St Martin de Porres Church
31555 Hoover RD
Warren, MI 48093
Rev. Nicholas Zukowski, Pastor
Rev. Mr. Marion Jurewicz, Deacon
Tel: (586) 264-7515
Fax: (586) 264-4013
HERE’S AN APPLE-AT-CHA!
They say third time is a charm. I could not agree more. This was another blessed mission experience. It is such an honor to serve this population. The area of Louisa, Kentucky is one of the most financially impoverished in our nation. However, spiritually, they are RICH! They
show their faith in all that they do. The messages on their bumpers, car windows and license plate frames all proclaim the love of Jesus. The coffee shop, instead of your name, writes a Bible verse on your cup. T-shirts on the people read, “too blessed to be stressed” and “all I need is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus”. What a joy it is to have constant reminders of God’s grace at every turn. It is also very apparent in their greetings and the genuine concern for one another. They put their needs in the hands of God and count their blessings.
I was part of Rocky and the deck crew that finished our job on Thursday. Therefore, we were able to join the floor team on Friday. We were all “on a mission”, one large team, fired up to get that job done, no doubt, fueled by the prayers from home. Thank you for those prayers and the opportunity.
REFLECTIONS FROM KENTUCKY
“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our brothers and sisters throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love give them peace and joy. Amen.”
(St. Mother Teresa’s Prayer for the Poor)
Last Saturday evening our mission team safely returned from Louisa, KY after a week of prayer and service for the people in Eastern Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains. What a wonderful experience it was again this year! Our team was small but mighty working with the Grace of God and the prayers of the people from both St. Martin and St. Michael (M&M). Our M&M team was comprised of 6 women and 7 men from both churches. Only four
of the men had strong construction skills, but the rest of us were willing to take direction and work hard. Each person on team graciously put aside their own pride and comfort level to do what was asked of them.
For those of you who were unable to follow our progress on our website, I will try to summarize the work that we did on the trip. Our team was divided into three work groups and given projects to complete. Team one removed a window and replaced it with a new one. Unfortunately, the new window was not the same size as the original, so a lot of adjusting and filling of space needed to occur. They also boarded up and repaired a couple of spaces where some windows had been removed. These repairs were done for a woman, Teena, who lived her whole life with a hearing disability. Teena has two daughters living with her and the older one also had a hearing disability. Teena was very excited that this year she would be able to use her disability for good by being a teacher’ s aide to a student who also was hearing impaired. She would be able to communicate with him in a way his teacher could not. Teena could also be comfortable that the repairs made to her house would keep her family safer and the house more energy efficient.
The second work group worked for woman, Barbara, who cared for her family in a single wide mobile home. This included her daughter and son- in- law, her grandson, Bentley, and her older, sick ex- husband, who they called Pawpa. The only way to enter the home was a rickety set of steps. It had been determined that Pawpa was probably going to need a wheelchair to get around, so the steps would not work for them. Our team removed the steps, strengthened them and attached them to the back door where there were no steps. They then built an 8 foot deck with a long ramp attached to it so it could be used for the wheelchair. Over the three days the team members worked there, young Bentley touched their hearts. He constantly observed the team as they worked sitting patiently inside the door, then joining the team for lunch or breaks. Five year old Bentley drew up “ blue prints” for the deck and many pictures for the team. When they were done working he gave “ free hugs to all.”
The final job site was at Nancy’ s home. Alone, she raised six children in her home. Over 20 years ago Nancy and her children built an addition on the entire back of the mobile home. It was built very close to the ground and after all of this time the wood base of the addition rotted, making all of the rooms very unsafe to use. For the last 3- 4 years Nancy has been unable to use this part of her home. (This area included her bedrooms and dining room.) All of the carpeting, subfloor and floor joists had to be removed and replaced. Some of the walls had to be hoisted up with jacks and foundations replaced or reinforced and the floors leveled. We started off with a work group of four doing this job, but by the end of the week our whole team was there to finish the job.
After completing one of the jobs some of our missionaries had the opportunity to work in the local food bank. All of the local churches work together to make this a consistent source of food for locals who are struggling. Our team members had an opportunity to spend time with both local volunteers and clients of the food bank. A couple of our team members also helped out at a local thrift store. Again, this gave them the chance to interact with the locals. Just doing home repairs was not our only purpose for this mission experience. If that was the case, contractors could have been hired. Our first goal was to help our parishes spiritually grow by being more aware of the needs of people in other parts of our country and praying for them. This was hopefully accomplished through our daily postings on the web site and all of you participating in the prayer clock. Next we worked on the mission team bonding and growing as a Christian Community. We did this by living together for a week, working together, with those having strong skills teaching the novices, sharing meals, going to daily Mass together, and participating in evening prayer and faith sharing every night. We got to personally know each other better and strengthen our faith together. Another positive result of our trip was sharing our Catholic faith with people in Louisa, a very Christian community with very few Catholics. We did this by praying a Rosary during a prayer walk in the streets of the city and sharing faith discussions with the families we served.
Overall, the mission trip was a wonderful experience for all involved. We were able to help decrease some stress for some good people by improving their homes. Mass and prayers were shared with locals and we experienced countless close moments to God that week. Your prayer support was felt all week as we accomplished things beyond our normal capabilities. Thank you for supporting us on this journey. You were also in our daily prayers.
2018 MISSION TRIP WEDNESDAY
“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve”
What a busy day we had! Although we could sleep a little later this morning, some of the team was still up pretty early. Did I mention the close quarters we are sleeping in? Needless to say, once one person is up, pretty much most of us are up. We did have time to have a hot breakfast of breakfast pizza, though.
We started our day back at the Point of Hope center with the group from Pennsylvania. Together with the mission’s interns (seminarians) we went on a prayer walk on the streets of Louisa. We prayed the Glorious mysteries of the Rosary, offering it up for the people of Louisa. While we were praying the 3rd mystery, the descent of the Holy Spirit, a man named Pat saw us doing the prayer walk while he was driving down the street. He felt called to turn his car around and stop to talk to us. He asked us to pray for his family. He told us that he was going to pick up his daughter and bring her home to live with him and his wife. His wife is very sick and in hospice. Right there and then we surrounded him and offered prayers for the benefit of his family. After several hugs and blessings, he was back in his car and drove away. We then prayed the rest of the Rosary on the streets of Louisa. David, our intern, told us that nothing like that has happened before. I believe that the Holy Spirit was working through us to give Pat a safe and supportive place to unload a little bit of his burden.
After the walk we stopped at the mural of the city and learned about some of the town’s unique attributes. We then walked to the Fred M. Vinson Museum. He was from Louisa and became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1946. After learning about Chief Justice Vinson’s life we then drove to the St. Jude thrift store where local musicians gather every Wednesday morning and sing gospel songs. We, in turn, had to perform our song. Using our homemade percussion instruments we invited the crowd to join us as we sang a lively rendition of “City of God.” On a sad note, we offered condolences to Miss Mae, the woman who runs the thrift store. Two weeks ago her son was killed when he was hit by a car while he was out walking at night. Knowing about the accident, we didn’t expect to see her there. But she said she finds her peace at the store, serving others, and especially is touched by all of the music. Again, there were plenty of hugs to go around.
In the afternoon we were broken into smaller teams again and sent out on “well visits.” These are visits with former clients of the mission or nursing home visits. We are just there to share the gift of presence. I believe that all of us would agree, though, that we always seem to get more than we get from these interactions. At one of the homes the missionaries were sung to by the home owner, Oscar. He sang about opening up the door of our hearts and letting Jesus into the place that you don’t let anyone see. The song urged to let go of guilt and shame and come away with a clean heart. It was beautiful.
Another group was touched by the story Rita, the manager of the nursing home, told about her son. He lost his job in the coal mines when the mines were closed down. He had a young family to care for and was almost done receiving unemployment benefits as he searched for another job. When he finally got a job offer as a truck driver, he struggled with his conscience and prayed for God’s guidance. He was taught that drinking alcohol was a sin and the job was to deliver beer. If he delivered the beer, he felt he would be contributing to causing someone else to sin. He also wanted to provide for his family, though. Right before he had to decide, he was offered another truck driving job that did not have these conflicts. He felt that God had answered his prayers and honored his desire to do the right thing.
Our third group visited a grandmother who had fought for custody of her 2 grandchildren because they were being abused in many ways in their parent’s home. This is somewhat of a struggle for her as her health is not great, but she felt she needed to protect the children. While the group was standing together in a circle praying at the end of the visit, the woman got very unsteady and light-headed. The team was able to prevent her from falling and injuring herself. They waited for some other family members to come and help her before leaving. God put them at the right place at the right time.
This evening started with an hour of Eucharistic Adoration followed by Mass. Fr. Mike spoke about how God wants us to serve Him and the church. He said that there are two definitions of being a martyr. One is to die for the faith, the other is to witness to the faith. We are being called to be martyrs by witnessing about Jesus’ love and mercy and generosity by living these things.
After Mass we rushed home to prepare a pasta dinner to share with Cindy and Dominic from the mission. After dinner they told stories about Fr. Beiting, the founder and name sake of the mission. He worked tirelessly for the people of this region until he died at the age of 88. Fr. Beiting actively served and he always encouraged others to talk to God about how He wanted them to serve. Since it was late when Cindy and Dominic left, we kept evening prayers short but did talk about our service this week and any surprises we may have experienced.
I told you it was a busy day. Time to finally get to bed for a little sleep before 7am Mass again tomorrow. Blessings to you all. We are feeling the benefit of your prayers.
2018 MISSION TRIP THURSDAY
We were back to our regular routine today and started the day with 7am Mass. Fr. Mike talked about hearing God’s voice. God is constantly calling out to us. His voice, His message, His love is for everyone. The question is, are we listening or do we get too distracted with our own agendas to pay attention. Life is not predestined. God does decide our fate before we are allowed to live our lives. He patiently waits for us to listen and respond to Him.
After Mass we separated into teams and went to our work assignments. The team constructing the deck completed their project today with a gable over the door. The team had a little time today to interact more with the family. The family was very happy with the job. It was revealed that the family has lived a very traumatic life with many hardships. They are grateful to be together again in Louisa now. Little Bentley really bonded with the team and was offering his toys as gifts and shouted out “free hugs for everyone!” (By the way, it was also discovered that Cameron was Barbara, the homeowner’s, favorite)
The team who finished their window job on Tuesday went to help at God’s Food Pantry of Louisa today. Louisa has an inter-denominational ministerial team. All of the different churches work at the pantry. The team spent many hours emptying a large truck filled with dairy products and other food staples. Next they helped fill boxes with varied foods to be distributed to people in need. Today 98 families were served. The team had many meaningful interactions with other volunteers and pantry customers. Sr. Pat from St. Jude in Louisa routinely volunteers there and she revealed that she is a doctor and previously worked as a surgeon in Africa as a missionary. During their time there they prayed with, cried with, and learned from many locals.
The third team added Bob to their team and returned to Nancy’s house to continue tearing out the old rotted floor, re-stabilize and support the foundation so that new sub-floor can be installed. This needs to be completed in a dining room, bathroom and bedroom. As other team members completed their assignments they also came to this site to help. Tomorrow most of the missionary team will be at this site to try to get it completed on our last day of work.
It’s hard to believe that many of the people on the team didn’t know each other before this trip. We have had so much fun together. Even with all the silliness, laughing and razzing, though, the commitment to serve and to serve well has been the dominating motivation of the team. Every person on the trip has been working very hard. We have also enjoyed the colorful way the locals speak. One example is when asked, “How are you doing?” a woman replied “Finer than a frog’s hair split in three.” I can’t imagine someone in Warren or Sterling Heights giving that answer.
This evening the three seminarian interns came to our house for a grilled chicken dinner. David is from Cincinnati, OH and Kevin and Derek are from Harrisburg, PA. After dinner they led us in prayer and faith sharing. We talked about our high and low moments during the week, our God moments and what we will take home with us. Many special memories were shared. We all hope that we can bring a renewed fervor for our faith home with us.
Sending you all prayers and appreciation for your support. Hoping for one more successful and productive day of work.
2018 MISSION TRIP TUESDAY - Day 3
“We are Family”
We are all getting to know each other well as we prepare and eat meals together, worship together, participate in faith sharing, teach and work hard together to get projects done. The women are really getting close as all six of us are sharing one sleeping area and a single bathroom. This does not leave much opportunity for primping, which means the team is seeing the “real us.” We are becoming like a family.
At Mass this morning Fr. Mike talked about uniting around family, whether biological or spiritual. In the Gospel Jesus said we are all brothers and sisters. We all have one father, God. Together, we can attain what we cannot get on our own. Fr. Mike said that our world today promotes hyper-individualism. Even in the church we talk about “my parish” or “my program.” We can forget that we are all in this together. That is one of the things that is so beautiful about this mission experience. Although we share things about the communities we worship in, our mission team has truly knocked down any walls of separation between our parish affiliations and become one mission team working together to get things done for God’s people.
After working with our families for two days now, we are getting to know them much more intimately as we share stories of our lives while working for and with them. Nancy’s marriage ended after a traumatic event, leaving her to raise her six children on her own. She stated that she often worked 3 or 4 jobs to take care of her children and she would still stretch her resources to include her children’s friends in meals and family time. Her family has now grown to include her children’s spouses and nine grandchildren. It is very apparent that her family loves her and she deeply loves them. Nancy is very gracious and freely shared her time and faith with us. Although she faces many health issues and difficulties, her mentality is that she is “too blessed to be stressed.”
Teena has lived with hearing impairment since birth. Her high school daughter is also impaired and she has a younger daughter with normal hearing. This year Teena will be working as a teacher’s aide, helping a young boy with hearing impairment function in a school where most children have normal hearing. Many families here live very close to each other, sometimes having multiple homes on one piece of property. This is the case with Teena’s family. Her parents live just down the hill from her. They have all interacted with our team members and even treated our missionaries with their version of fried green tomatoes.
Family loyalty is strongly valued in the mountain area. This is true for Barbara. Although she is no longer married to elderly “Pawpa,” she has taken him into her home to care for him as his health is declining. This is the reason for needing a handicap ramp. Their daughter, Dayna, her husband, Brandon, and their son, Bentley, are also living there. Bentley is quite a precocious 5-year-old. He has intently watched the building process and offered much good advice.
Most of our projects are very close to completion. All teams worked very hard. Tomorrow will be a day off work, but filled with other activities. At evening prayer we expanded on Fr. Mike’s homily and discussed being brothers and sisters in Christ and part of a Christian family. Our hope is that this mission experience will change us and strengthen us. We send our thanks back home to our Christian families with our assurance that you are in our daily prayers.
2018 MISSION TRIP MONDAY
“A tired volunteer is a happy volunteer!”
(Fr. Ralph Beiting)
After a 5:30am wake-up call, we ventured out into the dense morning fog of the mountain to go to 7am Mass. As we were leaving the mountain side property we spotted three baby deer prancing around their mother. Nature is so beautiful! When we got to St. Jude Church in Louisa, we were happy to see tall Fr. Mike presiding at Mass again. For the last couple of years we have so enjoyed his insight when preaching the Gospel. He did not fail us. He talked about all of us wanting signs to confirm our faith. He said that we just have to look to the Eucharist. Christ is right there. We receive Him when we receive Eucharist and He is in us. If we look in the mirror, we see the sign. We see the presence of God. Therefore, we can quit looking for signs and be the sign. We can do that through daily small acts of kindness, through the way we treat those we serve.
After Mass we headed to the Point of Hope, the new headquarter of the Fr. Beiting Appalachian Mission Center since having to give up the large warehouse/office center that had been home for the last several years. There, Cindy and Dominic Capria, the administrators of the program, did our orientation for our mission week. Joining us was a youth group from Immaculate Conception parish in Douglasville, PA. With them was their pastor and a couple of adult chaperones. After a prayer for all vocations we all introduced ourselves and announced what we would be the patron saint of this week. Some were patrons of baking, joking, eating, working and so forth. As things got a little more serious we were again reminded to be the presence of God. Cindy then talked about the local culture. She said that in general only about 10% of Kentucky’s population is Catholic and only about 1-2% of Louisa is Catholic. However, it is a very Christian culture. They consciously live to get to heaven. Although much of the population is poor, they are very humble and happy with what they do have, and appreciate any help they are given.
After our meeting everyone received their assignments. We broke into small groups and were brought to the homes we will be working on this week with the supplies we will need. By 9:30am we were all beginning our jobs. Bob, Dan T, Joan, Connie and Dylan went to Teena’s home to replace some windows. This job was more difficult than anticipated because the size of the replacement windows was not the same as the existing windows. Teena and one of her daughters are hearing impaired, but communicated very well with our team. Rocky, Cameron, Kitty and Ashley went to Barbara’s home to replace a set of steps with a deck and a wheelchair ramp. Barbara cares for her elderly, sick husband. Their grandson, Bentley, excitedly watched the progress of this team. Dan H, Joe, Sheryl and Renee’ went to Nancy’s home to pull out rotting foundation and flooring in a dining room and replace it with treated new wood. Nancy was very hospitable even though she is very fatigued from chemotherapy to treat Leukemia. Some family members stopped by to check on her while we worked. All of our teams worked very hard, in very hot weather, to get a good start on their projects.
After a dinner of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, the team gathered for evening prayers. We shared an active discussion on trying to walk humbly with Christ. We are learning so much about each other while we grow in faith and friendship.
2018 MISSION TRIP SUNDAY
The big day is finally here! Our mission team made up of 13 volunteers from both St. Martin de Porres and St. Michael began our journey to Louisa, Kentucky to work with the Fr. Beiting Appalachian Mission Center to do home repairs for some families needing some help. We are so excited to collaborate again to do God’s work. We have 3 new missionaries this year who we are looking forward to getting to know and share this experience with. After a quick prayer and blessing by Fr. Nick, our 4 vans, loaded to the roof with supplies, pulled out of the St. Martin parking lot by 8:10am. Thankfully, we had an uneventful trip that included a delicious lunch at Cracker Barrel and a quick stop to buy some forgotten sheets at a Wal-Mart. Although we traveled through a few rain showers, we also had some sunny weather and beautiful views of mountains.
Our group arrived to the mission by 6pm and was brought to what will be our home for the next week- Padre’s Place. Padre’s Place is a modular home right up in the mountain that the founder of the mission (the late Fr. Beiting) lived in for many years. The views are stunning as you can see in some of the pictures. After unpacking the cars and claiming our sleeping spots, we filled the refrigerator with plenty of food for the week, organized our supplies and prepared dinner of grilled turkey breast with several sides. After completing our meal we gathered in the living room for evening prayer. After lighting our 3 candles representing the Holy Trinity and the light of Christ, we sang our team song, “City of God.” Although our tired voices were not great, we definitely got a better start than last year’s struggle to perfect “Go Make a Difference.” (Hearing this song now makes us all smile, though.)
We started prayer with a reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. We then shared our gratefulness for the ease of uniting our two parishes to form one mission team. With positive mindsets we will begin our work with the locals and hopefully share the gift of our Catholic faith with those we serve. Mostly, we want to be the hands of Christ to them and see the face of Christ in them. We ended our prayer service with a blessing of hands with holy water, asking God to sanctify the work we will carry out this week.
After a long day of traveling, we did some preparations for Monday and tried to get to bed by Midnight so we can get a little bit of sleep before beginning our work week. Thank you to both St. Michael and St. Martin communities for your blessings at the Masses the last two weeks and all of the physical and spiritual support you give us. We are also praying for all of you.
Your Mission Team:
2018 MISSION TRIP FRIDAY
Today was our last work day of our mission trip. It was also our last time celebrating Mass with Fr. Mike and the St. Jude community this year. It has been such a privilege to be able to start each day with Mass and community prayer. The atmosphere has been holy and the messages meaningful. Today Fr. Mike ended his homily talking about theme songs. He stated that sometimes we can hear a song and instantly know what show or what celebrity is related to it. Think Hawaii 5-O, the Tonight Show theme and Johnny Carson or “I’ll Be There for You” from Friends. It was then suggested that we think about what Jesus’ theme song would be. Some of the ones we came up with while working were “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carol King; “The Best is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra; “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King; “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles; or “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith.
After Mass we went directly to Miss Nancy’s house to get to work. Most of the team went to this work site. This team feels like they are on a mission from God. They are determined to get this project done for Nancy. By 10am the dining room was done. By noon the bathroom was almost there with only a little bit of plywood to be installed. After a short lunch break, it was back to work with a few finishing up the bathroom and the more skilled men pounding it to get work done in the big bedroom.
Joan and Connie went back to St. Jude Thrift Store to help Miss Mae this morning. They had a busy day with a lot of customers coming in bringing Miss Mae flowers and condolences. One of our former missionaries sent a new shop vac down with us to give to Miss Mae to use in the store. She was thrilled to get it. Connie and Joan used it to help clean up the thrift store. They also had an opportunity to interact with customers. A lot of the locals come to the store just to socialize and catch up with each other.
Later this afternoon our whole group was together at Miss Nancy’s home. What an outstanding group of workers they are. They felt they were on a mission from God to get this project done. It is kind of hard to explain what chaos Miss Nancy was living in. We found out that she has not been able to use the whole back of her house for the last 3-4 years. All of the furniture and belongings from those rooms have been piled in the front rooms and front porch. We stayed late and our team worked extremely hard to get the bedroom finished so Miss Nancy could live more comfortably in her home. She is so looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving dinner in her newly finished dining room. We hope that getting rid of the rotting floors and having a clean new environment will help her heal.
We were so blessed to be with young people so committed to living a life of faith. The four young adults on our team inspired the rest of us with their energy, enthusiasm and fun-loving spirit. Every evening during night prayers, though, we also witnessed a deep love of the Lord. The gang from Immaculate Conception stayed in the volunteer quarters just down the hill from us. We were blessed tonight to have James, an 18 year old young man in their group who has been here at the mission at the same time as us for the last couple of years, came up to borrow some garbage bags for his group. In return he came back with his guitar and played and sang some beautiful Christian songs for us. Being with these great kids gives us such hope for the future of our church. We later sent a big bag of cookies to Immaculate Conception kids for a late night snack. It was revealed that Cameron is also their favorite! (even though Ashley is the one who made the cookies)
James came in to sing with us at the time we were doing evening prayer. Tonight we shared our closest moments to Christ this week and we had fun thinking of more songs that might be Jesus’ theme song. “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts; “I’m Already There” by Lonestar; “Stop in the Name of Love” by the Supremes; “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry; and “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder were some suggestions. All of us shared that we had many special moments that made us aware of God’s presence in our lives. We all agreed that the fact that we actually finished our very difficult job was only due to the grace of God.
Another thing we are all grateful for is the support we received from our two communities at home. Your prayers have carried us through a difficult, busy week. Your generous support of the mission is also appreciated. We were able to present Cindy and Dominic with a $1000 check from St. Michael’s Knights of Columbus, $1500 worth of Walmart gift cards from St. Martin parishioners for the children of Louisa and we had $1100 in cash donations to help buy extra supplies needed for job completion and gave the rest as a donation to the community.
Tomorrow morning we will pack up, clean up then stop for breakfast before we hit the road for home. Blessings to you all and thank you again for your support. See you soon!