp from the ‘administration’. Results are obtained another day. And on…and on…
I did get the require half sheet of paper and all is in the hands of the fellow who helps us with our documents. My status expires before I return from the States so must be done in a timely
manner. It will be easier next year!!! I’VE LEARNED!

Another “learning” has to do with mosquito netting: If ever you need to use such, be sure that you have not ‘trapped’ a poor mosquito inside of the netting. Neither mosquito nor human will be happy however, the mosquito will have a great feast! Also, do not wrap yourself in the netting…it will come loose from it’s moorings on high and will land on top of you!! This is not nice in the middle of the totally black night. Getting ‘out from under’ is a challenge!!

I will be in the States from April 25th until May 26th for congregational meetings and other matters of family and community. I hope to see some of you then!

Some of you have heard my voice LIVE or in a phone message lately! This is because a kind and generous "Fr. William" from San Francisco visited and left us a video phone and paid the monthly fee for the can call the States free! Blessings on Fr. William and all of you who are so thoughtful and walk with us.

It’s good chatting with you. Thanks for your love and support.
Juanita a.k.a. Jeanne

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus

Dear Followers of Sister Act 3!!

I often wonder if some folks drop in thinking they might discover Whoopi Goldberg! Sorry!

This morning on my way to work I experienced a mini-miracle! I boarded a #114 bus which had apparently been repainted…you know, the yellow, Blue Bird, already over-used school bus from the States. Well, it seems that all four shock absorbers were ‘absorbing’, I couldn’t see the pavement through any holes in the floor boards, the seats were intact and basically comfortable, the driver seemed neither crazy nor hell bent for destruction with a subconscious death wish, and the music he had on was soft, low and relaxing! Now I tell you, here in Managua, that’s a mini-miracle! I thanked the driver for a peaceful ride as I left. He just looked at me as though I were a very strange gringa.

I wish to report that the “Well Project” that I mentioned in my last blog, received an incredible boost last Sunday. My friends and fellow parishioners of Gesu Parish in Detroit had their Annual Ethnic Meal and they featured our well project as an opportunity to join in helping in the repair of the well in one of our farm communities. They contributed almost $800.00!!! I spoke with one of the coordinators of the project this morning and he’s delighted because they had decided to go ahead with the purchase of the tubing with the money they have accumulated ($700.00). That leaves them with $500.00 left to scrounge up. They’ll manage, as they are a “together” community and will figure out how to raise this remaining amount.

Those who were willing to enter more deeply into the Nicaraguan experience could taste the national food, ‘gallo pinto’. That is what the folks eat more than once a day….red beans and rice. I’m good for once a day…..but that’s enough! I must report that I’m doing better with the boiled bananas, although I prefer them fried. And… when I’m home in May, I’ll pass on red beans and rice. Rice by itself will be fine, but the red beans can wait until I return to Nica land.

Yesterday, we went to Las Yucas. Actually, this was my first visit to this very distant community. Like La Ceiba it is “on top the Nicaraguan world” and the 29 families that live somewhat near this area are extremely poor and depressed in spirit. They have a one room, open-air school where 33 students from 1st through 6th grade “study”. Our young promoter, Brenda, age 20 who lives 6 kilometers distant from said school is the lone teacher. She’s a beautiful young woman who is bright and also performs folkloric dances beautifully. Hopefully, her future will provide some opportunities for her to move along in life because she is indeed capable and spirited.

The final addition to this edition is the news that as of last week, we are in the process of constructing a dwelling for Juanita a.k.a. Jeanne. For the past year I have been sharing a bedroom and living with Julie who is a CSJ of another “branch” of our family tree. These houses have only one bedroom. I’ve slept in the “second space” which means that I enter and exit through Julie’s space. It’s a possible “do” but not really good for women in their 70’s who are up and down during the night. And it provides neither of us with privacy. So…Dianne, the other CSJ of my congregation who lives across the small street in her one bedroom casita, envisioned a separate bedroom and bath in half of the patio area behind her house. Our Leadership Team readily agreed to the project and generously allotted even more $$ than we projected for the construction. And so it will be! Walter, who helps us with everything, is in the market today buying sand, cement, iron rods, concrete blocks, etc. etc. etc. in order to start the construction. I’ve named it, “Juanita’s Hermitage”. Eventually, you see some photos of the project.
Thanks for ‘tuning in’ and sharing in the journey.

Love and gratitude,

Jeanne a.k.a. Juanita

Monday, February 9, 2009

Against the Wind

Greetings from VERY WINDY Nicaragua! We’re having pleasantly warm (not-unbearably- hot yet!) weather accompanied by strong, high winds. Those of you, who know me well, know that I like my hair “in place”! Well, forget that! Actually, I’m fine with the freedom of letting it blow and fall where it may!

I’ve been back less than a month but it seems like six months. I have no idea what that indicates! I’m in the process of visiting the rural areas and also forming groups of women who wish to reflect and discuss spirituality, aspects of the Bible and whatever else they wish to pursue. This will probably also take me into a new area which is not rural – an area referred to as Ciudad Sandino which started as a place for refugees to settle during the war and after several natural calamities. We have a center there. Dianne, the other sister of my community, works out of this center with youth.

Last Thursday I went with my friend, Claudio, to an area called La Ceiba. Two of the pregnant cows now reside there! One of them is still pregnant….but promises to produce a calf shortly! She’s a beautiful Caramel color cow named Chota. At any rate, La Ceiba is at the ‘back of beyond’ at the very top of the hills and the poorest of the poorest reside there, trying to eke out a living by farming and cutting wood. The roads to and from are beyond description!! But with Claudio’s experience and good driving expertise we came and went without any major incidents. My head hit the roof of the cab at one point as we hit an unexpected ‘crevasse’. Not to worry….the head is hard and did not even get dented! We returned with lots of bananas to fry and some coveted free range chicken eggs….and lots of sand and dirt in clothing, hair and ‘other areas’.

I was chuckling to myself as I rode to the office the other day on one of our infamous buses! A man got on carrying lots of brooms, toilet brushes, plungers and heaven only knows what else! You can imagine his trying to work his way down the center of the bus with folks standing on either side of the aisle. Those bristles are pretty sharp!! That day the bus was so jammed full of people that when it was time to think about getting out, the folks said that I should wait until the bus stopped at my point of departure and they would exit so I could do the same! If you don’t like being touched….you definitely should not get on a bus especially at certain hours of the day! You feel as though you’ve really accomplished something when you slither, push, slide, jostle, nudge, displace other bodies and items - and any other word you can fit into such a scene - and arrive all in one piece, outside of said bus! I like challenges and such is this! Another day I was traveling with three precious eggs I’d been given in the farmland. I had them inside my backpack which I was protecting VERY CAREFULLY. Well, the bus became VERY FULL and offered to put the stack of school books belonging to the person hovering on top of me, on my lap. I had visions of scrambled eggs in my backpack instead of in the frying pan! I did manage to get to home base with the eggs in tact as they came forth from the chicken. I was grateful!!

The people of my home parish in Detroit, Gesu, are helping to repair one of our community wells by participating in their annual Ethnic Meal by displaying aspects of this project and offering mahogany- wood spatulas and pie servers in gratitude for donations of $20.00. An Irish born carpenter who lives in the area of the ‘ailing well’ (hm-m-m ailing well!!) with his wife and two small daughters has set up a small workshop where three young men produce these items. He donated 50-some pieces as a contribution to the project. Peggy, one of my generous sisters is preparing our national food to share – “gallo pinto” a.k.a. red beans and rice, which our folks eat at least once a day, if not more often. This type of collaboration really warms my heart and also brings us closer as sisters and brothers. This well has been serving the people of Los Planes de Cuajachillo 2 for over thirty years and the tubing is in dire need of being replaced. The families of this very extensive area send one of their members, driving a wooden cart loaded with large plastic barrels and drawn by a pair of yoked oxen, to draw the water they need to meet all their needs. It’s a long trip and without this water they wouldn’t survive. There are no rivers or rain water to collect for at least six months of the year during the dry season. The folks cannot afford to drill their own wells. The water table is very deep and aside from that there’s no money to pay for this work. So you can see that this is indeed a great need for the area.

Well, I shall close for now, thanking many of you for your many kindnesses to me during my month home and ask that you continue to keep your Nica sisters and brothers in your thoughts and prayers – me, too! You can be sure that you are in our daily prayers of gratitude.

Love from Managua,
Your sister, Jeanne a.k.a. Juanita

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Dear Followers of Sister Act 3!

I know, I know, it’s been a long time since the last post but I warned you that I might not get a chance to connect until after I returned to Nicaragua.

So….here I am back in Managua after a little over a month in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. It was a great time with family and friends. A lot was crammed into a short time but I tried to keep it spaced and unhurried. Thanks again to all of you who made it such a rewarding time. Thanks for the gift of you and your time and your interest in what’s happening in my little corner of the world a.k.a. Nicaragua! Many of you were generous, also with donations for our projects here and your Nica sisters and brothers are most grateful as we work toward sustainable development.

NOW!! I hate to tell those of you who are in the midst of the DEEP FREEZE in the States that I’m sitting here in my office with all five windows open and feeling the sun, temps in the 80’s and fairly strong breezes. I so wish I could box it up and send it your way. I’m so conscious of those who don’t have adequate shelter and warmth and are suffering with the intense cold. I keep closely connected to what is happening in other parts of the world on a daily basis and send positive energy to all those areas.

We met yesterday as a rural team and I informed our director and team members of the generosity of many and they are indeed grateful. There will be additional cows, chickens, silos for seeds, latrines, athletic equipment, books and pencils because of sisters and brothers in the USA. Next week we will have two days of planning in all areas in which Cantera is involved. We’re all impacted by the poverty here and the difficult economy (to say the least!) in the US and Europe, but together we will move on. It’s a time for redefining priorities and determining needs vs. wants.

I will be in touch on a more regular basis once we are back into a more “normal” routine. Please be assured of my gratitude for each of you and your prayers and good wishes. Needless to say, you are very much in my thoughts and prayers.

Hopefully, the photos will warm those of you who are in the “freezer” currently!

Your sister,