tertiary sisters of st francis - Related Content

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.

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!

Photo of the Week - Week 23

Wednesday, June 15th 2022 5:22 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends and adventures! Before I left for the United States, Hermana (Sister) Yanira and I traveled to Santa Cruz together. There was a roadblock that had been causing disruptions in many ways for a couple of weeks so Hermana Yanira proclaimed we were going on an "aventura"! Bouncing over rutted dirt roads in the transport van we were riding in, being extorted by different people to pass their properties (including a young group of children who were asking for 3 bolivianos - admittedly they were adorable), getting junk food snacks when we finally stopped and at last arriving in Santa Cruz - it was fun because I was with a great friend, and we were on an adventure!

As we traveled, it got me thinking about all the other incredible people I have had adventures with. They're all great friends and even if we've lost touch over time, I still remember our adventures with affection and joy. So thank you to Kris, Kri, Amy, Lars, Barb, Erin, Margret, Jessi, John, Ashley, Pam, Therese, Gerry, Diana, Sister Michele, Sister Helen, Sister Georgia, Sister Marla, Dad and Hermana Yanira for bringing adventure into my life and for being the beautiful loving explorers you are! My apologies if I have missed anyone! Special blessings to all of you for the blessing you have been in my life.

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
(Numbers 6)

I miss you Hermana Yanira! I hope you have had fun adventures with others in my absence. Thank you for your loving presence and faithful heart. God's blessings to you - hasta pronto!

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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.

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!

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. 

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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Photo of the Week - Week 22

Wednesday, June 8th 2022 8:27 am

I am actually in the United States right now for some time with community, family and friends but thought it would be a good time to show you something that I found interesting.

When we go to cook with families in the barrios of Ascención de Guarayos, there aren't stoves with ranges to cook on. Instead everything is done via cooking fire.

In this photo, it's a typical setup of piled bricks and on the top there is normally long, thick metal rods, a metal grill or, like in this one, a collection of soldered motorcycle parts. Another way they reuse things here which I think is just brilliant!

God bless the family who made this and God bless you!

 

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Photo of the Week - Week 20

Friday, May 27th 2022 6:45 pm


Meet Mia Mandarina! You might remember me mentioning a cute little baby Brown Agouti that stopped by the convent for a visit. Well, she decided to stick around! It might have something to do with the easily attainable food that's always available here for the ducks, chickens, geese and tortoises. In the photo, she's enjoying some delicious papaya.

For the past two weeks or so, I have been stopping near where she lives and calling to her. To my surprise, she comes running almost every time! There is a Mandarin Orange tree nearby, so I pick a deliciously sweet fruit and share it with Mia. We sit down, I peel the mandarin and give her a piece, and enjoy a piece myself. She enjoys the seeds so I give her all of those, too. After we've finished, I give her some scratches and pets and she gives me little baby agouti kisses. It's a special friendship. I never try to pick her up and respect that she's a wild animal who is choosing to spend time with me. It's a gift to be the recipient of such trust from one of God's precious creations. I hold these times of sharing with Mia as sacred.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. - St. Melangell


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Photo of the Week - Week 21

Saturday, June 4th 2022 10:08 am

WARNING! BIRD NERD ALERT!

It was a big moment on Wednesday, but I didn't realize it until today! We were returning from taking some food to a mother and her two kids who live far out in the country, and both Sister Yanira and Don Gary (our driver) were patient and kind enough to stop along the way so I could take photos of birds I spotted. They both knew I was getting close to a milestone in my life list, so they were indulging me very kindly.

For those of you who aren't fanatic birders like I am, a life list is a count of the total amount of different species of birds you have seen. For instance, there are over 900 species of birds in the United States and over 900 species of birds in Bolivia. Some birds here are the same but many are different. It's been fun to see new birds here, especially ones we don't see in Wisconsin like macaws, parrots and Oropendolas.

On Wednesday, I was at a count of 598 species of birds on my life list, and I was really hoping to get to 600 before I left Bolivia for my visit home. I was able to take many photos, but as I reviewed them later that day, there was only one new species. I was ok with it and thought that maybe I would find another before I left.

I uploaded my photos to iNaturalist (it's an app and a website) to confirm my identifications and didn't think anything more of it. There are people all over the world that look at the identifications and either confirm them or suggest alternates. I was doing some traveling and other things so I hadn't checked back. You might be interested to know that as I traveled to Santa Cruz (where I will fly out of) I did see a new bird, a Maguari Stork. I was excited for that one too, but it wasn't meant to be number 600.

Once I was settled here in Santa Cruz and looked at iNaturalist, I realized that I had misidentified a macaw species as one I already knew. Three reviewers updated the observation to something else, so I knew it was the correct one. So I went back and added the Red-shouldered Macaw and with that change suddenly, I had a new 600th bird species! It's a Rufescent Tiger-heron, and what a beauty!

As I look at this beautiful bird, I can't but marvel at the creativity of the Creator who could make such different and remarkable types of birds - and such different and remarkable herons! What a gift I have been given to get to see so many wondrous birds. And with all gifts from God, giving them away is a joy. I hope you enjoy this photo that I am sharing!

Click here for a list of all the birds I've seen, if you're interested!

When we look at the order of creation, we form in our mind an image, not of the essence, but of the wisdom of [God] who has made all things wisely. - St. Gregory of Nyssa

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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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What About the Animals?

Saturday, June 18th 2022 5:06 am

Hello! I am still in the United States, but wanted to show you some of the animals that are at the convent and farm. I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice my Spanish too - so here goes!

Caballos (Horses)

The sisters have a farm and every once in a while I get to go with them! It's always fun to say hi to the animals there.

 

 

 

Ovejas (Sheep)

At the farm

 

 

 


Cerdo (Pig)

At the farm.

 

 

 


Vacas (cows)

At the farm.

 

 

 


 

Vaca (Cow)

At the farm.

 

 


 

Vaca (Cow)

At the farm. I know there are extras, but the cows are very different from each other!

 

 


 

Joachie (Brown Agouti)

At the convent.

I am not sure if I'm spelling it right, but wanted an excuse to share another photo of Mia. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanado (Deer)

At the convent. Technically, like the joachie, the vanado is wild but likes to hang out in the backyard with the chickens, ducks, geese and tortoises.

 

 

 

Gato (Cat)

At the convent.

 

 


 

Gatitio (Kitten)

At the convent.

 

 


 

Patito (Duckling)

At the convent.

 

 

 


Pollito (Chick)

At the convent.

 

 


 

Tortuga (Tortoise)

At the convent.

 

 

 


Pero (Dog)

At the convent.

 

 


 

Thanks for helping me practice my Spanish!

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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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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 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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Photo of the Week - Week 19

Wednesday, May 18th 2022 7:18 am

I have a few official responsibilities here at the convent. I remember when I got my list, I was so excited to have some jobs like the other sisters. Doing these tasks really helps me to feel like I am contributing in community.

I help clean a few places, I help decorate for birthdays and on Sundays, I make the refresco for lunch. Essentially, refresco is juiced fruit with a lot of water added. The fruit here is inexpensive anyway, but the sisters also have a lot of fruit trees, and that's where the refresco gets its start. For as long as I've been here, there has been an abundance of grapefruit which is what is used to make refresco most days.

First, I grab a bucket and head out to the trees. There are at least seven of them. Most of the fruit in arm's reach is gone, so I take a pole with a special small basket on the end specifically for picking fruit. I pick enough fruit to fill the bucket and add them to any grapefruits that are already waiting. Then, using a large knife, I give the fruit a light peel. This makes it easier to juice. Once that's done, I cut them in half and get to work juicing. No electric juicers here, I bet they wouldn't even want one. As they are juiced, I strain out the pulp and seeds. Today, I did about 12 grapefruits. They were big, so I probably didn't need that many but that's ok, because now we're set for dinner too. After completing the juicing, I divide up the concentrate into large pitchers and fill two for lunch with water. The rest goes in the fridge to make for dinner.

It was my first time making it solo on Sunday, and I am happy to say everyone thought it was just right! The scraps from the fruit go in a bin to be fed, along with the other food scraps, to the ducks, chickens, geese and a friendly young wild brown agouti, all who live back by the grapefruit trees. In the end, it took me about an hour and a half to make the refresco. I am sure I will get much faster but it was a lovely way to spend my Sunday morning.

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.



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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