mission - Related Content

Sister Pauline's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, February 21st 2017 10:00 am
Sister Pauline Wittry, FSPA

 

food-service-chaplaincy-training-travel-world-Pauliine-Wittry-Show-Me-a-Sign

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

A Revolution of Goodness has begun

Wednesday, August 29th 2018 1:51 pm
FSPA Mission Assembly 2018 empowered more than 300 revolutionaries to kindness
They gathered, gloriously, around goodness. They weren’t classified as sisters, affiliates and guests but as equal discerners of goodness. They weren’t segregated as individual observers...

Service Saturday: mutuality at its core

Thursday, January 26th 2017 2:15 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Most Saturdays, especially those overshadowed by rain and cold, are prime sleep-in opportunities for college students. Yet at 8:30 a.m. last weekend more than 60 from Viterbo University came through doors of St. Rose Convent with light and joy to join FSPA in a day of service projects. The energy and excitement was contagious as participants eagerly grabbed fabric to make blankets and dry ingredients to package instant soup in jars, ready to share their joy of life with others.

student-volunteers

Service Saturday students from Viterbo University at St. Rose Convent

Collaboration between the Viterbo community and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration on behalf of serving others was the theme dubbed Service Saturday. As FSPA director of membership I co-coordinated the event with Kirsten Gabriel (director of Viterbo's service learning program) who reminded everyone of the mutual transformation that is possible when we enter into service with open minds and hearts.

student-Sister-Esther-making-valentines

A Viterbo student makes valentines for veterans with Sister Esther Leis

Sister Antona Schedlo reiterated the importance of service as it contributes to mission. Sharing her vocation story and commitment to the mission of FSPA, she challenged everyone to follow their dreams and take time to ponder how far they are willing to go to reach them. Her goal as a young sister was to serve as a missionary and, although it took more than 17 years, she did make it to the mission fields of her dreams in El Salvador. She invited participants to look beyond the projects of the day into the deeper reality of serving others throughout their lives. The activities are more than tasks to complete: sewing mittens to donate to The Salvation Army is a way to stitch together the stories of those in need and letting their lived realities change your outlook.


students-with-mittens-made

Two of the many pairs of mittens knitted that day

Heads nodded as the wisdom of Sister Antona’s thought-provoking statements took root. More than hands were busy later that morning as students pondered the deeper meaning of packing hygiene bags for homeless, frosting Valentine cookies for a local shelter, writing letters of care and encouragement to people they don't know nor will see face-to-face.

You could almost hear them wondering what it's like to walk in the shoes of someone in need. What lessons do they teach? How are both parties changed in their awareness? The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus accompanying others in good times and challenging ones, inspiring the disciples not to impose power but to walk with the people. St. Francis of Assisi learned this lesson by taking time to accompany the lepers; observing and then taking action.

Discernment has such mutuality at its core.

It takes the willingness to learn and grow along the journey of life. Sometimes it means relinquishing control and letting God provide the lesson—vulnerability offered for those willing to let the experiences of service sink in.

How can the idea of collaboration shed light on your discernment journey?

Are you open to the idea that God co-creates with you the future?

Want more inspiration for service and discernment? Check out the recent Global Sisters Report article "Oh, the places you'll go if you collaborate."

Sister Karen's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, March 14th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Karen Kappell, FSPA

 

commited-Gospel-living-Sisters-Karen-Kappell

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Betty's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, July 13th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Betty Bradley, FSPA


call, blessing, community, education, mission, Christ-centered, Sister Betty Bradley

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Diamonds in our midst

Thursday, May 18th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Twenty-six remarkable members of FSPA are celebrating their Diamond Jubilees, “commemorations that mark 60, 70, 75 and 80 years as a vowed Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The milestone’s namesake has me reflecting on the gem itself. Before I joined community I went on a cruise to the Caribbean. Because many tourists purchase gemstones while traveling there, the cruise company offers information about them (including reputable places to shop) to passengers prior to docking at each port. Though I wasn’t in the market to buy diamonds I was interested in learning about what determines their value: clarity, cut, carat and color—the 4 Cs.

diamonds

I realized that I didn’t know what it takes to get to the end product, the examination of the 4 Cs. I began by turning to the internet and submitted the question “How is a diamond formed?” While much of what I read was quite technical and far beyond my simple curiosity, I closed the search engine with a bit more knowledge. Diamonds need pressure, heat and time to form naturally. It takes work to make them attractive. They do not emerge from the ground gleaming and ready for sale.


Villa-jubilarians-Bishop-Callahan

Diamond jubilarians celebrated May 10 at Villa St. Joseph with Bishop Callahan

Each jubilarian has, in her own lifetime, experienced pressure, heat and time. There is resolve in ministry to do a lot with very little. Creativity and commitment to mission have guided each sister as she found ways to defuse heated situations that can occur, especially when working to promote Gospel tenants in which all those in need--not just a few--deserve care. Time is a gift each diamond jubilarian has had and not a minute has been wasted. Their lives of ministries have been in service to the whole spectrum of life from birth to death, serving generations of God’s people in schools, hospitals, parishes and spirituality centers (among others). Each encounter hones these women religious into sparkling gems.


St-Rose-Diamond-Jubilee-Mass

Fifteen diamond jubilarians were celebrated with Mass in Mary of the Angels Chapel on May 5

As I witnessed one of the recent FSPA diamond jubilee celebrations, watching the jubilarians process down the aisle of Mary of the Angels Chapel, the sun streamed through the stained glass windows and enlightened us to the gleaming examples they are as they live every day into their call to religious life. To conjure the image close your eyes and think of dazzling color and light dispelling all darkness, shining through a diamond. The commitment to prayer and service perpetually polishes their priceless lives. These are the diamonds we all can strive to imitate while retaining our own uniqueness. 

How is discernment glowing through you?

To shine like the diamond that you are, what rough edges do you need polished?

Sister Amy's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, January 24th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


transforming-moments-new-adventure-mission-calls-amy-taylor

 

Have you enjoyed FSPA's Six Word Stories about vocation? Check out our new series, Six Word Mission Stories, beginning with the view from Sister Amy's continuing journey through FSPA ministry.

We invite you to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story!

 

Lives that sparkle among us [Video]

Thursday, May 2nd 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

A lifetime begins with a vocations invitation … and a “yes” to the calling.

two-women-green-shirts

Sister Karen Neuser shares elation and gratitude during her 60-year jubilee celebration.

With joyful witness, FSPA's 2019 jubilee season recently kicked off. It began with a day to celebrate the selflessness given by those who've served the needs of the world for 75, 70 and 60 years as vowed women religious.

Learn more about the discernment of religious life that led to these decades of mission in an upcoming Show me a sign series featuring jubilarians who share, in their own words, their amazing experiences of ministry.

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series! 

Sister Rosalia's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, March 7th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Rosalia Bauer, FSPA

 

hot-air-balloons-celebrate-life-Rosalia-Bauer

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Photo of the Week - Week 2

Thursday, January 20th 2022 3:55 pm

I have to say, I had not intended to ever post a photo of myself as the photo of the week, but as luck would have it, being in isolation really limits the opportunity to take photos. So here we are on week 2 - and here I am! I was considering taking a photo of Anita's Silpancho. It's a traditional large, flat piece of beef, lightly breaded and fried with an egg on top, rice and salsa. It was delicious. 

Since this was the scene for the last week, I thought this more appropriate. I have been working hard at my studies all week with the wonderful instructors at CLIMAL who have really taken great care of me and adapted their schedules to allow me to continue learning. I am so grateful for Anita, who takes care of me, leaves breakfast, lunch and dinner at my door and has given me an incredibly comfortable place to stay. 

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of prayer and support I have received since learning I had COVID. Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and prayers! I am doing very well and have the tiniest symptoms left at this point. On Monday, I hope to be retested and receive a negative result so I can begin experiencing what it is to be in Cochabamba again. 

Paz Y Bien!

Life as a nun today: FSPA can relate

Thursday, August 10th 2017 3:10 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Sharing your desire to be a sister with family and friends can be challenging, especially if they only envision their teacher — wearing a habit — standing at the head of the class before the late 1960s after Vatican II when many religious communities chose to wear everyday clothing more reflective of modern times? “Refinery 29” recently published the article “What Convent Life Is Really Like In 2017,” and Show me a sign invites you to share the conversation with those around you who don’t necessarily understand what it means to live religious life — in life style and ministry — today.

 Sister-Winifred-teaching

Sister Winifred teaching at Aquinas High School in her habit

 Sister-Laura-teaching

Sister Laura teaching at Viterbo University today

"As is often the case with mainstream religions," begins the article in which Sisters of St. Joseph Karen Burke speaks to "faith, service and living as a nun," "misconceptions about sisters and their congregations abound."

First introductions often spark confusion as she says she hears, "'Oh, sisters don’t wear habits anymore?' or some other remark on her everyday outfit of jeans and a sweatshirt. While women in other orders may choose to wear a full habit, many congregations no long require it, the Sisters of St. Joseph included."

As Sister Sarah shares, we can relate

"Sister Karen tells us that the Sisters of St. Joseph has always worked in the fields of education and health care, but in the past few years they've concerned themselves with, of all things, environmentalism ..."

As Sister Lucy ministers, we can relate.

"Sister Karen describes her decision to leave her career as an educator as a "leap of faith," adding that it surely won't be her last. "Through my own faith and through my own prayer and spirituality, my life will continue to change."

As Show me a sign recently explored career changes as a Catholic sister, we can relate.

Amidst changes in religious life and the growing needs in our world one constant is sisters' commitments to follow the Gospel and serve those in need. Whether their service takes them to classrooms, parishes, spirituality centers, organic farms or liminal spaces of our borders, sisters will find a way to meet today's needs.

What do articles like these do to spark your imagination about discerning life as a religious sister? We invite you to share it and www.fspa.org with your family and friends and show them a sign of what it looks like to live religious life today.

Compassionate Care

Sunday, January 16th 2022 3:29 pm

Compassionate Care

I arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia a little more than a week ago. The words I would use to sum up the time here so far are compassionate care. Compassionate care of me, what an incredible gift!

When I landed here, I was greeted by three friends and my host mother, Anita. It was a surprise and very much appreciated after the long flight. It was a great start to this adventure! We arrived at my home here, which is a lovely single room house with a bathroom. It is just a perfect place to stay! Pictured here (starting on the left) are Anita, Domo (Franciscan Mission Service), Paul (Maryknoll), myself and Victor (Maryknoll).

Anita is an amazing host. I receive the most incredible and healthy homemade meals, here. We have had great conversations as we eat as well. Our phones are always next to us, so we can find the right words to talk about our homes, growing up and our families. I was surprised from the beginning how much I can already understand. At one point, when some of Anita’s family was visiting, we were talking about COVID, and how some people don’t want to get vaccinated, and they expressed how frustrated they were about it. I thought it was interesting how the conversation was so similar to those I've had in the states the weeks before I came.
Roadside Hawk
I also started school on Monday. Anita was kind enough to drive me the first day, and I arrived at the Maryknoll Center here, full of gardens and (wahoo!) birds singing. Inside, we met our instructors who are all very kind, full of joy and super patient, which I really appreciate! This week I learned how to greet people, ask some general questions and describe people. I had fun using all the best descriptors for my family and friends! Pictured here is a Roadside Hawk that I found one day at the Center.

Cochabamba Street DogWalking to and from class was a nice way to get to know the area and practice my Spanish: Buenos Dias! Buenas Tardes! I also greet the dogs I see along the way, most of which are street dogs: Hola mi perro! Pictured here is a local street dog I pass each day. They are not mean, but also uninterested in being friends.

Breakfast During IsolationLate in the week I woke up with a bit of an itchy throat. I was hopeful that it would be allergies, but unfortunately, it was COVID. Somewhere in my travels, I picked it up. I will be isolating in my little home for 10 days. I have been overwhelmed at everyone’s kind response to getting sick. The school had to be closed, disinfected and everyone there tested. They have been so gracious about it and even held online class with me for a short time the next day. Anita has been leaving me breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and whatever else I need, outside my door. She always waits so she can see me and make sure I look ok – but from a distance of course! Pictured here is breakfast: some carrot bread, a blood sugar regulating smoothy (Anita found the recipe which contains mango, almond milk and cinnamon, num!) and Mate de Coca tea.

So far, COVID has not been too rough, just like a bad cold. It’s early, but the symptoms are mild and should begin dissipating in a few days, which I am grateful for. I worry most about the people I came in contact with, especially Anita, my friends, as well as the instructors and the students at the school. It is quite a burden being the one to bring COVID to a place. I continue to pray for their health and wellbeing.

When I was learning about Bolivia I heard about how full of hospitality the Bolivian people are, and this first week has proven it to be true! I am so blessed to be in this place at this time, and blessed by everyone around me.

Photo of the Week - Week 2

Thursday, January 20th 2022 3:55 pm

I have to say, I had not intended to ever post a photo of myself as the photo of the week, but as luck would have it, being in isolation really limits my opportunity to take photos. So here we are on week 2 - and here I am!

I was considering taking a photo of Anita's Silpancho. It's a traditional Cochabamba plato with a large, flat piece of beef, lightly breaded and fried with an egg on top, rice and salsa. It was delicious.

Since this was the scene for the last week, I thought this more appropriate. I have been working hard at my studies all week with the wonderful instructors at CLIMAL who have adapted their schedules to allow me to continue learning. It is such a gift to me, and they do it with kindness, smiles and (I may have mentioned this before) loads of patience. I am so grateful for Anita, who takes care of me, leaves breakfast, lunch and dinner at my door and has given me an incredibly comfortable place to stay.

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of prayer and support I have received since learning I had COVID. Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and prayers! I am doing very well and have the tiniest symptoms left at this point. On Monday, I hope to be retested and receive a negative result so I can begin experiencing what it is to be in Cochabamba again.

Paz Y Bien!

Photo of the Week - Week 5

Thursday, February 10th 2022 2:51 pm

Normally, on my walk to class, I take a road that is between the walls of the Maryknoll Center (where we have class) and a bike path that winds through the city. Just beyond the bike path on the side farthest from me, I have seen clothes hanging all day, every day. I always assumed it was someone who had a laundering service of some kind.

Lately, the road in front of the school has been under construction, so I have had to walk another way. It takes me beyond, to the other side of it all. As I've taken this way for quite a few days now, I have become curious about the area.

There are signs on my current route and I've learned that this is a public lavanderia, or clothes washing area. People come here to hand wash their clothes and then hang them on the lines to dry. This one is called "Lavanderias Traditionales de Cala Cala" and has been here since 1860. Cala Cala is the bario, or neighborhood, I live in.

Since I have come to Cochabamba, I have have felt challenged to reconsider my assumptions and standards. This lavanderia has given me pause for thought. I see women throwing day-old pan (bread) to the pigeons, talking and getting started with their day in the morning. I see people there all the time in conversation. I see an older gentleman on crutches there every day, acting as caretaker. This place creates community by giving people the opportunity to get work done and get to know their neighbors at the same time. The caretaker recognizes me now and greets me as I pass by. It is this small gesture that invites me to the neighborhood.

Photo of the Week - Week 1

Wednesday, January 12th 2022 10:24 pm

Mountain View on Main Road in CochabambaMountain Views in Cochabamba

They are possibly the most breathtaking part of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Cochabamba is a beautiful place. It is a large city, but even so it is full of lush, green grass, shrubs, trees and flowers. There isn't much - or many times any - space between the buildings, so the people of Cochabamba have utilized their boulevards to create places of great beauty.

It's easy to focus on the city itself. I think I did that for the first two days I was here. It wasn't until I was walking to Mass at a little local chapel down the road on Sunday when I looked up and saw the amazing mountains. They are immense and beautiful, ringing the city in a natural embrace.

I hope to get an opportunity to travel into the mountains a little before I leave, but in the meantime, I will appreciate and be grateful for such an immense work of art.

Bendiciones!

Trying on your metaphorical lenses

Thursday, October 20th 2016 3:23 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

A few days ago I went to my optometrist for my annual eye exam. I knew what to expect: cover one eye; read the chart; cover the other eye; repeat the process. 

Next the optometrist put me behind a machine that precisely defines vision: a series of lenses (beginning with blanks) through which letters are revealed in quick clicks back and forth in front of my eyes while the optometrist fires off rapid questions. Repeat the process.

It’s at this point in the procedure I hit sensory overload and could not tell the difference between one lens and the next. But I had to remind myself some experiences require quick decisions. I pushed myself to squint harder; to narrow the lenses down to two that seemed to work and appeared to be similar; both potentially the right fit. 

Religious discernment also calls for scrutinization and elimination and resolution—finding the right fit. If you get stuck, perhaps between two communities that invite your interest, unable to find your way forward, perhaps a simple list of pros and cons could be a helpful tool. You will have to decide what weight each item carries as these conclusions do not work themselves out as simple math equations. Prioritize your list. Evaluate your thoughts and look for patterns. For example: are you focusing too hard on where you will live on mission instead of how you will live in ministry? Are you willing to give in to indecisiveness and shut down the process completely?  

What happens when you are called to a conclusion; that there are perhaps two communities that speak to your sensibilities? It's time for a visit. Try on your metaphorical lenses. Look up close and personal into the community’s mission, governance and many more details to see what excites you.

And once you get there remember that stepping over the threshold to a Come and See doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. It’s simply an opportunity for mutual discernment to begin; time for you to learn more about the community and the community—with its specific vision for mission— to learn more about you. Both parties have the right to decide if membership is a good fit or not. And other opportunities may appear: a vocation minister may suggest another community for you to explore after learning what you are looking for. It’s not a bad thing but a good opportunity for refining your discernment.

It takes courage to visit and even more to discern which way of religious life, if any, is right for you. Invite God into all the experience. Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit will guide you.

Are you brave enough to take the next step?

Is it time for you to send an email or pick up the phone?

 

Sister Amy Taylor is the FSPA director of membership. She invites you to call or write (1-888-683-3722 or membership@fspa.org) anytime!

 

Photo of the Week - Week 6

Thursday, February 17th 2022 12:16 pm

What a strange creature! At the end of our time in Incachaca we stopped for Trucha (trout) at a restaurant and fishery. The sun finally snuck out from behind the clouds and suddenly, the place was filled with all sorts of different butterflies. They were all sorts of bright colors and all different sizes. They seemed to be too fast for me though, and I only was able to snap a photo of a small white butterfly. I didn't think anything of it and forgot I had taken it until I was reviewing the photos. Looking closer, the small white butterfly becomes an incredible wonder with striped antennae, bright green eyes and a soft yellow outline. Can you see the tongue drinking water? What a gift! I wonder if there are other things in my world right now that I need to take a closer look at in order to see the wonder. I think I'll start looking!

I'm not sure what it will be like in Santa Cruz, so if you don't see posts for a little while, don't worry! I will post as often as I can.

If you would like to be notified when I have new posts, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click Subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post.

Photo of the Week - Week 1

Wednesday, January 12th 2022 10:24 pm

Mountain View on Main Road in CochabambaMountain Views in Cochabamba

They are possibly the most breathtaking part of Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

Cochabamba is a beautiful place. It is a large city, but even so it is full of lush, green grass, shrubs, trees and flowers. There isn't much space - or many times any - space between the buildings, so the people of Cochabamba have utilized their boulevards to create places of great beauty. 

It's easy to focus on the city itself. I think I did that for the first two days I was here. It wasn't until I was walking to Mass at a little local chapel down the road when I looked up and saw the amazing mountains. They are immense and beautiful, ringing the city in a natural embrace. 

I hope to get an opportunity to travel into the mountains a little before I leave, but in the meantime, I will appreciate and be grateful for such an immense work of art. 

Bendiciones!

Photo of the Week - Week 6

Thursday, February 17th 2022 12:16 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a strange creature! At the end of our time in Incachaca we stopped for Trucha (trout) at a restaurant and fishery. The sun finally snuck out from behind the clouds and suddenly, the place was filled with all sorts of different butterflies. They were all sorts of bright colors and all different sizes. They seemed to be too fast for me though, and I only was able to snap a photo of a small white butterfly. I didn't think anything of it and forgot I had taken it until I was reviewing the photos. Looking closer, the small white butterfly becomes an incredible wonder with striped antennae, bright green eyes and a soft yellow outline. Can you see the tongue drinking water? What a gift! I wonder if there are other things in my world right now that I need to take a closer look at in order to see the wonder. I think I'll start looking!

I'm not sure what it will be like in Santa Cruz, so if you don't see posts for a little while, don't worry! I will post as often as I can. 

If you would like to be notified when I have new posts, be sure to scroll to the bottom, provide your email address, check the box confirming you are not a robot, click on a few photos to prove it and click Subscribe! You will then receive an email after each new post.

Photo of the Week - Week 5

Thursday, February 10th 2022 2:51 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normally, on my walk to class, I take a road that is between the walls of the Maryknoll Center (where we have class) and a bike path that winds through the city. Just beyond the bike path on the side fathest from me I have seen clothes hanging all day, every day. I always assumed it was someone who had a laundering service of some kind. 

Lately, the road in front of the school has been under construction, so I have had to walk another way. It takes me beyond, to the other side of it all. As I've taken this way for quite a few days now, I have become curious about the area. 

There are signs on my current route and I've learned that this is a public lavanderia, or clothes washing area. People come here to hand wash their clothes and then hang them on the lines to dry. This one is called "Lavanderias Traditionales de Cala Cala" and has been here since 1860. Cala Cala is the bario, or neighborhood, I live in. 

Since I have come to Cochabamba, I have have felt challenged to reconsider my assumptions and standards. This lavanderia has given me pause for thought. I see women throwing day old pan (bread) to the pigeons, talking and getting started with their day in the morning. I see people there all the time in conversation. I see an older gentleman on crutches there everyday, acting as caretaker. This place creates community by giving people the opportunity to get work done, and get to know their neighbors at the same time. The caretaker recognizes me now and greets me as I pass by. It is this small gesture that invites me to the neighborhood. 

Photo of the Week - Week 3

Thursday, January 27th 2022 7:25 pm

I had some great ideas about which photo to give you this week but then God made such a pretty rainbow, I jumped to my camera and snapped a bunch of photos. Aren't rainbows so beaufiful and whisper of promises and hope. My heart skips when I see a rainbow - it has ever since I was a young girl. I know it's shared with everyone, but I guess a part of me thinks, somehow, it's also just for me. I realize that's how God's love feels for me. It's for everyone, but somehow also something special, just for me. Thank you God! 

Note: This photo was taken over the neighbors roof. You might notice a tank there. The tank is how water is delivered in Cochabamba. Throughout the week, a truck drops off water to the houses in the city. 

Photo of the Week - Week 18

Thursday, May 12th 2022 2:24 pm

The skies were clear and bright as I snapped this photo. Admittedly, it's not very attractive. I still find it fascinating though. This is a photo of the solar water heater in Yaguarú. There are some in Ascención too, but I couldn't get a good angle on them. I love that they are using the sun's energy to heat the water for their rooms. As a matter of fact, this specific one heated the water in my room's shower! What a practical and ingenious way to take advantage of the sunny weather that is present most days here.

May is the anniversary of Laudato Si, a letter written to all people of goodwill concerning the environment and the need for us to care for creation. As a Laudato Si Animator, this encyclical is especially close to me. You can read the full letter here: vatican.va.

If you are interested in ideas on how you can care for creation around you, you can check out the Laudato Si Action Platform and create an account here: laudatosiactionplatform.org.

Me gusta comida! Togetherness with Traditional Bolivian Foods

Sunday, February 6th 2022 3:48 pm

Me gusta comida! I love food! We were learning the names of different foods in my Spanish classes and when in conversation if I liked this or that food, my response was usually, "Si! Me gusta comida!"

For me, food is more than just the actual dish, although the flavor is very important. It is conversation, relationship and friendship. It is an expression of love from the person who prepares the food and an expression of togetherness for all who partake. It is a social connection that is formed around the table in which all participants are included and invited to share in life-giving sustenance.

While in Cochabamba, I have had the opportunity to enjoy many meals with my host mother, Anita. She is an excellent cook and always makes healthy and delicious meals. From time to time, Anita brings in traditional food or we go out for something special. I've been out to a couple of meals with others too. And with each meal, there is a growing sense of comfort as well as the bond of getting to know each other.

Here are a few of the unique foods and drinks I have enjoyed in my time here. I've included some links you can click on to learn more and even see videos about the food and Cochabamba.

Mate Coca

I know I've talked about this before but wanted to give this wonderful tea the spotlight. This is the first traditional item I had when I came here. It is said to help adjust to the altitude. Close your eyes and imagine the smell of freshly cut grass. I've always loved the smell, and now I know I love the flavor too! Mate Coca tastes just like the smell of freshly mowed grass. It is fresh and herbal. Now, each morning and evening, Anita includes this with my meal. It is warming and delicious.

Api con Pastel

I do wish I had remembered to take a photo of this! One evening, not too long after my isolation ended, Anita asked if I wanted to enjoy this traditional treat. The pastel (pastry) is delicious. It's a dough that is deep-fried and poofs up like a big pillow that takes up the whole plate. Inside is a small amount of simple cheese and the top is covered in powdered sugar. You have to deflate the pastry before eating it and puffs of steam escape as it collapses.

You would think that that was the best part of the treat, but no! The Api is a traditional hot drink that is sweet and comes in a glass mug so you can see layers of purple and white. The most amazing part of this drink is that it's made of corn! No fruit added (although I am guessing a fair amount of sugar). The different colors in the glass are actually different kinds of corn. It was thick, creamy and so delicious!

Silpancho

Silpancho is a main dish that consists of a large flat piece of meat, pounded thin and fried with rice, potato, finely diced veggies (tomato and onion) and a fried egg on top. This was the first traditional meal I had and Anita was kind enough to leave it outside my door while I was isolating.

Trancapecho

Imagine taking everything that is in a Silpancho, sticking it in a bun and you've got Trancapecho! Inside the bun are some potato, rice, beef, egg and a tomato-onion mixture. I added a bit of the Picante peppers too. This was such a fun treat. On a chilly, rainy night we drove to La Isla, a drive-up grouping of restaurants that offer sandwiches and other food prepared quickly and served on plastic tables - or to go of course. We decided to eat there and I had the BEST time trying to eat this sandwich. It was so good! I am not an experienced Trancapecho eater though, so I made such a mess. I also had a traditional juice that is popular in Cochabamba that is flavored with cinnamon and has a peach pit on the bottom of each glass.

Rellenos

One afternoon for lunch, Anita surprised me with Rellenos! When I first saw them they looked like large fried potatoes but after I cut into mine, wow! It was a work of art. Inside the delicious ball of mashed potato, there was a hard-boiled egg surrounded by meat (beef and chicken) and veggies. The whole thing is fried. They were really great. These were originally made as a handheld lunch that was quick to eat (and delicious!)

 

 

 

Pique Macho

This may be the most fun out of all the traditional foods I have tried. We ordered it for dinner before going to the Parque de la Familia on Wednesday evening. This dish is made to share. On a large platter, the first layer is a mound of fried potatoes, a lot like potato wedges. On top of that, there is a delicious, marinated beef. On top of that is a healthy number of sliced hot dogs (I really appreciate the respect they give to hot dogs here). There are a few tomatoes, a few green peppers and it's all topped with onion. It's not in the photo, but there's also a hard-boiled egg. Served on the side is a thin beef sauce as well as mayo, ketchup and mustard. Eight of us split two platters and it was difficult to finish!

You may notice a pitcher next to the pique macho. At the restaurants I have been to, they offer freshly made juice. This one was passion fruit. I had a little, and it was delicious. I had to save my carbs for the potatoes though. I admit, it has proven difficult to be low-carb here!

 

Pique Gordo

Later in the week, my friend Victor and I went out to lunch after CLIMAL, our language school, took us on a fun tour of Cochabamba. Victor hadn't been with us for the last pique so we decided to get it at La Casa de Gordo for lunch. It was SO BIG! On top of the traditional toppings, the dish also included a piece of chicken, an extra egg, a plantain, a chorizo and meat that we weren't sure about. (Later Victor figured it out - cow udder!) We both ate some of everything and didn't come close to finishing it. Lesson learned for next time - bring a couple more friends for pique!

Torte and Chocolate Caliente

I considered not including what I enjoyed at the Chocolateria because it's not traditional but in the end, I decided to anyway. Sister Tere, a Dominican sister living in Cochabamba, and I went here to have coffee. Well, she ended up having fruit tea and I decided to have a hot chocolate as a treat. I also had a piece of torte as a treat too! The cake was delicious with layer after layer of cake and filling. I am only sad I couldn't try them all. As you can see though, they were huge! This is not the best photo, but you can see half of a mug next to it. That was my hot chocolate. It came out and had three jumbo marshmallows on top, torched just a little bit so they were golden brown. What was amazing was how the chocolate was more like melted chocolate and so rich and wonderful - like they didn't put water or milk was added. Sister Tere knows the owner and told me she has traveled the world to find the best way to make all of her creations. I can't imagine having anything better.


There are a few things I would still like to try including Sopa de Mani (peanut soup) and Chicharrón (grilled pork). I only have two weeks left here so I am not sure if I will get the chance but I am hopeful!

Once I arrive in Santa Cruz, there are all different traditional dishes so I will have to start over. That sounded like I wasn't looking forward to it. Really, I can't wait! I hear rumors that they are known for their cheeses, so I am looking forward to that! Also, fruit is popular in Santa Cruz's tropical climate, so it will be fun to try some new types of fruits.

(I just had to include this photo of Coca-Cola sin azucar (without sugar). I have been here for over a month and only had soda twice. It's a special treat for me and went great with the Pique Gordo!)

May you all find some togetherness around a dinner table sometime soon - God bless!

Photo of the Week - Week 3

Thursday, January 27th 2022 7:25 pm

I had some great ideas about which photo to present this week, but then God made such a pretty rainbow, I jumped up, grabbed my camera and snapped a bunch of photos. Rainbows are so beautiful and they whisper to me of promises and hope. My heart smiles when I see rainbows - they have ever since I was young. It's obvious that rainbows are visible to everyone, but I guess a part of me thinks, somehow, they're also just for me. I realize that's how I feel about God's love. It's for everyone, but somehow, it's also something special, just for me. I feel such gratitude for this gift.

Note: This photo was taken over the neighbors roof. You might notice a tank there. The tank is how water is delivered to homes in Cochabamba. Throughout the week, a truck drops off water to the houses in the city. It is very interesting to know of this alternate way of getting a vital resource like water. I hadn't ever considered there were different ways to get water. I wonder what other interesting innovations I will discover!

Me gusta comida! Togetherness with Traditional Bolivian Foods

Sunday, February 6th 2022 3:48 pm

Me gusta comida! I love food! We were learning the names of different foods in my Spanish classes and when in conversation if I liked this or that food, my response was usually, "Si! Me gusta comida!"

For me, food is more than just the actual dish. It is conversation, relationship, friendship. It is an expression of love from the person who prepares the food and an expression of togetherness for all who partake. It is a social connection that is formed around the table in which all participants are included and invited to share in life-giving sustenance.

While in Cochabamba, I have had the opportunity to enjoy many meals with my host mother, Anita. She is an excellent cook and always makes healthy and delicious meals. From time to time, Anita brings in a traditional food or we go out for something special. I've been out to a couple meals with others too. And with each meal, there is a growing sense of comfort as well as the bond of getting to know each other. 

Here are a few of the things I have had while I was here. 

Mate con Coca

Api con Pasteles

Sillplancha

Tranca Pecho

 

 

 

 

 

Rellenos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pique Macho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pique Gordito

 

 

 

 

 

Torte and Chocolate Caliente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Week - Week 9

Wednesday, March 9th 2022 6:58 pm

Me gustan las motos! Sister Yanira snapped this photo of me on our way back from a neighborhood yesterday. The most popular mode of transportation in this area is the motorcycle (moto in espanol) and so when I first arrived and Sister Yanira mentioned that she normally takes a motorcycle taxi to and from the clinic to visit patients, I decided I should embrace this part of the culture here. It is a gift to get to ride on a motorcycle (side-saddle of course because I am wearing a skirt!) after a hot day of walking around a neighborhood in the sun. The breeze is cooling and I even get to see a bird or two on the way back. Is it dangerous? Probably a little, but traffic in this area runs smoothly and everyone is used to the flow so we weave around a car or a truck, bounce over rocky roads, snake around big puddles on skinny tracks and make it back to the center in time for lunch. It's the best deal in town - only 3 bolivianos! (That's the equivalent of about $.45 in US dollars.) Today, when I asked Sister Yanira which photo I should share, she quickly told me this was the one!

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A Lesson From My Week Off - And Gifts

Monday, April 4th 2022 2:46 pm

I am back from my week off, thanks for your patience. An amazing thing happened on my week off from deep thinking and reflections - I ended up reflecting and learning anyway! Sometimes I think I make things into jobs that don't need to be and that's what I had been doing. I had been thinking that I needed to make sure I had great lessons all the time while I was here. I think the mindset I had was actually distracting me from the presence that I want to have. I am glad to walk away with that lesson!

Gifts from the last week:

A hug from the most adorable abuela (grandmother) you have ever seen. She couldn't talk, but that didn't keep her from saying lots! She even harvested a couple of mani (peanuts) for us.

Time spent reflecting on synodality with sisters around the department (state) of Santa Cruz. I had lunch with a Polish priest, and sisters from Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Austria.

I got to the point where I can say all the prayers of the rosary in Spanish without looking. I'm not counting the creed as a prayer. It's pretty long and I don't have it down yet.

Sister Yanira lent me a Mass book in Spanish so I can follow along. It is great! I couldn't understand even the simple prayers due to face masks and now I feel like I am really participating. I am even able to sing a few things!

I have been really enjoying the ingenuity of the people here. They make stoves out of motorcycle gears or create mud ovens, make brooms from weeds, re-purpose wood in every way and reuse plastic bottles for just about everything.

Newness Abounds - and a Photo of the Week

Monday, February 28th 2022 1:55 pm

I am sitting outside my room. There is an adorable dachshund/golden retriever mix lying next to me. I am facing an inner courtyard that is full of gardens and an octagonal chapel that is both simple and exquisite. It gets hot here – in the 90’s and super humid, but I am comfortable in the shade this morning.

I have been in Ascención, Bolivia for a week. It took a while to get connected to the WIFI here, and I know I am a bit late with this reflection. You might be wondering what’s new? Well, everything!


I am living with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. They live in different places, but I am here in Ascención where the sisters are nurses, teachers and catechists. There is a routine here of prayer, work, communal meals and Mass. The days starts at 5:30 in the morning and finishes around 9:00 in the evening. There is time for work and time for rest. I admit to enjoying a siesta each day, it’s wonderfully refreshing.

In this climate, there are all sorts of new things to see. The birds are amazing. Each morning and evening hundreds of parrots fly over and a few macaws too! I haven’t done much birding yet, but am seeing new birds each day. I will have time to watch the birds more intentionally soon I am sure. There are also all sorts of butterflies. I even saw a grasshopper who flashed blue as he flew away. Large snails, lizards, frogs, and even a monkey, were some fun discoveries.

I began my ministry on Monday of last week. Each morning, I accompany Sister Yanira, who works for a Nutrition Clinic here. The clinic specializes in helping some of the poorest families find nourishment for their children. A few of the days we walked through a large neighborhood filled with houses made of repurposed wood with openings for doors and windows and dirt floors. Most had corrugated metal roofs. A few were made from layers of palm fronds. At first, I assumed they didn’t have electricity, but realized that the houses do. Coming from a place with winter, it seems impossible, but it works here.

This week I met the faces of malnutrition. Some were children who smiled and laughed, but their little tummies were distended. Even more distressing was to meet children who were fading. Children with no energy and no hope. It was heartbreaking and equally heartbreaking to see their parents and grandparents, loving them so much, but unable to give them what they need.

Sister Yanira brings them hope. She talks to them about the importance of nutrition and records each child’s information. As she does, she tells their families about the nutrition clinic, where they can get some staples like milk, and a nutritional superpower, Soya. Sister Yanira promises me that someday soon the children will have their energy back along with the bright spark of childhood that I have taken for granted until now.

Most times, it is only Spanish here. I listen and watch Sister Yanira’s work. When the children wonder why I am not talking I explain that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish. It seems kids have natural empathy and many times, they begin to show me kindness by coming closer, showing me their things, and sometimes even giving me big hugs. It’s a blessing that I appreciate.

My biggest challenge here is not understanding most of what is said. I participate in Mass and in prayer, but most times don’t pick up the meaning. At mealtime, I have to stay really focused because if my attention strays, I don’t understand the conversation. The sisters say in a month I will be able to understand most things, and in three months I will be participating. I am hopeful they are right! I have noticed after a week, I am picking up more. Poco a poco. It will come, I know it will! In the meantime, I continue to practice gentle patience with myself.

With the new life I am experiencing, I find myself in “figuring it out” mode. I spend my time watching to see how things work, learning quickly and asking questions. I tend to be more in the details and less in the big picture. Yesterday, however, in Father’s homily, I picked out the word “Bolivia” and had a moment of wonder as I realized I was actually here, in this place, at this time, following God’s lead. Woah, I’m in Bolivia – how incredible is that?!


Picture of the Week - Week 7

I know I missed posting a photo of the week recently, so here is one! This is a panel on the door of the chapel. The doors say "Praised be my Lord" on them and depict the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis. It's really cool and of course, this is my favorite featuring birds from this area. You can see a parrot, toucan, rhea and (I think) a flamingo. I can't quite figure out the other one but will let you know once I see it in nature!

The convent is part of a Mission, opened by Jesuits when missionary work and colonization first started here. The mission grounds include the convent, chapel and large church. From my understanding (and forgive any inaccuracies because I learn in Spanish here!) they were started in areas where people lived a more nomadic lifestyle and the church became the center of small pueblos, where people settled. Ascención has approximately 18,000 residents.

Blessings can be seen in abundance here, from wood panels to smiling faces.

Photo of the Week - Week 10

Wednesday, March 16th 2022 11:02 am

For all of you who have been praying for Carlita, thank you!

Carlita is a young woman of 15 who lives in a poor part of town with her family. Her grandmother lives with the family, is disabled and can't walk, being confined to a bed most of the time. We visited the family the first day that I worked with Sister Yanira and she was at school. She has recently been battling leukemia, but her family was happy with her progress. It was only a few days later that we heard Carlita wasn't feeling well and went to visit her in the hospital.

When we got there, she was in a bed and couldn't stop crying and moaning. It was probably the most difficult thing I have seen here. They were very concerned that she had COVID, especially because she is battling leukemia and it would be a terrible blow. She was in urgent need to get to a larger hospital in Santa Cruz where they could treat her, but there was difficulty getting the approval.

That is when I asked the sisters at St. Rose to pray for her and then after, all of the people who read these reflections.

Praise God she is much better and back at home. She didn't end up having COVID, another thing to be very grateful for!

A great big thank you to everyone who spent a moment or more saying a prayer for her. She is precious with a bright spark of life about her. The miracle that is Carlita is an example and a joy to me. I hope her spirit shows in this photo!

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Poco a Poco - Learning and Growing Little by Little

Monday, February 14th 2022 3:01 pm

On Saturday, CLIMAL hosted a trip to Incachaca, a beautiful natural area a few hours outside Cochabamba. I had such a great time. It was drizzling while we were there, which was appreciated because the hike was challenging! Thanks to the instructors at CLIMAL who served as guides, we learned all about the area, enjoying the mountain view, a roaring river and breath-taking waterfalls. I found myself sighing contentedly. To be embraced by God’s creation brings me such peace.

“Poco a poco!” Karla, one of my Spanish instructors, said encouragingly as we slowly made our way back up the mountain, wrapping up the beautiful hike in Incachaca. 

I remember the week before when Osvaldo, another instructor, said to me “poco a poco” as I tripped over words trying to form questions on the things we were talking about.

I have had poco a poco, or little by little, bouncing around in my head lately. As with many things that are difficult for me, I tend to get frustrated with my progress in learning Spanish. It takes contemplation, discernment and prayer to realize that I’m trying to measure my progress, something that isn’t meant to be measured. How far along should I be in my learning? There is no marker, no invisible bar I have yet to cross. Holding onto an internal messaging with suggestions that there is can only lead me to an ugly spiral of self-criticisms.

It’s not healthy and it doesn’t honor the nurturing love I have for myself. I take the opportunity for a deep breath. Ahhhhhh. It’s at this moment that I invite my inner encourager to start rooting for me and she begins the simple mantra – poco a poco. Things get brighter and, interesting enough, easier.

On Saturday, I leave for Santa Cruz where I will be ministering with the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis. These six weeks have gone so fast, I realize I have so much left to learn. Still, poco a poco, I will continue to move forward, continue to learn and continue to grow.

Muchas gracias, Dios, por poco a poco!

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What's New here? Well, everything!

Monday, February 28th 2022 1:55 pm

I am sitting outside my room. There is an adorable dachshund/golden retriever mix lying next to me. I am facing an inner courtyard that is full of gardens and an octagonal chapel that is both simple and exquisite. It gets hot here – in the 90’s and super humid, but I am comfortable in the shade this morning. 

 

I have been in Ascención, Bolivia for a week. It took a while to get connected to the WIFI here, and I know I am a bit late with this reflection. You might be wondering what’s new? Well, everything! 

I am living with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. They live in different places, but I am here in Ascención where the sisters are nurses, teachers and catechists. There is a routine here of prayer, work, communal meals and Mass. The days starts at 5:30 in the morning and finishes around 9:00 in the evening. There is time for work and time for rest. I admit to enjoying a siesta each day, it’s wonderfully refreshing.

In this climate, there are all sorts of new things to see. The birds are amazing. Each morning and evening hundreds of parrots fly over and a few macaws too! I haven’t done much birding yet, but am seeing new birds each day. I will have time to watch the birds more intentionally soon I am sure. There are also all sorts of butterflies. I even saw a grasshopper who flashed blue as he flew away. Large snails, lizards, frogs, and even a monkey, were some fun discoveries. 

I began my ministry on Monday of last week. Each morning, I accompany Sister Yanira, who works for a Nutrition Clinic here. The clinic specializes in helping some of the poorest families find nourishment for their children. A few of the days we walked through a large neighborhood filled with houses made of repurposed wood with openings for doors and windows and dirt floors. Most had corrugated metal roofs. A few were made from layers of palm fronds. At first, I assumed they didn’t have electricity, but realized that the houses do. Coming from a place with winter, it seems impossible, but it works here. 

This week I met the faces of malnutrition. Some were children who smiled and laughed, but their little tummies were distended with parasites. Even more distressing was to meet children who were fading. Children with no energy and no hope. It was heartbreaking, and equally heartbreaking to see their parents and grandparents, loving them so much, but unable to give them what they need. 

Sister Yanira brings them hope. She talks to them about the importance of nutrition and records each child’s information. As she does, she tells their families about the nutrition clinic, where they can get some staples like milk, and a nutritional superpower, Soya. Sister Yanira promises me that someday soon the children will have their energy back and the bright spark I have taken for granted. 

Most times, it is only Spanish here. I listen and watch Sister Yanira’s work. When the children wonder why I am not talking I explain that I don’t understand a lot of Spanish. It seems kids have natural empathy and many times, they begin to show me kindness by coming closer, showing me their things, and sometimes even giving me big hugs. It’s a blessing that I appreciate. 

My biggest challenge here is not understanding most of what is said. I participate in Mass and in prayer, but most times don’t pick up the meaning. At mealtime, I have to stay really focused because if my attention strays, I don’t understand the conversation. The sisters say in a month I will be able to understand most things, and in three months I will be participating. I am hopeful they are right! I have noticed after a week, I am picking up more. Poco a poco. It will come, I know it will! In the meantime, I continue to practice gentle patience with myself. 

 

With the new life I am experiencing, I find myself in “figuring it out” mode. I spend my time watching to see how things work, learning quickly and asking questions. I tend to be more in the details and less in the big picture. Yesterday, however, in Father’s homily, I picked out the word “Bolivia” and had a moment of wonder as I realized I was actually here, in this place, at this time, following God’s lead. Woah, I’m in Bolivia – how incredible is that?!


Picture of the Week - Week 7

I know I missed posting a photo of the week recently, so here is one! This is a panel on the door of the chapel. The doors say "praised be my Lord" on them and depicts the Canticle of Creatures by St. Francis. It's really cool and of course this is my favorite which has birds from this area. You can see a parrot, toucan, rhea and (I think) a flamingo. I can't quite figure out the other one but will let you know once I see it! 

The convent is part of a Mission, opened by Jesuits when missionary work and colonization first started here. The mission grounds include the convent, chapel and large church. From my understanding (and forgive any inaccuracies because I learn in Spanish!) they were started in area where people lived a more nomadic lifestyle and the church became the center of small pueblos, where people settled. Ascención has approximately 18,000 residents. 

Blessings can be seen in abundance here, from wood panels to smiling faces. 

What About the Food?

Sunday, May 1st 2022 10:44 am

Moving on to the topic that got the most questions - food! Here are the questions, and here are the answers! My apologies for the lack of food photos like last time. I don't bring my phone to the dining room. I think that would be impolite.

Do you like pudding?

Well, yes, yes I do like pudding! We haven’t had any here yet though. But we have had gelatina (jello) and arroz con leche (rice with milk), which are delicious. Normally the gelatina has fresh fruit in it and the arroz con leche is sweetened with sugar, probably a little vanilla and cinnamon. Num!

So you are up and at it for two hours without any breakfast??? I would have such a headache. How do you do it?

Honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought. I wonder if it’s because it’s so early, my stomach isn’t awake enough to be ready for sustenance! I’m not sure, but I did start having a cup of coffee with breakfast in the morning. With these early mornings, a kick-start is needed!

I'm interested in the food with the TSSF sisters.

I would describe the food here as a bit on the more simple side, but very delicious. You don’t have to get too fancy when the food is good!

Here’s what typical meals are like:

Breakfast

For breakfast, we always have pan (bread). The most popular kind includes these small rolls that are either plain, have cheese baked on top, or have a flour and sugar mixture on top. I tend to like the last option the best. Butter and marmalade are made from fruits here to add to the rolls. Then, we always have a cup of coffee. I have found a lovely stevia powder I use as a sweetener. Here, they put a lot of leche (milk) in their coffee, which I appreciate!

Sometimes we have eggs: scrambled over-easy, hard-boiled or soft-boiled. I hadn’t ever had a soft-boiled egg until I came here, and I like them a lot!

Every once in a while, we have something called Locro with breakfast. It’s a slow-cooked stew with hominy and pork. All the Bolivian sisters dig in when it’s made. They say it’s a traditional breakfast here and very special to them.

Finally, there are times we have a variety of different breads in addition to the rolls. There are Cuñapes (rolls with cheese in them), empanadas (for breakfast, normally baked with cheese in them) and a personal favorite – pan de arroz con queso (it’s like rice meal turned into a dough, stuffed with cheese and then fried). I think you might have noticed a trend here. In the tropical zone of Bolivia, where I live, queso is very popular. As a cheese-head, that makes me very happy.

Lunch

Lunch is the big meal of the day, and always starts with sopa (soup). There is great variety in the soups, which are usually flavored with differing kinds of meat and bones. When it’s served, they leave pieces of meat in. When you serve it to yourself, you have the option of taking the meat and eating it as well.

After we finish the soup, the rest of the food is served. Rice is included with almost every meal. Many times, it's mixed with meat and something to make it a little creamy. Eggs are also often served with it. I realize that I'm not describing it very well, but it is very delicious! Other main dishes might include roasted meats, chicharon (which is like fried meat that gets really crispy), or hamburguesa (which are hamburgers, but not on buns like in the US and normally mixed with some bread crumbs and herbs). They really have a large variety of things, and all of them are delightful! I also noticed that the way they cut their meat is different here, and they don’t normally remove the bones.

Besides rice, sides might include potatoes or yucca. Potatoes are the most common in the mountains, and yucca is the most common here because of growing conditions.

We also normally have a vegetable of some sort. Salads are popular, made with lettuce, tomatoes and sprinkled with chives and then doused with lemon juice. We’ve had beets quite often, and they’ve made them mixed with potatoes and mayonnaise in a salad. It was pretty good!

Sometimes we have postre (dessert). The most common includes fresh fruit. Fruit is grown everywhere and so there are lots of different fruits we harvest or purchase at the Mercado (market). We might have papaya, banana, oranges, apples, grapes... We have had gelatina and arroz con leche for dessert in the past too. Sister Scholastica from Cameroon has been making banana cake lately which reminds me of home.

Also served with lunch is refresco. It’s normally a freshly squeezed lemon, grapefruit or sometimes even mandarin juice added to water. It is really refreshing! I appreciate that they don't pre-sweeten it because I'm able to add my stevia if I’m in the mood or just have it without.

Dinner

Dinner is normally the leftover food from lunch. Normally, something extra is fixed so there is enough for everyone. Sometimes they make some chorizo (sausage) from the local butcher which is one of my favorite dinner treats. And other times they make a pasta dish or arroz con queso (rice with cheese).

OK, now I’m hungry. I better go find a snack!

Celebrating a Culture: Happy Dià del Estado Plurinacional! (Day of the Pluri-national State)

Sunday, January 23rd 2022 3:05 pm

Yesterday, January 22nd, was a very special day for the people of Bolivia. It marks the anniversary of their constitution. Over ten years old, it's a young constitution. To my understanding, this new constitution was written and ratified in the hopes of creating a nation that cherishes diversity and respects the needs of all of its people. With the new constitution came the addition of another flag full of colors to symbolize the people of the country. 

Normally, there would be a great celebration throughout Bolivia, including parades and fireworks. As you may guess, these were canceled this year due to the pandemic. I considered how, in my isolation, I could honor the day. Yesterday I enjoyed some wonderful Bolivian music filled with guitars and flutes. For me, the music is full of emotion, hope and energy. I really like it.

Today, I felt called to delve more deeply into the constitution. I wondered how a constitution could possibly address all that might entail such big ideas like equity, interculturality and the environment. The best way to find out, I decided, was to read it! I found an copy of the constitution in English. I was a bit intimidated when I saw it was 131 pages. After starting to read however, I realized that there is a lot of instructional detail in the Bolivian Constitution. It’s kind of a one-stop shop for all the ideals and expectations of the Bolivian people. 

The document started with: In ancient times mountains arose, rivers moved, and lakes were formed. Our Amazonia, our swamps, our highlands, and our plains and valleys were covered with greenery and flowers. As you can imagine, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading. I am on page 36 now, and am impressed by how it handles so many things. The term “Communitarian Democracy” was used to express both the diversity and the community form the country strives to include in their democratic nation. Sentiments regarding decolonization and environmental sustainability and protection were contained throughout. 

Below, I highlighted a few of the areas and language I found particularly interesting that relate to some of the social issues I have worked with. 

In Article 24
Anyone who has been granted asylum or refuge in Bolivia shall not be expelled or deported to a country where his life, bodily integrity, security or liberty is endangered. The State shall attend in a positive, humanitarian and efficient manner to requests for family reunification presented by parents or children who are given asylum or refuge.


In Article 33
Everyone has the right to a healthy, protected, and balanced environment. The exercise of this right must be granted to individuals and collectives of present and future generations, as well as to other living things, so they may develop in a normal and permanent way.

In article 48
The State shall promote the incorporation of women into the workforce and shall guarantee them the same remuneration as men for work of equal value, both in the public and private arena.

In Article 98
Cultural diversity constitutes the essential basis of the Pluri-National Communitarian State (Estado Unitario Social de Derecho Plurinacional Comunitario). The inter-cultural character is the means for cohesion and for harmonic and balanced existence among all the peoples and nations. The intercultural character shall exist with respect for differences and in conditions of equality.

If you are interested, I invite you to read the constitution to get a better idea of the ideals expressed. It is really easy in this polarized world to immediately begin to compare one nation/culture with another, or even to be cynical because of our differences. In the spirit of this very special Bolivian day, I invite you to put away that desire and enjoy!

Celebrating a Culture: Happy Diá del Estado Plurinacional! (Day of the Pluri-national State)

Sunday, January 23rd 2022 3:05 pm


Yesterday, January 22nd, was a very special day for the people of Bolivia. It marks the anniversary of their constitution. Over ten years old, it's a young constitution. To my understanding, this new constitution was written and ratified in the hopes of expressing a nation that cherishes diversity and respects the needs of all of its people. With the new constitution came the addition of another flag full of colors to symbolize the people of the country. Photo credit: Pixabay


Normally, there would be a great celebration throughout Bolivia, including parades and fireworks. As you may guess, these were canceled this year due to the pandemic. I considered how, in my isolation, I could honor the day. Yesterday I enjoyed some wonderful Bolivian music filled with guitars and flutes. For me, the music is full of emotion, hope and energy. I really like it. Photo Credit: Pixabay


Today, I felt called to delve more deeply into the constitution. I wondered how a constitution could possibly address all that might entail such big ideas like equity, interculturality and the environment. The best way to find out, I decided, was to read it! I found a copy of the constitution in English. I was a bit intimidated when I saw it was 131 pages. After starting to read however, I realized that there is a lot of instructional detail in the Bolivian Constitution. It’s kind of a one-stop shop for all the ideals and expectations of the Bolivian people. Photo Credit: Pixabay

The document started with: In ancient times mountains arose, rivers moved, and lakes were formed. Our Amazonia, our swamps, our highlands, and our plains and valleys were covered with greenery and flowers. As you can imagine, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading. I am on page 36 now, and am impressed by how it handles so many things. The term “Communitarian Democracy” was used to express both the diversity and the community form the country strives to include in their democratic nation. Sentiments regarding decolonization and environmental sustainability and protection were contained throughout. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Below, I highlighted a few of the areas and language I found particularly interesting that relate to some of the social issues I have worked with.

In Article 24
Anyone who has been granted asylum or refuge in Bolivia shall not be expelled or deported to a country where his life, bodily integrity, security or liberty is endangered. The State shall attend in a positive, humanitarian and efficient manner to requests for family reunification presented by parents or children who are given asylum or refuge. Photo credit: Pixabay

In Article 33
Everyone has the right to a healthy, protected, and balanced environment. The exercise of this right must be granted to individuals and collectives of present and future generations, as well as to other living things, so they may develop in a normal and permanent way. Photo Credit: Pixabay

In Article 48
The State shall promote the incorporation of women into the workforce and shall guarantee them the same remuneration as men for work of equal value, both in the public and private arena. Photo Credit: Pixabay


In Article 98

Cultural diversity constitutes the essential basis of the Pluri-National Communitarian State (Estado Unitario Social de Derecho Plurinacional Comunitario). The inter-cultural character is the means for cohesion and for harmonic and balanced existence among all the peoples and nations. The intercultural character shall exist with respect for differences and in conditions of equality. Photo Credit: Pixabay


If you are interested, I invite you to read the constitution to get a better idea of the ideals expressed. It is really easy in this polarized world to immediately begin to compare one nation/culture with another, or even to be cynical because of our differences. In the spirit of this very special Bolivian day, I invite you to put away that desire and enjoy!

I am looking forward to experiencing more of this diverse country!

Photo of the Week - Week 12

Wednesday, March 30th 2022 3:55 pm


After having a chat with God on Sunday, I am taking the week off. I am letting go of my obligations, deep thoughts, and learnings.

I'm spending my time this week with God, the sisters and the people I encounter.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the 200-year-old Crucifix that hangs in the church connected to the convent.

Blessings to all of you this week and weekend. May you see God's light in your life!

Photo of the Week - Week 4

Thursday, February 3rd 2022 1:43 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week's photo comes from the Parque de la Familia (The Family Park) where I was invited by CLIMAL, my language school, to go to last night. A total of eight of us went. We enjoyed traditional Bolivian food at a restaurant (more on that another time) and then walked over to this spectacular show. For just 8 bolivianos, we were treated to bright lights bouncing off of water from different fountains, choreographed to music. There were lights like this, images and even video of flowers blooming in the fountain, all bright and colorful.  It was great fun. It started raining right before it started so we ended up standing pretty far away under a building. A few of the people with me said that since I was Franciscan I should pray for the rain to stop for an hour, hoping to watch the show and stay dry. I did better, I prayed for the rain to stop for TWO hours with a por favor and a gracias. The rain did stop, just as the light show was ending, DOH! I am pretty sure it started back up two hours later when everyone was home and tucked in for the night. I would say that still counts as an answered prayer! 

Discovering a Growing Edge While Walking in Cochabamba

Sunday, January 30th 2022 4:30 pm

When I first joined religious life, I remember hearing the term growing edges, referring to where in my life there were opportunities for growth. I couldn’t help but think of a climbing plant continuing to fill in on the edges to grow bigger and more expansive. 

I sometimes have a hard time noticing my growth and change. Once growth happens, it becomes a part of me. It might be a better to say that my growth becomes integrated. So maybe for me it’s more like a forest. Given the opportunity, it spreads out with more and more trees on its edges in slow, less perceptible ways. 

Photo credit: Pixabay

Since I have been able to go back to language school, post COVID isolation, I have enjoyed walking to school. It is a joy to be outside in the open air. I get to look at all the activity going on in the city, see people walking, talking, eating and working. I get to enjoy the beautiful gardens and, of course, check out the different birds in the area. There’s actually a part of my walk that goes along a channel and is just FILLED with birds. Most times, I just hear them but sometimes one pops up for me to see. I don’t have my camera along as I walk to school so you’ll just have to take my word for it! But I digress…

 

 

 


 

Photo: This garden on my walk to school was being weeded by a woman (by hand) the first time I walked by and is now beautiful.

A growing edge I have become aware of this week has become apparent on my walks. First, it’s important to understand that outside of the people I interact with at school, I rarely see someone that shares my skin tone. To give you an idea, I have been here for 3 weeks and I have seen 3 people outside of the school that share my complexion. 

In my mind, I know that it doesn’t matter. Everyone I have had personal contact with has been so full of kindness and hospitality and even with the language barrier, they go out of their way to make me feel welcome. And yet…

Photo: Rain gathering in the mountains.

And yet, as I am walking down the street and pass someone by, many times they don’t make eye contact. For a moment, I wonder if maybe they don’t want to interact with me. Is it because I am different? Sometimes someone does make eye contact and I say Buenos Dias, but they say nothing back. I wonder then if I am doing something wrong because I am not from around here. At a bus stop, as I walk by a couple people sitting and waiting for the bus I say, Buenos Dias, and I can’t be sure, but it seems like an older woman looks me up and down before looking away. I wonder if it’s because of my skin tone, maybe she doesn’t like people that look like me. Maybe I shouldn’t have said hello. I am the outsider in this place. Who am I to think that people should be nice to me?

I live in this mind space for a short time wondering about my place in this country that is not my own, in this place where I am different. This place where I don’t fit in. This place where I am an outsider. 

In time, I consider my thinking more deeply. I remember that in the United States, where I am the majority and my skin tone affords me unwarranted privilege, that people don’t make eye contact with me, people don’t say hi back and that sometimes people give me looks I don’t understand. I remember that no matter where I am, there are people who have bad days, who are tired. There are even more in their own thoughts and not noticing the people they meet. In big cities I’ve lived in, it’s rare that people make eye contact or say hello.

Then I decide to stop and look around. I resolve to try to see the similarities I have with the people around me, and not make assumptions about them. I resolve to stop projecting my thoughts on other people. I continue walking.

Yesterday, I was heading back home and it was raining, so I hailed a crowded bus (that’s how it works here – pretty cool!) and jumped on, paying my 1,50 bolivianos, the equivalent of about 50 cents US. As I hopped up the stairs, a young woman left her seat and moved to the back so I would have a place to sit. I was grateful for the kindness. As we drove through some water that was tumbling down the road, the splashes were pretty spectacular. The older woman I was sitting with and I both said “wow!” in unison as we went through a particularly large puddle. The doors of the bus are always left open and we were in a really good spot to see it. We laughed and although she said something I couldn’t understand, I knew we shared a moment of connection.

Photo: The buses in Bolivia are brightly colored, they look happy to me!

That’s my growing edge to work on. I will no doubt have more experiences of otherness in my time here. And yet, I know that I am called to find connection and relationship, not difference. And so, I will continue to do just that because that’s one of the ways I know how to share my love.

Buenas tardes mis amigos!

Photo: Even the insides of the buses here have colorful decorations. I really like them!

Photo of the Week - Week 4

Thursday, February 3rd 2022 1:43 pm

This week's photo comes from the Parque de la Familia (The Family Park) where I was invited by CLIMAL, my language school, to go to last night. A total of eight of us went. We enjoyed traditional Bolivian food at a restaurant (more on that another time) and then walked over to this spectacular show. For just 8 bolivianos, we were treated to bright lights bouncing off of water from different fountains, choreographed to music. There were lights like this, images and even video of flowers blooming in the fountain, all bright and colorful.  It was great fun. It started raining right before it started so we ended up standing pretty far away under a building. A few of the people with me said that since I was Franciscan I should pray for the rain to stop for an hour, hoping to watch the show and stay dry. I did better, I prayed for the rain to stop for TWO hours with a por favor and a gracias. The rain did stop, just as the light show was ending, DOH! I am pretty sure it started back up two hours later when everyone was home and tucked in for the night. I would say that still counts as an answered prayer!

What inspires Sister Sue about religious life today?

Tuesday, March 13th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Sue Ernster, FSPA

 

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week, Show me a sign posed the question "What inspires you about religious life today?" to women religious in our community. Here's what Sister Sue Ernster, whose vocation is to serve the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration as congregational treasurer, has to say.

I am thrilled to be in religious life during such an exciting time. With all of the changes occurring in our world the opportunities to shine in the realm of sharing our charism are limitless. Women religious everywhere are allowing the world to see the difference we are and can be. 

We are not constrained as before by institutions or society. In this ever-changing and what some may call crumbling world, we offer the gifts of hope, love and goodness. We strive to exude the blessings of sharing and relationship. 

Game-On

Sister Sue (standing next to the host) defers to her FSPA teammates during the community fundraising event "Game On!"

 

Sharing who we are and what we have, I believe, is key in this world of chaos. We offer contemplative and alternative, nonviolent ways of being in relationship with others. 

In the midst of the changing society, we have the opportunity to share our values with others in partnership and collaboration in ways not known before. Through these collaborative or partnering ways, we invite others to see and think differently. Growing in engagement inspires our world as it continues to evolve. 

S-Sue-Ernster-St-Nicks-Boot-Riverfront

Riverfront residents and Sister Sue gather around St. Nick's Boot, a Christmas giving program.

 

I am excited about collaboration, invitation, engagement, inspiration and evolution in religious life. We are branching out further than ever before, working with businesses and others to eradicate human slavery, mental health stigma and homelessness. As we engage others and gain partners in ministry, we also allow others to be part of and carry on our charism and mission. 

This time is blooming with opportunity, and craving what we have to offer.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Photo of the Week - Week 8

Thursday, March 3rd 2022 6:44 pm

When these beautiful women come to call at the end of Carnaval - it's time to dance!

The last day of Carnaval was Sunday and we all went to Yaguarú (pronounced ya-wa-roo) to enjoy the day with a big picnic at the small pueblo about an hour from here. After the picnic, Sister Yanira and I went for a long walk and came back to relax. It was really hot that day but a group of mujeres (women) from the village came to the convent accompanied by drums and flute music. It is a tradition, that when the women (called "originales" I think!) come, they are dancing to mark the end of Carnaval. The joy of these women was incredible and they invited the sisters to join them (which they did of course!) When they invited me, I considered saying no, but then I decided to do it anyway. Dancing is not my thing, but I decided it was an honor to be invited and join in the fun. It was an incredible feeling to be surrounded by joyful, strong, wise women and to join in their dance. It was the thrill of a lifetime. I didn't realize it, but someone was recording our dance. You can see it by clicking here. God bless these women. What a way to end a great day!

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A New Invitation: Walking with Intention

Sunday, March 13th 2022 1:31 pm

I am a dreamer. I always have been. In the 1st grade, the teacher I had commented on a report card that I was intelligent, if only I would pay attention! Imagining is a joy for me. I love stories with dragons and unicorns. I enjoy looking at buildings for sale and imagining what business would be good in them. My imagination is great for creatively troubleshooting problems, planning a trip or a party and brainstorming ideas. It has been my friend and companion for all of my life.

I find that here, at this moment in my life, my dreaming is a distraction. While I am learning Spanish, it only takes a moment to lose the thread of conversation. I have found myself slipping into my dream world when listening is difficult or I become tired. Tuning out in this way isolates me from the people around me. I become alone in my little bubble and no amount of imagination can restore the disconnection.

I find myself receiving a call for this moment. I realize that what is really needed for me right now is to put my dreaming aside and truly be present to what God is showing me right now. I need to be present with all of my senses, all of my mind and all of my heart.

My challenge and my invitation is to walk in this experience with complete intentionality.

I will keep my dreaming and imagination for another time. I will place it in a treasured place and take it out when it is needed again but for now, I will give this time and space my complete attention.

God affirmed my new commitment as I left lunch today. I looked out into the courtyard and a Tropical Kingbird knocked a Guira Cuckoo into the yard about 20 feet away from me. (Don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt!) What a strange and magnificent bird! The cuckoo waited for me to get my camera before posing for some great shots and finally flying away. A group of us were able to enjoy the experience together. Afterward, Therese and I talked about the bird digitally and Therese identified him!

Thank you, creative, kind and encouraging God, for guiding me on my journey.

 

 


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Photo of the Week - Week 16

Thursday, April 28th 2022 8:58 am

Look who came to the convent for a visit! Can you believe it? It was late in the afternoon on Monday and all of a sudden, everyone was talking excitedly and someone told me to get my camera. I couldn't believe it when out of the church came this totally adorable, young, three-toed sloth! I snapped photos and took a quick video (which you can see here if you are interested) and the sloth continued on the adventure of a lifetime (I am sure) being relocated to a more suitable spot. My first thought was the sloth was actually IN the church but after a few questions, I learned that "Iglesia" refers to the whole parish property. It's still too busy of a place here in the pueblo for this little one so I am glad people pitched in to help.

I also saw a friendly Brown Agouti who I was planning on including in the photo of the week but there's something about the adorableness of a sloth that wins out every time! The Agouti is a subspecies specific to this area. If you are interested, I have a short video here!

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The Gift of Memories

Sunday, May 15th 2022 6:20 am

Blessings to you from Ascención! Today, I pray for everyone who reads this reflection. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and I appreciate all of your support and encouragement.

In my reflections this week, I realized that I have been blessed by the return of memories. I didn't realize I wasn't having them, but once I began to again, it became evident. I wonder why there weren't memories until recently? Was it because everything has been so new? I think that would make sense since things are very different here. I have also been feeling more settled here. Perhaps that has something to do with it. For whatever reason, my memories are bringing me joy as they connect my earlier life with life here.

Last weekend, when I was in Yaguarú, there was a confirmation of over 60 young men and women. It was filled with the Spirit and joy and incredible music. The young people sang so loud it was almost more of a cheer than singing, but their enthusiasm pulled you into the song. The energy in that church was just incredible. It brought me back to the different choirs, groups and churches I have been in where I felt that same energy and Spirit. It reminded me of what faith, love and joy in community feel like, and what a blessing it is. I was also reminded of my own Confirmation when I felt the Holy Spirit ignited in my heart at the moment of my confirmation. It's a beloved spiritual memory in my life. I am very grateful for it.

The second memory of mine is a little bit embarrassing! It was "Completas" (end of the day prayer) here at the convent and there were only four of us praying that night. A little like Mass, there is kneeling, standing and sitting during the prayer. Normally I have it down pretty well, especially because there are people sitting around me to cue me, but not this night. The leader of the prayer stood up to read scripture. I hopped up because she was standing, but I wasn't supposed to. I was totally oblivious until I looked over at the aspirant and saw her motioning for me to sit down. I slowly sat down. All was good until I tried to say a response with the others. Out of my mouth came a loud guffaw! Pretty soon I was trying to hide my face as uncontrollable laughter rippled through me. You know the kind, right? Tears streaming down my face, I kept thinking I had it back under control, only to fall apart as soon as I tried to join in the prayer. What was even worse, is the effect I had on the novice and aspirant. Soon, they were laughing uncontrollably too! Luckily we only had about 5 minutes left, which I spent laughing, and exited as soon as the prayer ended.

The experience brought back a vivid, happy memory of my mom. We used to have experiences like that often. It was a great time, one of us would set the other off and we would laugh so hard we couldn't breathe. I remember standing in the kitchen trying to stay upright as we laughed. What a wonderful time to remember. Considering that Mother's Day in the United States had been just a few days before, I wonder if she might have had something to do with my episode of hilarity in prayer. I wouldn't be surprised. Thanks, Mom!

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Delighting in Routine...and Your Questions?

Sunday, March 20th 2022 10:41 am

The strange thing about writing updates is that I don't get to have conversations with everyone who reads them. I am curious - do you have any questions or anything you have been wondering about? Let me know! You can leave them in the comments (below) or email me at sistermeg@fspa.org. I will try to answer what I can in future updates. Looking forward to hearing from you!

When I am in transition, I long for routine. It brings a sense of normalcy to a way of being that is all-new, unknown and a bit awkward. The structure of my days with the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis provides me with a foundation that is constant. It is both prayerful and productive, a peaceful mix of life that I have appreciated since I came here - a month ago now.  As I am starting to feel settled in here, I continue to enjoy the routine.

This is a typical day for me in Ascención, Bolivia:4:50am Levantarme (Get Up)
5:30am Oraciónes de Laudes y Adoración (Morning Prayer and Adoration)
7:00am Desayuno (Breakfast)
8:00am Trabajo a la Clínica de Nutrición (Work at the Nutrition Clinic)
12:00pm Almuerzo (Lunch)
12:30pm Oraciónes de Nona (Mid-Day Prayers)
1:00pm Siesta (Nap)
1:30pm Tiempo de Libre (Free time for practicing Spanish, practicing harp, reflections, emails, Zooms, etc.)
3:00pm Té o Café (Tea or Coffee)
5:30pm Oraciónes de Vesperas y Rosario (Evening Prayer and Rosary)
6:30pm Cena (Dinner)
7:30pm La Misa (Mass)
8:30pm Oraciónes de Completas (Ending Prayers)
9:00pm Duermo (Sleep)

Over the last few days, I went to visit another one of the missions where the sisters minister, called San Miguel. It was about 8 hours away, and we spent the afternoon and evening on Thursday traveling, arriving finally at 1 am. It was a bright and open mission, with a large yard full of plants and trees. The convent had rooms that opened into small, open-places filled with green, lush plants that remind me of Hawaii. The sisters here are generous and full of kindness. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people.

As I sat in a quiet spot overlooking fruit trees on the shady veranda, I realized how accustomed I was to the flow of things back in Ascención. The time at San Miguel was important and sacred, but it was also a delight to return to Ascención. Embracing the new and enjoying the known. This is a beautiful, living harmony for me. I am glad it remains with me here in Bolivia.

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Photo of the Week - Week 13

Wednesday, April 6th 2022 3:32 pm

It isn't the best photo. It's too dark, too close and a bit blurry -- but it's a favorite because it reminds me of a special time.

I continue to be surprised that anyone here might think that I am something special. I sometimes forget that I look different, or that by being from the United States, people find that interesting. I mean, I am from the United States so to me, that's old news! I don't often feel very useful, only helping a little bit with the important work Sister Yanira does. I have gotten a lot of compliments on my photos, but still, that pales in comparison to the life-saving work going on here. Of course, there are the continuing challenges of speaking Spanish, too. Today a large family that we cooked soy with made me feel special. The mothers taught me a few words in Gwarayu, the traditional language of this area (admittedly, I forgot them but that's not the point), one of the teenage girls took a selfie with me while we made Cuñapes together and the younger kids couldn't get enough of me and the camera I was taking photos with. I felt love and acceptance from this friendly -- kind and inviting family. It was a great day!

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Photo of the Week - Week 15

Wednesday, April 20th 2022 8:09 am

I took this photo last week. We were headed out of a barrio to get a moto-taxi after spending the day visiting families. I admit that I had taken my "big" camera that I use for birding along because this barrio was far out in the country and we had seen some birds while we were there on previous days. Normally, I don't bring my camera along because it just doesn't feel right to be walking around places where people don't have enough to eat with an expensive camera. In my mind, there's a certain injustice in that. I had justified it last week, promising that I wouldn't take it out when we were visiting with families, only when we were coming and going. Justifications only work so well though, because in this case, there were two extra families we ended up visiting that we hadn't seen walking in, but needed help.

This was the second family. There wasn't time to put the camera away, so instead, I just kept it hanging loose and continued to use Yanira's phone camera. (That's what I usually use.) Well, this young boy had been playing motorcycle on my arm (you can see it in his hand) and saw the "big" camera. He pointed to it after I had taken other photos with Yanira's camera, and I knew exactly what he was saying. He wanted me to take a photo with my big camera! We were on our way out but I snapped a photo. He was thrilled (even if he doesn't look it). It was especially funny because his brother was a perfect model for photos, holding a small soccer ball in various action poses, but this fellow seemed totally uninterested until that moment. I feel so much love toward these children. They are beautiful and courageous in their trust. If you would lift up a prayer for this youngster, and the others that we work with, I would sure appreciate it!

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Encuentro in Cooking - Lessons in Life

Sunday, March 6th 2022 1:17 pm

This week, I have noticed the dance that difficulties and love play here. In the struggle of living in really difficult situations, mothers and grandmothers still make jokes and laugh while they work. A young mother who feeds her baby before herself smiles broadly when she is told how beautiful her baby is. I realize I have a choice, too. It’s possible for me to focus only on the struggle or only on the love. I am deciding to honor them both and see the harmony in the totality of the reality here. 

Now that carnaval has ended, Sister Yanira and I are back to our ministry at the nutrition clinic. On Thursday, we made plans to return to a large family we had previously visited to demonstrate how to use soybeans. Called soya here, soybeans are included in what people receive from the clinic. Sister Yanira packed up some educational materials about hygiene in addition to two cups of soybeans that had been soaked overnight, bread crumbs, some oil, vanilla, cinnamon and a blender. We also stopped at the market, an open-air area that has booths filled with all different types of food. We picked up carrots, onions, garlic, a pepper, a couple tomatoes, flour and some eggs.

When we arrived at the house, a bunch of the kids greeted us with big smiles and lots of laughter. The first time we came, they were shy and unsure, but they must have decided that we were safe because they were so happy to see us. A table was moved, a bench placed in front and the youngest children quickly sat down, ready to learn. We were joined by older siblings, some to greet us and do other things, others stay and help with the children, preparations and cooking. The grandmother and the two mothers got things ready for our time together, cleaning everything we planned to use.

Sister Yanira gave the beans to one of the women to cook for some time on the stove in their kitchen. As Sister Yanira worked, she would show the process and then pass it on to one of the women. I appreciated that. It wasn’t a demonstration. It was a social time, where we talked, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company while we worked together. A couple more moms and children appeared, interested in learning what was happening and joining in the work. 

At some point, the kids lost interest and left to play in the yard as we worked. Dogs and chickens lingered nearby ready to pick up whatever we might drop. All the work was done in the center of the yard. There were multiple buildings surrounding us, all made with the repurposed wood, metal roofs and dirt floors. There was a small building for a living area, another for a kitchen and an outhouse toward the back of the yard. The yard contained some trees for shade and/or fruit. There was no grass, only packed dirt. 

We were working with two cups of soybeans. It was incredible what we were able to produce with those two cups. The process took about 2 hours, but was well worth it! We ended up with 4 liters of soy milk and 30 or so small soy burgers. We all washed up when it was time to eat. The prepared food was shared with everyone. I sat with the younger children and loved watching them enjoy the food. both the burgers and the soy milk were delicious - Mi gusta!!!

If you are interested in the recipes to try yourself, click on the little image to the right to view them. Warning! They're in Spanish, but you can use Google to figure out the words you don't know. That's what I did!

Click on the images below to see videos from the day. I had a great time and I think it's clear, the food was a hit!

On Friday, a young mother came in with Elsa, a beautiful baby girl. The mom was so skinny, we worried for her. Elsa was a happy little baby though, and her mom let me take a photo with her. I thanked her for the photo, and felt gratitude for her good care – as well as gratitude that the clinic will help make sure Elsa has what she needs each month.

P.S. For the sisters at St. Rose who have been praying for Carlita and her family, thank you! She is doing better, and is in the hospital in Santa Cruz where she needs to be. For those who have time for an extra prayer, she is a 15 year old girl who has Leukemia. Her family has many struggles including extreme poverty and a bed-ridden grandma. Your prayers are just what they need right now. Muchas gracias!

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Birds and Nature - Enjoying Bolivian Creation

Sunday, March 27th 2022 2:41 pm

Happy Sunday!

Thank you to everyone who asked questions! I got so many great ones - I look forward to answering them all. Since I got to pick, I chose a question relating to a favorite topic - NATURE! - first. I hope you enjoy the pics!

Question: I thought you would be exploring nature, taking pictures of birds and butterflies. We were expecting you to post nature photos. Can you explore nature on your own? Or would you have to arrange to have a buddy take you away from the convent?

Answer: Thanks for the questions! I have been quite remiss in not posting my nature photos. I haven't been out on my own yet, my Spanish is too sketchy and I don't often understand what people are saying to me, so I think it's best to have a buddy for now. Luckily, the sisters here like nature too - and have quite a bit of it here in the convent, too!

Here, there are so many big wonderings, I have been prioritizing them over pictures of birds and butterflies, but your question reminds me that there is a lot to learn from creation as well - and those learnings bring me closer to my Creator. I think the simplest and biggest lesson that creation here in Bolivia teaches me is that even though so much is different than what I am used to, it is still filled with the love and creative expression of God. It's easy to see that as I am witness to God's creative joy in the diversity of the creatures around here. To see a Capped Heron catch a frog, and three bright Macaws fly over the convent, it is clear that God is not only loving and intelligent, God is also amazingly creative. Each new bit of creation I find reminds me that God is full of surprises!

Above: Little-Banded Swift

Above: Orcas Checkered Skipper

Above: Florida White

Above: Dorante Longtail

Above: Polydamas Swallowtail

Above: Julia Heliconian

Above: Red Peacock

Above: Green-banded Urania

Above: Thoas Swallowtail

Above: Greater Ani, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Cocoi Heron, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Neotropic Cormorant, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Snail Kite, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Black Vulture, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Female Saffron Finch, photo taken on the convent grounds

Above: White-Banded Mockingbird -- trying to look threatening to a Rufous Hornero, photo taken on the convent grounds

Above: Rufous-Throated Sapphire, photo taken on the convent grounds
This is the best photo I could get of a hummingbird. You'd think with 75ish species of hummingbirds, one would sit still for me.

Above: Tropical Kingbird, photo taken on the convent grounds
When you are frustrated with hummingbirds, you can always count on this fellow to strike a pose.

Above: Whistling Heron, photo taken at a resort/family water park that was closed, but they let us in to look at birds anyway

Above: Blue-and-yellow Macaw, photo taken at the same resort
This bird was a pet of theirs, but such a beauty, and a good representative of the many that fly over the convent.

Above: Guira Cuckoos, photo taken at Hermana's farm out in the country.
They were kind enough to let me come along while they worked so I could take photos of birds and then even stopped the car each time so I could snap some shots!

Above: Limpkin, photo taken on the road back from the farm

Above: Capped Heron, photo taken on the road back from the farm

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Photo of the Week - Week 11

Thursday, March 24th 2022 1:44 pm

This week's photo is from the convent in San Miguel where I spent some time last week. I have seen different art like this here in Bolivia, but the imagery in this one struck me more than the others. This type of art serves as a reminder of the history of the place. In here you see Jesus front and center surrounded by indigenous people, priests, workers, poor children and freed slaves. Behind it you can see some of the historical events that happened like the arrival of the Spanish, military oppression and protests. I don't know the specific historical stories depicted in this painting, but it moves me. It reminds me of the history we are exploring anew in the United States connected to historical trauma and systemic racism (and other "isms") and I wonder what art is being created back in the states that will tell the story of our history. It will be good to see the images the future brings.

I realized that it is difficult to see all the detail in this photo so I have made the original available here for anyone interested. 

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The Making of a Saint - and Nerviness

Sunday, May 22nd 2022 3:55 pm

Today is the feast day of Madre Maria Hueber, the founder of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, the sisters I am living with here in Bolivia. They have provinces in Austria, Bolivia and Cameroon. She seemed to be a simple woman who accomplished miraculous things devoted to free education for children and had the gift of prophesy.

The sisters here created special displays for the venerated sister, one in the dining room and one in the chapel. I appreciate so much that they use cuttings from the plants in the garden here. It's such a simple but beautiful expression of Franciscan simple living. There are candles and lovely fabrics that grace the places. Last night for the solemnity we had some time in Adoration and today we had a feast of "Chancha" (roasted pork) at lunch and read a special prayer for her day after, which I was lucky enough to get to read. 

It is my turn to lead prayers this week. I tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn't budge. I guess that means if I make mistakes, they only have themselves to blame! Just kidding, I have been practicing and preparing, but considering it's entirely in Spanish, that complicates things for me and my language capacity. It's a good challenge though, and I am confident that the sisters will help me with everything as I need it. As a matter of fact, I started last night, and I mixed up the order of things for Adoration, which at times they ignored and when needed, started a prayer when I began doing something else. I appreciate they're guiding help and willingness to be patient as I lean into this good - but nerve-wracking - time. 

Since it was the Solemnity of the Feast of Venerable Madre Maria Hueber, I decided to ask her to put in a good word for me and interestingly, the readings and prayers I had to say solo went very well. She is being considered for canonization (becoming a saint) and I think that my saying the prayers and readings well should count as a miracle and cause toward furthering her in the process!

Knowing that each day I have four prayer times in the chapel, two meals at which to say grace (at the beginning and end none-the-less!), a rosary, Adoration and one reading after lunch, I probably could use a lot more intercessions for help with this important task with the sisters. Did I mention it's entirely in Spanish? In other words, please pray for me! Muchas Gracias!

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Photo of the Week - Week 17

Thursday, May 5th 2022 7:21 am

Welcome to May!

In the culture here (and many other places too!) May is devoted to Mary. Here in Ascención, there is a large blue and yellow display with a beautiful statue depicting Mary.

I will be spending the next four days in Yaguarú, a special small town where the sisters minister Thursday - Sunday. I thought it fitting that I use the Mary I saw in the church there back when we went there for the end of Carnaval.

This is Mary, Undoer of Knots. I was excited to see it when I was there. The devotions to Mary, Undoer of Knots focus on asking for her intercession to help undo the knots in our lives. St. Irenaeus is quoted as saying that Mary undid the knot of original sin, and so a special devotion was born from that.

There is a novena connected to Mary, Undoer of Knots, but I tend to ask for help with things that have me tied up inside.

If you're interested, the start of the novena begins...
Dearest Holy Mother, Most Holy Mary, you undo the knots that suffocate your children, extend your merciful hands to me. I entrust to You today this knot and all the negative consequences that it provokes in my life.

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A Walk with the Holy Spirit

Sunday, April 24th 2022 1:52 pm

Today, the Holy Spirit invited me on a walk. I grabbed my camera and we had a wonderful time. There were so many wonderful creations to appreciate. I decided not to do more than enjoy the time and snap some photos for you. Enjoy!

There's also a little video here if you want to see something wondrous: https://youtu.be/DlqKc1sj85o.



Photo of the Week - Week 14

Wednesday, April 13th 2022 9:51 am

The sun was hastening to the horizon as the courtyard filled with the prayers of the rosary.

Dios te salve María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo...

Outside, a cool breeze played with skirts, habits and veils and cooled the sisters as their gazes returned to the tabernacle inside the chapel, their lawn chairs facing toward the recipient of their prayers.

Bendita Tú eres entre todas las mujeres…

A pair of pigeons sang their praises with quiet cooing. A hornero announced its joining with a noisy and enthusiastic call. A butterfly gently glided among the brightly colored flowers, dancing to the rhythm of the prayer. A kingbird performed acrobatic pirouettes from the rooftop, catching insects along the way.

y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre Jesús…

As the Rosary continued, the skies filled with sound. The gentle peet of neighbor songbirds and the raucous cries of hundreds of parrots flying overhead. Martins and swallows in large numbers left their perches and danced in the skies above.

Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores…

Outside the walls of the mission and convent, the plaza was filled with the sounds of talking and laughing. Traffic punctuated things with its crescendo and decrescendo as the residents of the pueblo returned from a day of work or school. Music announced the start of dancing outside the convent, and for a few moments overrode everything else.

ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte…

As I prayed and reflected on the sorrowful mysteries, I felt a oneness with all the different sights and sounds. I felt the deep, foundational connection I have with all and everyone as one tiny, but greatly loved, part of God’s creation. And in that, I understood God a little bit more.

Amén

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Felices Pascuas! Leaning into Different Pascual Traditions

Sunday, April 17th 2022 10:30 am

Felices Pascuas! This is short because I am still in the midst of celebrating this Holy time with the sisters here. I have had a range of wonderings this week, enjoying new traditions, spending time with Sister Katie who was visiting from FSPA and admittedly missing the traditions I've enjoyed in the states. I was just thinking, I wonder if I would have realized how important those traditions were if I hadn't been here? God's blessings to you today and every day!

On Good Friday, the morning was spent re-enacting the end of Jesus' life, beginning with the last supper.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

We walked with Jesus as he carried the cross. The morning was about 3.5 miles and went from about 8:30 to 11:30. Many people joined.

 

 




The jovenes (youth) from the parish performed the reenactment, but I heard from Sister Yanira that the young man who was Jesus has been doing it for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

We circled the pueblo and returned to the church where the crucifixion was re-enacted.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


After Jesus' death, he is lowered and held by Mary. It was very moving, and a little bit nerve-racking for the young man who climbed a ladder supported totally by other people holding it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In the evening, we traversed the same route, just about 12 hours later, but in reverse. It was a time to carry Jesus' body to the tomb.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

The coffin for Jesus is lit, so people can see and follow. I think there were more people at this procession than at the first. There were also women who carried the Pieta, shouldering the sorrow of Mary at the loss of her son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Saturday is "the Day of the Tomb" here. We needed to travel to Santa Cruz on Saturday because Sister Katie will be leaving tomorrow. I attended the Easter Vigil, which is more subdued than what we have in the states, but there were still extra readings, the blessing of the Easter candle and the blessing of the water. I got a good helping of blessed water on me during the sprinkling, which made me smile!

When we returned to the house, we had a lovely little meal with colored eggs (sorry I ate them so couldn't include them in the photo!) and candies.

 

 

 

 


May God's blessings shower you with the love of Jesus today and every day!

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A Day of Ministry with the Santa Clara Nutrition Center

Sunday, April 10th 2022 4:23 am

Question:
What do you do at the nutrition center? Do you go there just once a day according to your "daily routine"? 

Response:
I really enjoy my ministry at the Santa Clara Nutrition Center and appreciate greatly the work that they do. We all work from 8 am to Noon.

Normally, we spend 2 or 3 days a week walking different neighborhoods and talking to parents about nutrition for their kids. I normally take photos, and Sister Yanira does all the talking. She is a nurse and uses that knowledge to help in different ways.

We try to cook with a family once a week, which gives Sister Yanira the opportunity to bring educational material for parents and kids to learn about things like nutrition and hygiene. I think cooking might be my favorite activity because it's a time for everyone to work together to make amazing food with soy that is high in nutrients and protein for families who might not have access to a lot of healthy food, especially meat.

Finally, a day is spent in the clinic. Sister Yanira works with families and I spend my time transcribing things on the computer or looking for photos on the internet for her to use in her educational talks.

We have participated in fairs in the neighborhoods as well, impressing people with delicious food made from soy. It's really all delicious! We also have information and conversations about nutrition and hygiene.

This is a description of a typical day walking the neighborhood:

It's 8:30 and the van arrives to take us to a neighborhood. As we drive, the van bounces over potholes and puddles, going slowly where water has washed away parts of the road.

When we arrive at the Eva Morales barrio (neighborhood), we hop out of the van with our backpacks and the van leaves us, on its way to help run other errands for the sisters and act as transportation for the Tao school down the block from the center, which provides education to special needs and undocumented children.

We begin to walk. This neighborhood happens to be in a more hilly area, so it's a bit more work. The sun is hot, and temperatures at the beginning of the day are normally in the low to mid-80s. It will get into the 90s before our walk is done. They are all dirt roads here, sometimes only passable on motorcycles or by walking. We hop over gullies and holes, sometimes slipping a bit on the loose rocks. Our sandals are covered with dust and dirt quickly.

As we walk, we talk about life, our faith and ourselves. We might stop for a minute or two to enjoy a flower, tree, insect or bird. Not too much time though, because we are on a mission!

As we near different homes, we scan the clotheslines for children's clothes. I think it's such a smart way to see if we should stop. People hand wash clothes here, and as you can guess, there are always kid's clothes being cleaned! If we see them or see kids playing in the yard, we stop.

Normally, there is a gate made of re-purposed wood and barbed wire. Interestingly, a lot of people use their barbed wire fences as drying lines as well. One of the many examples of how things are well used here - I am often surprised and inspired by things like this. Sometimes a dog or two will come to challenge our entry. In many places, dogs are more protectors than family friends.

Sister Yanira shouts a bit of a greeting and we are welcomed into the yard. Most times, the general living area is outside. There may be one building or multiple smaller buildings of re-purposed wood and dirt floors for bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

We are welcomed to an area that, if it was in a house, would likely be called the dining room. It's more like a porch here, with a covering to keep out the sun, and a table similar to a picnic table, where the family eats. First thing, chairs are produced for each of us. It is an incredibly welcoming gesture to me that is repeated for us in almost every place we visit.

This family includes a mom, a grandma and three kids. It is often the case, not always, that fathers are not present. I don't have specifics on the reasons, but it proves to be a challenge for the mothers who many times team up with their moms and possibly their sisters and their sister's children who are in the same situation.

The kids are normally a bit shy the first time we see them. Reserved and not sure what to make of us. They are curious about Sister Yanira in her habit and listen when their mom tells them to come over to us, but they are not ready to trust us yet.
 

Sister Yanira will check the kids, talk about nutrition, give medical advice, discuss education options for undocumented* kids and help if there is an urgent situation. 

We might schedule a cooking demonstration with a family, but we always provide information about the clinic and directions on how to get there.

As we leave, we thank the parents and say 'chao' to the kids. Now that we're leaving, smiles appear and return 'chaos' ring out from the kids. When we return in the future, most kids are transformed into interested, engaged, trusting children. It is a blessing to receive the gift of their trust.

We will repeat this process five or more times before we run out of time at about 11:30. Sometimes we are revisiting people who have received help before. Sometimes we are checking in on abuelas and abuelos (grandmothers and grandfathers) with health issues. Other times, we meet a child with special needs along with their brothers and sisters, presenting a different kind of challenge for a family here.

Sometimes when we visit a family, we find a chunky baby and kids that are a good weight. These times are not the norm however -- maybe one family of every five or six. Sister Yanira always celebrates these mothers, lifting them up with great praise and affirmation of the great job they are doing.

Finally, it's time to return. We hop on separate motorcycles and arrive back at the center with enough time for Sister Yanira to follow up on the takeaways she leaves the neighborhood with, put away our things and talk with the other staff there about each other's days.

*I wondered about what it means to be undocumented here. I wasn't sure if it was the same thing as in the United States. Here, undocumented kids are kids whose parents have not registered them. Both parents' signatures are required, and many times the fathers don't want to take responsibility for the child so they don't sign. Unregistered kids don't have access to healthcare or education. This puts moms in a very tough place. The Tao school provides education to these children.

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