Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feliz Navidad

Greetings from VERY FROZEN Michigan!

I’m not having any trouble realizing that I’m not in Nicaragua. All I have to do is feel my nose and fingers and I’m convinced. Now, just why would someone leave Nicaragua at this time of the year when the temps are 68 - 89 and the skies semi-cloudy and the breezes balmy?? I don’t think it’s necessary to answer that justifiable question.

I hadn’t planned on blogging while I was home in the States but I find that I miss not staying in touch, so here I am! Many of our sisters and other friends comment on the blog and how much they enjoy hearing about the ventures and adventures of this blogger. It’s a great way to stay in touch and to link south to north and now I’m linking north to south.

I am very aware of the Advent season here and grateful that this year we have four full weeks of this season. It’s a beautiful time to reflect and to try to stay focused on the real reason for all this anticipation and preparation, while at the same time enjoying the Christmas preparations all around.

You’ll be glad to know that my snow/ice driving skills kicked back in immediately and that’s a very good thing as it’s a real challenge these days. Fortunately, MOST people are using common sense and driving slowly and not hitting brakes unnecessarily….however, there are THOSE OTHERS….so one must keep all eyes, ears and nerves on “the others” while at the same time navigating one’s own vehicle.

I was sorry to have missed Purisima in Nicaragua, the national day for celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I spent that day in Cleveland having my personal interview with a member oaf our visiting Vatican- appointed team. All went well, as far as I could determine. It was so good to be with my sisters at our center where I’m pretty well known as the ‘cow lady’ and/or the ‘chicken lady’. This year the Leadership Team of the congregation is sponsoring four sets of five chickens plus one rooster as their Christmas gift to benefactors and co-ministers. For the last two years it’s been cows. Diversity is good! I have been a member of this ‘greatest community ever’ for the past 54+ years and it’s always gift to be able to spend time with my sisters. I just missed their lovely snowfall of 12-14 inches. On the west side of the city, we only had 4 inches.

I’m getting ready to betake myself to St. Louis where I’ll spend Christmas with the other half of my family having spent Thanksgiving with the Michigan family. When I return I’ll head to Cleveland for a week of silent retreat. Oh, I do look forward to that time each year. Then it will be time to head to Chicago and on to Managua. I should land back in the land of lakes and volcanos on the night of the 19th if all goes according to plan. However, I’ve enough experience under my belt to be open to whatever comes my way. Will blog again when I’m back in Nica land.

The translation of the Christmas greeting which is from all of us at Cantera is:

“Let us sing to peace and solidarity among peoples. Let us sing to the women, men, girls, boys and youth who are building a new world. ---- Constructing dreams and utopias.” (Cantera’s vision)

Blessings to each of you for a peace-filled and joy-filled Christmas Season and for a 2011 bringing us closer in love, compassion, solidarity and peace with each other, wherever we are in this world.

Love and Gratitude from your sister, Jeanne.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wood Hath Hope

Managua, Nicaragua

November 3, 2010

St. Martin de Porres of Lima, Peru – Patron Saint of the Poor

“Wood hath hope. If it’s cut, it grows green again and its boughs sprout clean again. Wood hath hope.”

Do you remember this song by the St. Louis Jesuits from a FEW years back? I do! I’m reminded of it every time I see a fence post here in Nicaragua that refuses to be just a dead piece of wood supporting fence wire and instead breaks into life again! It speaks to me of HOPE in the midst of too many indications to the contrary. The Spanish word for hope, esperanza, sounds like what it signifies - a breath of air, uplifting, promising. I’ve taken some photos of these ‘dead’ pieces of wood that are ‘sprouting clean and growing green again’. One of these was taken in the campo and the other in our neighborhood.

The beautiful field of green is the second crop of beans that have now made their way to the fresh air and are growing rapidly. I’ve been informed that here it takes 50 days for a bean seed to mature – from sowing to harvesting. This field to me is a sign of esperanza. Thanks go to my congregation for helping our farmers replant after losing a large part of their first planting due to exceedingly heavy rains.

My little brothers and sister who live high up in the hills are also signs of esperanza. I was having dinner in Las Lajas at the home of the beautiful little girl and her family, when I looked up and saw her looking at me through the flowers and vines. I asked her to ‘please stay put’ while I grabbed my camera and graciously, she did. The boys are brothers on their way home from school in Las Latas and were only too happy to pose before hiking off on their long walk back to their humble home.

This is probably be my last posting until I return to Nicaragua toward the end of January. I will leave for the States just before Thankgiving so I can see both my families (Rob’s and Rich’s) over the holidays. I look forward to seeing many of you during the time I’ll be home. As for the rest of you faithful followers, I’ll be thinking of you and sending you lots of love, peace and HOPE.

As we approach Advent, Navidad and New Years, I thought ‘hope’ would be an appropriate topic. I trust that you’re conscious of many hopeful aspects in your own life and journey. Each of you is a sign of hope for me and I thank you for that.

Peace, Love, Hope,


eta: photos of the children

Friday, October 22, 2010

Life Given and Life Destroyed

Here I am again! Your responses make me a little more responsible about posting blogs more frequently. Thanks for the comments and encouragement. I enjoy sharing with you some of my experiences here in Nicaragua with the hope that it helps you feel more connected to your sisters and brothers who have and live a life that is just as valuable as each of ours but that for the grand majority is a life that has not had the opportunities that many/most of us have enjoyed.

One of the opportunities I have each weekend is visiting two of our government hospitals…one a hospital for mothers giving birth and for women with gynecological problems and cancer patients. The other is a physical rehab hospital. One part of Aldo Chavarrhia, the physical rehab hospital, is for those who have lost arms and/or legs through accidents or land mines. I’ve often reflected on this after I meet and visit with these folks. The majority of those who come to Managua to be fitted for a prosthesis or to have an existing prosthesis refitted or replaced come from the northern departments where the war years (1984 – 1990) took place They have stepped on a buried land mine which is still able to be activated and have had limbs blown off. The maps which tell where these mines were originally placed are not useful because with the torrential rains we experience and especially with the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the mines have ‘moved on’.

The terrain in the north is very hilly and so the mechanisms have moved easily and far. One man told me that “not even God knows where they are!” Land mines have been outlawed by many nations as a weapon. However, the United States and a few other countries have yet to sign the treaty which would prohibit the use of such devasting devices which end up harming people young and old, for many years during and after the war officially ends. I suspect that the grand majority of our folks who have lost limbs through land mines or accidents do not have the advantage of a prosthesis. They hobble through the streets on crutches or in wheelchairs begging for a living, hoping for generosity, understanding and compassion from their sisters and brothers.

I have not been to the ‘higher hills’ since that adventurous trip I wrote about the last time…the lower ones, yes. I have been to Los Planes which can be reached by a variety of vehicles and which is is arrived at, over less difficult, but still challenging, roads. Kari and I go to this area every two weeks and meet with a group of incredible women who range in age from younger to ‘more mature’. I’ve been meeting with them for a couple of years now. We chat and enjoy each other, but the main reason for gathering is to study aspects of the Bible and to take time to reflect on Scripture and share that reflection. The wisdom, faith and richness of their lives is the gift that is shared. These gatherings give me life and I look forward to them, even though it’s a bit of a challenge to go and come.

Once I get into the ‘campo’ (farmland) area I experience a particular peace and calm. It’s mostly quiet there except for animal ‘voices’. The foliage is lush, colorful, thick and green and birds and butterflies are everywhere! It’s a simple, basic lifestyle that’s lived there and the beauty of creation leads one to prayer very easily. So each Wednesday evening I thank God for the presence in my life of Dominga, Paula, Maria Elena, Amalia, Evangelina, Yoma, Migdonia, Leah and others that come when they’re able. They teach me a great deal about life and God and relationship. They are gift! Who are the gifts in your life who enliven you?

You are gift! Thank you for your love, support, prayers, donations and interest in this country located in the ‘heart’ of Central America. Your Nicaraguan sisters and brothers … and this sister…are grateful.

Until the next ‘posting’ …

Love and gratitude,


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nearer My God to Thee…

Managua, Nicaragua

October 7, 2010

Hello, my ‘followers’,

It occurs to me that perhaps some of you might wonder about the You Tube connect to “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission that appears at the top of my blog space. This has been on the blog site since pretty much the beginning when my friend, Ruth, realized how much I enjoyed that piece of music. She put it there so I can listen to it whenever I wish. The movie and book, The Mission, both in English and Spanish have been favorites of mine for years.

Normally, my blog mistress puts a title on my postings. However, I decided on the title for this one! Today I’ll share with you our last experience of determination to get to the various rural settings in spite of the conditions. I think we’ve reached a new aspect of reality and Claudio, my co-worker and the driver of our trusty yellow 4-wheel drive pickup, has finally admitted that there are limits!

One day we went to an area called Masatepe to negotiate for 6 quintales (600 pounds) of frijoles (beans) so that our farmers could replant. The fervent hope is to be able to make up for the crop lost to the intensive rains. We had a long but delightful day, finally accomplishing the task. Of course, there was waiting involved because the only person who could give us a valid receipt was in Ticuantepe which was 45 minutes away. We did a little paseo (pleasure trip) to the town and enjoyed some new sites. We also went to San Marcos, and among other things, saw Tom Monaghan’s Ave Maria University. No comment.

The next day we set off for 5 of the rural areas with the intention of delivering the 100 pound bags of seeds - one quintal had been dropped off the day prior at a closer area. The frijoles were well protected with meters of heavy black plastic…inevitable rain, you know! We started off and were able to get to Los Filos, Las Yucas, Las Latas-Lajas, La Ceiba and ULTIMATELY Las Parcelas! It was a trip never to be forgotten. I don’t know how many times Claudio stopped the truck, got out and spent several minutes trying to find a ‘possible place’ to get from ‘where we were’ to ‘where we needed to go’ without falling into one of several trenches and/or sliding off the edge of wherever! At one point earlier in the ‘adventure’, we met a larger truck than ours loaded with corn. Now, this is a one-vehicle-only type of trail that sits in between high banks of earth. These caminos have been ‘carved out’ by the rains over the years. There was definitely no way to back up and/or turn around. The fellows from the other truck “guided” us up on the side of the road which put us on about a 45 degree angle with himself on the ‘other truck’ side and myself on the ‘up’ side hanging onto the hand grip above my seat. I have no idea why it worked without some mishap…but it did. Claudio didn’t know how it worked either, but after the “passing” both trucks were upright and we were warm (as in sweating) and breathing! I think it was divine intervention! He had suggested previously that I pray to all the angeles y santos (male saints!!). I informed him that the “santas” (not as in Santa Claus!!) were more likely to be of help and more focused! He did not argue with me! Claudio is diabetic and we hadn’t brought anything to eat and it was well past ‘feeding’ time! Next time I’ll make sure we have food. He’s been doing this for 9 years and is a good driver and so I was anxious but not having a panic attack. However, I did not want to spend the night in mud up to my knees! We did manage – with a lot of help from above, I’m sure – to eventually get back down to the main road. Claudio admitted afterward that he was frightened. “It was the worst I’ve ever seen it”, said he! It was a fairly silent trip from La Ceiba to Las Parcelas. Needless to say, there were many prayers of gratitude sent up that evening. I checked to make sure the following day that Claudio said his, too!!

I do enjoy a challenge and have an adventuresome bone in my body, but I can do without a repeat of that particular experience. Claudio has not wanted to venture forth until the rains subside. He’s looking at next Wednesday. I’ll write an update afterward. I’m also making a list of aprendizajes (learnings) that have evolved from this experience. What adventure have you had lately and what did you learn from it?

Take care, my friends. Thanks for ‘following’ and to some of you for sending comments. Your love and support are greatly appreciated.

Your sister,


A note on the photos:

One of them is loading the sacks of beans, another is a delivery at Las Yucas, "Hector" is my little friend on the tire, the oxen are the most secure transport system in the rural area and the rural "kitchen" is just cooking is done there. The "loading" took place in Masatepe and the other photos were all taken at Las Yucas while we were delivering one quintal. That was before the going became very nearly IMPOSSIBLE.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Too much and too little

Reporting in from Central America! Does anyone want some moisture? Are you too dry? We’d be more than happy to send some your way! ‘Tis the rainy season and like so many other areas of our planet, the weather system seems to be ‘disturbed’. According to the Nica folks, this year beats them all for the amount and intensity of the rains. Many areas are suffering greatly from loss of homes and their meager material goods due to flooding. The bean crop in particular is suffering from too much rain causing the rotting of seeds and the washing away of cultivated plants. Our CSJ Leadership Team sent emergency funds which have enabled us to help out. In the Mateare-Ciudad Sandino rural areas we have been able, through the use of these funds, to purchase 7 quintales (100 pounds per quintal) of frejoles rojos (red beans) for each of our comarcas (areas). These will be planted and prayed over with the hope that this second planting will survive and bear a normal crop.

On Saturday Kari and I were returning from visiting women cancer patients at the government hospital and we stopped to have an Eskimo Pie. Are you old enough to remember the white carts with jangling bells that tempted kids and irritated moms that would work their way up and down the streets during the summer? Well, we have the very same thing here but they’re called Es-KEEE-moe (accent on second syllable!). They also have these in grocery stores. We stopped at one such called La Colonia and that’s where I began to think about paradoxes. Our eyes lit up when we saw asparagus! And….then they lost their light when we noted the price…$10.00 per pound! And in another aisle we got excited seeing Multigrain Cheerios which are a favorite of mine. A medium sized box was ONLY $15.00!! Obviously, both items were imported. Then I thought, “..there are folks here who wouldn’t bat an eye at paying those prices while at the same time the majority of our people are scrounging to put beans and rice on the table.” Yes, life at most levels is indeed a paradox and this one is, over abundance in the midst of abject poverty. It was a stark aspect of reality. The other paradox that struck me is that we have all this water which is causing so much damage and even death and yet we lack water for daily life in many of our areas, especially the rural sections.

Now to close with a bit of joy and beauty. Our richness here is in the people. The Nicaraguan folks are beautiful and a gift to me. The other gift is another aspect of creation and that’s in the abundance of flora and fauna … during the rainy season. Early the other morning I was sitting in a rocker in our small patio in which my “hermitage” exists, eating my peanut butter toast and drinking my coffee . I noticed a brand new butterfly on the wall who was drying her wings … she stayed with me for quite a while. Then one of our ‘mascots’, a little gecko, entertained me for some time…all of this in the midst of our lemon tree which is giving us MANY lemons this year and a multitude of very green plants and flowers…. I had a great conversation with our loving Creator and was thinking…wouldn’t it be great if a picaflor/colibri (a.k.a. hummingbird) would come for breakfast on our yellow cameron plant and our rose-colored hibiscus which had birthed five blossoms earlier this a.m.! And don’t you know….she flew right in and stayed for some time, eating and hovering, in the midst of the rest of the beauty. I wanted to share this with you because sometimes I miss the beauty that’s around me because of the many worrisome, upsetting matters that are part of daily life. Does that happen in your daily life, too? What beauty was/will be gift for you today?

Thanks for connecting, being interested and supportive!
Your Nicaraguan sister,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eye see

I see the promise of tomorrow in a rural classroom

I’m back in Nicaragua after three quick but wonderful weeks enjoying times of celebration – our Jubilees of 50, 60 and 75 years of life as Sisters of St. Joseph. Being with Marie and the other Jubilarians and reliving my own golden jubilee in 2006 was a great joy. Call, response, community, ministry, service, growth, love and much more are indeed aspects of life to be celebrated. And celebrate we did!! Soon we will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Dianne. Dianne has been in this area of Latin America 16 years and before that spent 8 years in Bolivia…around the time I was in Peru….as well as shorter stretches in Panama, Guatemala and Mexico.

I also had visits and other fun times while home. I felt as though I had dragged the constant rains and humidity with me from Nicaragua but tried not to be paranoid about it. After a few days we had hot but enjoyable weather and outdoor times were lots of fun.

I returned on the 9th and encountered very interesting folks along the way. I was surprised to find out that I had been ‘upgraded’ to First Class because they tried to pack too many people in Economy Class. They told me it was because I had Sky Miles with Delta…but I think it was my age…in spite of very few gray hairs!! Who knows…it was great having space and a meal and drinks and attention!! Delta does not have a light meal as does Continental in the ‘rear’!

Claudio and the trusty pickup truck.

As always there have been some changes here, even in three weeks time. So, I’m catching up. I’ve gone to the ‘campo’ four times this past week with Vero, Claudio and one of those times we had a visitor from Atlanta whom we took to La Ceiba for a workshop on gender. It was a full day and Maggie was a good sport and didn’t whine about the strenuousness of the trip with the lurching, jolting, sliding, etc. of our trusty yellow pickup truck. I took some school supplies to the most isolated areas. I was able to purchase them at very, very low prices while in the States. Our visitors had also brought such down, so we had some nice packages to deliver. Hopefully, the crayons didn’t melt or the chalk break before they arrived at their final destination. The rural schools are equipped with one room of four walls, a roof, some desks or benches, an antiquated chalkboard and precious little more. So, any item is greatly appreciated … the boxes contained crayons, chalk, a few rulers, scissors, pencils and a pack of markers. The teachers were delighted as will be the children. It takes very little to bring joy!

Next Sunday Kari and I will go to Los Planes de Cuajachillo 2 to participate in the annual celebration of the parish in that sector. We celebrate “Nuestra Senora de Nancite” (Our Lady of Nancite). Nancite is a fruit that is in season right now. Actually, it’s one of my least favorite fruits but I will be well behaved and eat some next Sunday! I did a blog a couple of years ago on the procession that precedes the Mass. We pray for NO RAIN during the procession. It’s a long walk….longer still if you’re drenched. I enjoy the people and their devotion and dedication and feel privileged to be a part of their cultural expression of a long tradition for them.

Students hard at work.

August 24, 2010

Today started out with the joyful announcement that the young man with the cart that ‘carts off’ branches and leaves that result from trimming the trees, was at the door. Then I left for the office….I thought I’d learned the lesson of paying attention to the numbers on the buses…but you know how much an 8 can look like a 0??? I thought I was getting on a 110 but as I was chatting with the woman next to me, she said she worked at the Oriental Market…and then when I sensed that the bus was going to turn onto a ‘wrong’ street….I asked her what route we were on and she said, “118”! Well, needless to say, I got off shortly, walked a few blocks and got onto a bus that would take me where I intended to go!

How did your day start today? And, what have you relearned??

Love and support,


Friday, July 9, 2010

Food for thought...

“Managua, Nicaragua, is a wonderful spot!

Coffee and bananas and a temperature HOT!”

Are you old enough to remember this song?? I am!! And it’s TRUE! However, they forgot to include beans and rice!

I thought I’d drop a note to you before I travel north for three weeks (July 19 - August 9). This way you won’t think I fell off the edge of the world for lack of communication.

A few days ago it occurred to me to start noticing the things that make me smile. There’s plenty here to ponder about, reflect on, feel sad about…but there are also many things about which to smile and feel happy! The thought came when two young fellows dressed as clowns got onto the bus and had the whole bus smiling and even laughing because of their repartee! Now…I suspect some of what they were saying was a bit shady but it was lost on me! At any rate the list began to grow and I so I share it with you. It’s been a good exercise and maybe one you might want to engage in such a reflection in your ‘neck of the woods’.

1. Clowns hoping to earn money by hopping on buses or juggling in the middle of busy streets thus making folks smile and forget about their struggles and worries about how to survive another day.

2. Beautiful dark-eyed, dark-haired, many shades of “beige and brown – skinned” children.

3. A 97 year old ‘abuelita’ who sat next to me on the bus this morning on my way to the office, clear as a bell, and delighted to know that I knew her ‘home base’ in the farmland of Los Filos de Cuajachillo. Her response to my farewell of “Que Dios le bendiga!” (God bless you!) was a pat on my hand and a triple “Amen”.

4. A ‘picaflor’ (hummingbird) in our garden that lets me know she’s there by her high pitched music.

5. The beauty of the countryside during this rainy season….lush, overgrown, green life.

6. An unexpected breeze that brings a bit of relief from the heat and humidity.

7. The incredible enthusiasm by everyone here over FIFA, the World Cup Soccer games. Everywhere there’s a TV, it’s honed in on the games when they’re on.

8. Beautiful, very different flowers and fruits grown here.

9. Hearing the loud chirp of our house pets – little geckos.

10.Seeing the small, white, wild orchids bloom on the lemon tree outside my window.

11.Hearing our neighborhood children laugh and play in front of our house.

12.Being in the campo and seeing the guardabarrancos fly with the sun displaying their iridescent colors.

13.Seeing friends’ names on my e-mail site on my computer!

14.Knowing that you enjoy this blog!

And….what makes you smile???

Looking forward to seeing some of you SOON. Thanks for you and all you are and do to make this world a better, more just place for all.



Monday, June 14, 2010

New Beginnings

(I’m sending some of the heat, humidity and rain along with this…just to share!)

Greetings from the land of multitudinous mangos, flowering malinche trees and lots of lemons! All three of these marvels of nature are in great abundance right now.

Today as I’m writing a grant proposal for a donation for small scholarships for some of our very poor, but very capable rural youth, I decided to do a ‘two-fer’. I’ll blog the application responses!! Aha! I’m getting smarter as I get older….or is it lazier??? I prefer to believe it’s the wisdom that comes with age.

Our Nazareth Association generously gives grants for worthy causes that advance learning and improvement. We consider our rural youth on both secondary and university levels to qualify as very worthy. Our country provides education up through the sixth grade. Many do not complete this requirement, but there are those who struggle to continue studying. For our rural youth, in order to complete junior and senior high, the majority must do so on Saturdays – cramming a week of work into one very long day. Their help is needed on the farm working along with their parents and there is no school anywhere near them. So off they trudge on foot, horse drawn cart or bike, and eventually buses, to get to their school. We help by alotting them money for transportation and food while away from home. However, recently the funds from various sources dried up and so I’m appealing to the Nazareth Association for $1,000.00 to support three university and eight secondary students for the next six months. We always dream of a better future but we also have to let folks know of the opportunity to assist with the dreams of our people. Our future lies in our more educated youth and so onward we trudge. Two of the university students are majoring in agronomy. We need youth to stay in the rural area, improving farming and animal husbandry methods. Hopefully, Daniel and Earling will eventually complete their studies and assist their communities as they move into a more productive future. Bayardo is a very gifted and wholesome young man who comes from great poverty but has had the opportunity to have a good basic education and has been awarded a scholarship to the UCA – University of Central America - founded and run by the Jesuits. These universities are top notch and provide excellent educational opportunities. It was at the UCA of El Salvador that the martyrdoms of the seven Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter occurred.

We have great hopes for Daniel, Earling and Bayardo!

This past Wednesday, Kari Pohl, csj arrived in Nicaragua to bless us with her presence and ministry. Kari is a Michigan woman from Westphalia, but due to circumstances beyond our control, met up with the Baden CSJs at University of Detroit Mercy, where she studied nursing. She ultimately entered the Baden (Pittsburgh) branch of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She’s a mere youth of 35 and brings life and energy, as young folks are wont to have – and we’re delighted! I’m sure you’ll hear more about Kari as I blog on in the future. Bienvenida Kari!

Yesterday I went with Kari to the office of the Conference of Religious where we started the procedure for getting her residency papers processed. She’s off to a much better start than I was 2.5 years ago. Because of my lack of documentation and the ensuing stuggle which was absorbed by my Michigan based friends, Kari has come with almost everything in order. They did change a couple of requirements but they will be easily met. Anyway, by the time we disembarked from the bus, the ‘monsoon’ was just getting ‘het up’. We were thoroughly drenched, in spite of umbrellas (they really just serve as symbols!), and arrived at the house a mere two blocks from the bus stop TOTALLY DRENCHED – and I mean that literally. It’s the wind that makes the umbrellas ineffectual, since it drives the rain sideways! Anyway, she’s had her baptism and is now qualified to consider herself Nica!

I could prattle on, but will not. Thanks for each of you and your interest in our sisters and brothers who lack what is needed for a dignified and healthy life, wherever you are, doing whatever you do in this regard.

Love, your sister,

Photo: Malinche tree courtesy Google Images

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Greetings once again from hot, steamy, teeming rain, tropical Managua. The good news is that the rains have been coming more frequently so our farming folks can have hopes for a productive harvest. Without this there is no recourse for the folks of the rural areas, so I gladly raise my umbrella and try to stay somewhat dry…usually not successfully. However, there is no evidence of a ‘rain hat’!!

Speaking of the rural territories, I spent yesterday in La Ceiba. This is the furthest and highest area we visit. The day was designed for a workshop on Natural Medicine. The women and a couple of fellows had been collecting, pressing and drying various leaves that have medicinal value as homework following the previous workshop. Yesterday was devoted to attaching them to tag board by means of glue or sewing, naming them, describing what they were used to cure or prevent and instructions on how to prepare them. After this was completed….some had as many as 23 specimens!….each sheet was placed in a plastic sheath together with a title page,, holes punched in each and then tied with yarn. The project took time but was most successful and gratifying. The participants now have a compendium of useful information with which to meet the medical needs of their families and neighbors. Medicine is expensive and there are many natural items that have curative effects, cost nothing and also do not introduce chemicals into the body.

On the way to La Ceiba, we dropped of poles and tarps at the well at Las Yucas that will be needed for Monday’s receiption of the Prime Minister of Luxumbourg. She will be visiting to see first hand how the well which Caritas Luxumbourg/Switzerland and Cantera helped finance, is functioning. As we were jouncing along, I mentioned that I was hungry because I had forgotten to eat breakfast beingin a hurry to get to the office at 8:00…the prescribed time to leave. Of course, we didn’t leave until 9:40. So Claudio offered me a HUGE mango he’d acquired and handed me his Swiss Army knife! This was a VERY RIPE mango…I leave the rest up to your imagination - jolting truck, VERY JUICY mango, sharp knife, small plastic bag, originally clean shirt and pants…..!!! The mango was delicious!!

More people than anticipated arrived, including some who arrived just at dinner time. Strange that they should arrived just in time for food! Hm-m-m. My concern was for the meal we’d brought already prepared, but Regina and Victoria managed very well, making sure everyone had something to eat….even dividing up the cookies and wrapping them in a napkin…one for children, two for adults!

O course, getting there and returning always has its adventures, not the least of which is the return by the ‘bajada de San Andres’ which my colleague, Claudio, insists is much faster! I have my doubts about this. I’m going to prove scientifically that it’s not any faster. It may be shorter, but not faster because it must be traveled VERY, VERY CAREFULLY! He delights in exposing folks to this trail, especially if it’s a ‘first time’ which it was for two of the passengers one of which was riding in the bed of the pickup along with the empty cooking pots which kept sliding around and falling over!! We arrived safely and in good condition, if not a little muscle sore from the jolting and jostling! I arrived home sweaty, rain soaked, mango stained and dirty but content, since a profitable day was had by all … Nicaraguan campo fashion!

So much for another day in the life of a gringa in the Nicaraguan ‘highlands’.

Thanks for following these adventures and this adventuress. Gratitude for all you do to make this world and life a little easier for another/others.

Peace and Love,


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Home Again

The translation for the hanging, which is a representation of the previous gatherings in 1991, 1995, 2000, and 2005 (northern Brazil , Mexico, southern Brazil, Peru) starting from our roots in LePuy, France, in 1650. "Extending our Nets We Weave Unity".

Greetings from the land where six months of totally dry weather has given way to very, very wet weather! You can’t imagine how much rain can fall all at the same time!! For sure, the land needs the rain but my very wet clothes (especially the heavy ones I wore in Argentina!) don’t seem to be on the same wave length. Oh well, sooner or later they will dry…probably later!

"I'm the easiest to spot..'happy jacket' standing on extreme left...Marie Hogan, topmost 'head only' in back row...Dianne Fanguy, sitting a little left of center with bright pink shirt....Kathy McCluskey, to my left. Jan must have been elsewhere at the time of the photo. The two Haitian sisters seem to have 'not received the translation' and three others had betaken themselves to Toronto, Rome and Philadelphia! So much for large group photos!!"

We returned from the two week gathering of 101 CSJs who minister in Latin America and the Caribbean, on Thursday evening after nine hours of flight time and a there hour time difference. Arriving at 7:30pm (really 10:30pm in Buenos Aires) gave us some extra time to sleep, eventually. It was good to be home but the gathering, sharing and enjoying of so many of our sisters – fifteen different countries represented and nineteen different congregations of CSJs – were indeed gifts and very enriching. We ranged in age from the ‘early 30’s’ to the ‘over 80’s’. Youth and energy, mixed with wisdom and experience, was a wonderful blend! Spanish (at least two versions), Portuguese, Creole (spoken in Haiti), French and English were the languages you could hear at any one moment. Translators were kept ‘on their toes’ to keep everyone understanding. One connection was translating from Spanish or Portuguese to English and then into Creole!

We were blessed to have four of our sisters – two Haitians, one Canadian (English speaker), one Canadian (French speaker) - present so that we could enter somewhat into their experience of the earthquake and this time of reconstruction and healing. We also had among us, three from Chile who had experienced the earthquake there. These natural disasters take on a different feel when you hear first hand of the trauma and suffering along with the resilience of the people. Needless to say, we now feel much more connected and interconnected.

We had two days when we visited some of the ministry sites of our Argentinian sisters. They are connected with so many wonderful ministries with the very poor….yes, there is poverty in Argentina in spite of the fact that it more resembles a European country rather than a typical South American one. We also had some time to see parts of Buenos Aires and to spend time on their rivers that lead into their capital and then flow into the Atlantic Ocean.

Our time with our own congregation prior to the international experience was also very enjoyable. There were about four hundred of us gathered in Chicago right after Easter….so resurrection joy continued on as we met and shared and planned for our future together. There were opportunities to see some family members during this time and that’s always a joy.

Now, it’s back to ministry in Nica land. It will be good to see co-workers once again and get caught up on Nicaraguan life during the past month. I’ll check in again in a couple of weeks. Thanks for following the journey of this itinerant woman!

Peace within and without, at home and abroad and throughout our universe….that’s a big order but attainable if we each do our piece of peace-making.

Love, Jeanne

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Small World

I’m back in Nicaragua for a few days before betaking myself, along with over 100 other Sisters of St. Joseph, to Argentina where we’ll spend two weeks together. All of us are involved in ministry in Latin America or the Caribbean area. This ‘encuentro’ occurs every 5 years in a different country.

While I was home for our annual Assembly I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of young folks in Royal Oak. They are students at Shrine Catholic Academy and High School. It wasn’t the best of times…it was 8:30 in the morning on a Monday…the day after the final presentation of their annual play!! Need I say more? I had been so informed, in case I noted nodding heads. Also, the Spanish students had to leave at a given moment in order to take a computerized test. However, all that being said, it was a wonderful experience for this woman who has not taught junior or senior high students since 1972! They were attentive, asked intelligent and thought provoking questions and were enjoyable to spend time with. They had been carrying out projects and collecting money for our ‘pregnant cow’ program during Lent. They raised $940.00 which will comfortably purchase cows for 2 families. We are grateful for their generosity, interest and hard work, to say the least!

More than introducing them to the country and people of Nicaragua, I wanted to share some of my passion for ministry with our sisters and brothers who are less fortunate than ourselves in the realm of economics and opportunities enabling them to have a decent, respectable and healthy life. I had no desire to make them feel guilty about what they have but rather wanted to encourage them to examine and act upon the numerous opportunities available to them as they begin to form their plans for their careers, their futures. No one of us is created for ourselves alone. We are a significant part of this small, global village and have a responsibility to make this world a better place for our sisters and brothers of whatever land or clime. And so, I asked them to explore their options for experiences in other countries…not the developed lands…but the large majority of our earth where folks do not have enough to eat or safe water to drink, where they don’t have quality education – or basic education - provided for them, where they don’t have the luxury to dream of a future that’s hopefully going to come somewhere close to those dreams.

Such an experience will leave them much more aware and help to round out their plans. No, I don’t expect folks to come to Latin America en masse. However, by leaving oneself open to the experience attitudes are altered and formed and decisions can be made based on a broader perspective, a bigger picture of who we are and what we are called to do during our ‘one, wild and precious life’ in Mary Oliver’s words.

Photo: Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Journey

Dear followers of “Sister Act 3”,

I have been procrastinating about updating this blog and now it’s time to leave Nica land for a short while. I will be traveling to the States for Holy Week in Detroit and then Easter Week in Chicago for congregational meetings. There will be over 400 of us gathered there as we meet and plan and enjoy each other….and that we do, very well. Once back from Chicago I’ll have two days in Managua and then be off with the other two CSJs from here to meet up with our Marie Hogan (Leadership Team) from the States and Jan Kurtz who ministers in Lima, Peru, for our gathering of C/SSJs who live and work in Latin America and the Caribbean area. This happens every 5 years and in a different country each time. It will be a great two weeks sharing and meeting and enjoying with others who are engaged in similar ministries with our sisters and brothers in this part of our world. I will blog after the events and let you know how everything unfolded. We return on April 29th, so I’ll check back in sometime in the beginning of May.

While I’m in Detroit I’ll be connecting with the students from Shrine Junior and Senior High School and bringing them a bit of the reality of life in a tropical/dry Nicaragua which is the second poorest country next to Haiti. They’ve been collecting funds to pay for a cow which will be a great help for some family.

The timing is just right, since this has been their Lenten project and it will help the connection between ‘here’ and ‘there’. Thanks to Mary Ann and all who have put forth effort into this project.

The last time I wrote we were engaged in starting a ‘vivero’ nursery of trees. The 15,000 little black bags now have been filled and they have seeds within and hopefully are growing and thriving. After 3 – 4 months they will be able to be transplanted. They are part of a reforestation project. The big challenge is keep them watered. We haven’t had rain since forever….and it’s nowhere in sight! Everything is VERY dry, dusty and non-green!! It will be good to experience some RAIN in Michigan and Illinois. Remind me not to complain about it when I’m there!!!

May Holy Week bring many blessings and Easter a time of great joy and celebration of ‘life conquering death’.

Until next time when we meet at “Sister Act 3”, many thanks for all each one does to make this world a better place for everyone.

Love and peace,


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Nature of Things

As we read of still MORE snow in the northeast USA, we find ourselves trying to find a bit of shade and a bit of breeze SOMEWHERE. It is unseasonably hot and they tell us that the much needed rain that normally comes in May will not arrive until July. The climate is off all over our small green planet and we have some responsibility for this. We’ve just experienced the second devastating earthquake in our western hemisphere, in Chile. We were warned of a possible tsunami event but thankfully we didn’t experience the huge waves that were expected. We did have some winds and rain during the night after the earthquake. What a welcome sound…rain on my tin roof!

Maria Veronica and Juanita examining a 'find' from nature in the rural school of Los Filos.

I’m writing of these events because part of what we’ve been involved in lately is the formation, for this year, of our ecology brigades among the school children, youth and adults. These folks are our forerunners of a more healthy, more kindly treated natural environment. We have been visiting our very humble rural schools…some of them with all children in grades 1-6 in the same room and with only a few desks and very little more. They are very aware of Madre Tierra (Mother Earth) who surrounds them at all times. They know the trees, their leaves, the flowers, the birds, the native animals and how to use the leaves and flowers for remedies and medicine. They will be involved in helping to raise consciousness about the dangers that face our environment and the health issues connected thereto. They will be helping to clean up their homes and communities and encouraging their families to do so while seeing that garbage is cared for properly. These children will also be responsible for cultivating and maintaining their school gardens that will supply them with tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce and other veggies that they wouldn’t normally have included in their diet. It is indeed a formidable task with six months of drought each year. However, youth have a way of circumventing the impossible and making some progress. They’re proud of their T-shirts and caps that set them apart... shirts that say “I care for the environment” on the front, and on the back, “…and you?” They will help with reforestation because one of Nicaragua’s MAJOR problems is the cutting of trees on the hillsides. This is done to provide wood for cooking and for the making of charcoal. Both of these items can then be sold and thus provide a little income for families. It’s a Catch-22! They need the cash to supplement their beans, rice and corn diet, but in so doing they are facilitating erosion, driving the water table lower making it even more difficult to locate underground water, and disturbing the balance of gas exchange. An approach to this dilemma is to replant three trees for every tree felled.

The beginning of a tree nursery....filling 5,000 plastic bags with prepared soil!

To get started in this latest aspect, we had a day long workshop with representatives from each of the six areas in which we are working. There was time for sharing and learning and time for working. It was quite literally a WORKshop! We filled 5,000 small black plastic bags with properly mixed soil. Now I’m here to tell you that that constitutes WORK!! The spirit was great and in spite of the heat and DIRT, we managed quite well. This is the first step in developing a vivero (nursery). Eventually, the seed of a tree will be planted in each one, carefully watered and tended and eventually transplanted in the various areas where the children and youth live in an effort to replace trees that have been cut down. We’ll have another ‘go’ at it again in three weeks. By then my body will have recuperated!! It’s called “stoop labor”!! The goal is 15,000 saplings!! And so…seed by seed we move into a healthier future!

With the coming of the rainy season, we’ll be able to place the famous ‘pregnant cows’ in their new homes. Because the folks rely on the uncultivated ‘greenery’ for food for the cattle, we can only move this project along during the rainy season. Everything in its time! However, there are three families anxiously waiting for cows and within a couple of months this should be a reality for them…soon a calf and then milk and cheese to eat and sell. The students at Shrine High School in Royal Oak, Michigan, are sponsoring a part of this project by their donations during Lent. We’re grateful to them and also to all who help us along as we accompany the people on their journey to a more dignified and healthier life. The chickens will also be placed soon with two families in Los Planes de Cuajachillo 2.

I’m looking forward to our Assembly in Chicago during Easter Week and will be spending Holy Week in Michigan. Holy Week here is vacation for all….including for those responsible for printing newspapers!! There’s no connection with religious motives, it’s just the time for everyone to be “off”. Since this is the case, it’s an opportunity to come home a week ahead of our Assembly. I’ll see some of you then and I look forward to that.

Thanks for whatever you are doing to be aware of all our sisters and brothers throughout the world .. especially those who do not have the opportunities as do some of us, for a more dignified and healthier life.


Your sister, Jeanne

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blessings In Disguise

I’m trying to keep up with regular blogging, and so far so good!

I thought that for this posting I’d describe for you a blessed moment on the bus! Now, the bus and the ride in itself do not seem to have the trappings of a blessing….however, the people one has the opportunity to meet can indeed be a blessing. Last Friday the usual groups of those seeking money appeared on the bus as I was riding on my way to the office. Two young children came on to sing and strum a guitar. They were definitely not candidates for the choir, but their energy was definitely worth noting. Next a blind gentleman, who appears frequently, got on the bus and played his accordian. Finally, a VERY ELDERLY woman with long, flowing, white hair and a crutch was basically lifted up onto the bus. She was alone and at the mercy of folks who helped her. She sat next to me and there was definitely something special between us. She was very poor, but clean and sporting a white apron. She spoke so softly I had to put my ear next to her mouth. She wanted to know what bus route we were on. I told her it was the 114 and asked where she wanted to go. She told me “el Zumen” (the name of a well known area) and I said that indeed she could get there on the 114. She had the most beautiful wrinkled, brown face and was just a whisper of a person. I asked her age and she told me, “I’m 90!” I asked her what she was going to do at “el Zumen” and she just held out her opened palm. She wasn’t asking me for anything, just demonstrating that she would be asking for alms from those waiting in that area. It came time for her to leave and several helped her down the bus steps. We were delayed for several minutes at this stop….this happens when the bus of the same route is too close to the one preceeding it. So, I continued to watch her walk up and down with the aid of her crutch and with one hand extended. Several people gave her something, while others tried not to see her. It occurred to me that “prayer happened” when this humble yet independent woman sat next to me. Such determination to do what she had to do to survive. She is a symbol for me of the extreme situation of so many of our people. At her age, one would hope for a peaceful, dignified place to rest and receive assistance. Not so for so many of the very poor of this world. There is no rest, there is only struggle to survive each day….and yes, there can be dignity in the very midst of it all. God does indeed visit us, especially in the poor.

What indications of love and dedication did you encounter on Valentine’s Day but also today and each day?

Thanks for keeping up with ‘life in Nicaragua’ as experienced by your sister, Jeanne!