DAY 1 SUNDAY
“Go and do likewise”
In today’s Gospel we were told the story of the Good Samaritan and then instructed to “Go and do likewise.” This week our neighbors will be the people of Eastern Kentucky, as we work with the Fr. Beiting Appalachian Mission to do home repairs and share faith with them. Our mission group is made up of a partnership of persons sponsored by St. Michael and St. Martin de Porres. This is the third year our parishes have teamed up for this adventure ministry. Several of us were happy to reunite after not seeing each other for a year and we were also excited to add a couple new people to the team.
Our caravan of four vehicles and twelve missionaries left the parking lot of St. Martin de Porres at 8am this morning heading south to Louisa, KY. The early trip involved much maneuvering through a lot of construction zones. At one point half of our group got separated, traveling on different highways. Within a short time we were able to meet back up to travel together. We stayed a little closer together after that.
At noon we stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Sunbury, Ohio. Thank you to a special parishioner who donated gift cards to cover the cost of our meal. With full bellies and after spending time getting to know each other a little better, we were back on the road heading southeast. We arrived in Louisa at 5:30pm and headed right to our home for the week, a home in the mountain called Padre’s Place. It is called that because it was Fr. Beiting’s home when he was alive and running the mission. We unloaded our cars, sanitized the kitchen (remember, there’s a nurse on the team) then began preparations for dinner. Due to the generosity of another person supporting us, we began our week with a delicious dinner of steaks on the grill. We are all very grateful for all of our wonderful supporters.
After dinner we gathered for Evening Prayer. We discussed what inspired us to join the mission team and what some of our apprehensions are and how we can let go of them and let the Holy Spirit be our guide. Prayer time was concluded with a blessing of our hands with holy oil. We pray that our hands will be used as tools to build up the kingdom and touch others with God’s love this week.
Thank you all for your support and prayers. Know that we are including you in our daily prayers, too.
DAY 2 MONDAY
Called to Serve
We started the day bright and early with everyone making their own breakfast then getting out the door to make it to 7:30am Mass at St. Jude church. Fr. Mike, the 6’10’’ priest, remains as pastor for the small Catholic Community in Louisa and continues to give inspiring homilies. Today’s Gospel reminded us that living out the life God calls us to is not always easy and we will probably face some opposition. He stated that there are more atheists in the world today than in any other time in history. Many try to use science to explain away all of the glorious things God created and does on our planet. But we know different. We are called to hang in there and do as God wants us to do – SERVE. In all acts of service we are actually serving Christ, even the least little thing, like giving a little drink of water.
After mingling outside of church with our friends from Immaculate Conception parish in PA, we headed over to the Point of Hope Center of the mission. Thanks to the generosity of many, we were able to give the mission center and envelope filled with over $2250 worth of Wal-Mart gift cards for their work with local children. We then received our orientation to the area and the mission. Cindy, the director, started us off with an introduction/ice breaker. We were asked to share what we might become the patron saint of. Our group included future patron saints of sarcasm, cleaning, joining forces, high energy, sports commentating, perseverance and joy. After those light hearted descriptions we moved on to the important stuff. She shared that although many of the residents live in what we would consider poverty, they are very generous with what they do have – love, caring and conversation. Their connection to family is very strong and often several generations of the family will live in the same home or on the same property. They say that they live in the same “holler” and watch out for each other. However, she stated that the most prevalent love here is God’s love.
The theme of this year’s mission season is God’s Love. That love inspires us to put our professed faith into action. Fr. Beiting used to always ask, “Have you asked God what He wants you to do with your life?” Cindy stated that we can and do derive joy from saying “yes” to God’s call. We all hope that this week will be filled with joy as we live out our “yes” to this mission call.
By 10am we were all heading out to our job sites. Dan, Mark, Michelle and Cameron went to Miss Doris’ home to work on the covered porch of her home. Miss Doris is an elderly woman who has multiple generations of family living with her. The youngest member of her family is her great-granddaughter, Jacquelyn, who is 6 years old and lives on the far end of the family property. Miss Doris was in a state of grief, as she just found out that her younger sister had passed away. Our team was sympathetic and tried to be supportive of her during this difficult time.
When the team assessed the porch situation, they found that both the floor and skirting boards of the porch were damaged by carpenter ants, as were the support columns and the foundation was crumbled. They needed to strategize how to take care of these problems without the roof caving in on them. They finally decided that they needed temporary columns to hold up the roof while they tore down the old porch to rebuild all of the support structure. They completed about ¾ of the job done and will complete it tomorrow.
The rest of the team – Rocky, David, Ashley, Sheryl, Joe S., Joe C., Rob and Renee’ - went to Ann’s home to work on replacing doors and windows. We also have a seminarian intern, John, working with us. Ann has only one arm, having lost the other one in an accident. She also has children and a grandchild, two year old Noah, living with her. We have fun interacting with Noah as he frequently pretended to change into the Hulk or Spiderman. He is the light of Ann’s life!
Although we had to use different sizes of windows and doors to replace the existing ones, Ann was very happy to get it done. She stated the door was so bad that in the winter, sometimes snow would blow in under the doors. The windows were also so inefficient to keep the heat in, her heat bills were sometimes over $500 per month. This makes it very difficult to purchase other needed items, such as food. We were able to get the door and the bay window replaced and the dead space filled in with one layer of wood. Tomorrow we will insulate and complete the fill in and perhaps start on another window.
We are very blessed. Much laughter is shared by our team as we live and work together, trying to do God’s will. Dinner was hot dogs and hamburgers with strawberry shortcake for dessert (thank you Nancy for the pound cake, it was delicious). The day was ended with evening prayer and a discussion on how we could keep God first in our lives. Daily prayer, Mass and encouragement from each other help us to do this. Please know that we are feeling the grace of your prayers and we are praying for you.
DAY 4 WEDNESDAY
Praise God! We were able to sleep in a bit later today which was glorious! We had a hot breakfast together before leaving for the Point of Hope Center to start our day. By 9am we were on the streets of Louisa to pray a Pro-Life meditation Rosary, praying the Glorious Mysteries. With the seminarians in the lead we walked throughout the neighborhood and city streets. After our prayer time we walked to the Masterpiece Café and Painted Cow Art Gallery. This is a Christian Coffee Shop attached to an art gallery. It is owned by a local organization that helps people with addictions, Addiction Recovery Care. Christ is at the center of the care provided.
Unfortunately, the local thrift store run by Miss Mae was closed today, so we were unable to go there to hear the local gospel singers and share our song with the groups. Instead we went back to Point of Hope center with our friends from Immaculate Conception Church (ICC) and sang gospel songs there. Our theme song this year is “Bring Forth the Kingdom.” Although we sing it every night with our evening prayers, we haven’t talked about it because we actually sang it pretty well, unlike some of our choices in past years. (Not that we’re going on the road with it any time soon.) The kids from ICC sang the song “Big House” with all of the hand gestures.
After lunch we were sent out on home visits or community visits. Dan, Cameron, Rob and Sheryl went to the Martin County Healthcare Facility (a nursing home). They played BINGO with the residents and spent time chatting with them. Michelle, Mark, David and Joe S. went to the JJ Jordan Nursing Home. They got a little more up close and personal with the residents by giving the ladies manicures. Mark went outside to fill all of the bird feeders with seed. This attracts the birds to the area so that the residents can watch the birds fly and feed outside of their windows. On the way back into the facility he met up with a man named Scotty who was a delight.
Rocky, Joseph C, Ashley and Renee’ visited the home of a family we served last year, the home of Miss Barbara. She has her son and his family living with her, including her grandson Bentley. You might remember that last year five year old Bentley acted as the architect of the project of creating a new porch and handicap ramp off of their home. Bentley was so excited to see his friends from last year. He could hardly contain himself and gave each of us bear hugs as we arrived. It was a wonderful visit catching up with the family and finding out that the work we did was serving them well.
When we returned to our home at Padre’s Place we found that the power was out, leaving us with no fans or air conditioning in these hot, humid conditions. The power had not been out long, so it was still not too warm in the house. Soon we were on our way to church for Adoration and Mass. God is so gracious. By the time we got back home our power was back on.
Tonight we entertained the seminarians for dinner, serving grilled chicken, rice and salad with ice cream sundaes for dessert. They shared a little bit about themselves and their call to the priesthood. After dinner they gathered with us for evening prayer and reflection. We shared about seeing the face of Christ in those that we serve and in each other. We are blessed to have Christian friends to encourage and support each other in our desire for our actions to please and imitate those of Christ.
Please know how much your prayers and support are being felt. We remind each other often that someone is praying for us every minute. Prayers and blessings to you all!
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
Formation: (586) 264-7970
DAY 5 THURSDAY
Gotta or Wanna?
Back to our regular routine this morning, so we were up very early and off to 7:30am Mass. In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves to Him and He will be our helpmate. Fr. Mike talked about the difference in having to do something and wanting to do something. He told the story of two neighboring dads. One dad told his son that he had to get the front yard raked or he would face punishment. The other dad told his son that the other neighbor said that he lost a $10 bill and thought it blew into the leaves on their front lawn. The dad told his son that the neighbor said if he found it, he could keep it. One boy cheerfully and carefully raked while the other was doing it begrudgingly, with a scowl on his face. Motivation makes a big difference in how easy it is to get things done. If we are followers of the Lord, we should ‘wanna’ follow His will, not because we ‘gotta.’
After Mass we headed out to job sites. Our larger group of eight headed to Miss Ann’s home to finish up our job there. In total we changed out five windows and changed an inefficient door wall to a well insulated door. She lost a bit of light in the rooms, but the fact that the rooms will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter make up for it. Miss Ann told us that she could tell the difference yesterday, even before we changed out the last two windows. These changes making her home more energy efficient should also help her reduce her utility bills. Miss Ann is a very kind, giving and grateful woman. Wanting to help her motivated us to do the very best we could for her. Her gratitude was just the cherry on top.
As a parish nurse my medical antenna tends to goes up when someone talks about a medical issue. Early in the week Miss Ann stated that she will be having important surgery on her arm stump in September to help relieve some of the pain. After that she can get an arm prosthesis. The doctor told her that she must stop smoking for at least six weeks before and after surgery for him to even consider her a candidate. Ann was proud to tell me that she had not smoked for five days already. I did notice that there were full ashtrays in the home and I could also smell smoke. When I asked her if anyone else in the home smoked, she said that several others did. I informed her that she should ask them to do it outside because the second hand smoke could eliminate her chance of having the surgery. She would probably still test positive for nicotine. This information surprised her and she felt somewhat uncomfortable with the thought of asking them to go outside. Many of us on the team encouraged her to do what was best for her health. First thing this morning she told me that no one has smoked in the house for two days and she already feels like the air in the house is cleaner. It was nice to use my nursing skills for something other than bandaging wounds and trying to prevent heat exhaustion. All of bring different gifts to the mission experience. We might think that we are just there to fix something in the house, but often we find that we are given opportunities to do and say things that encourage and affect others in unexpected ways.
We pray for a successful surgery for Miss Ann.
Our other team went to a new home today, the home of Miss Judy. She had a roof problem that caused water damage to her living room ceiling. After four attempts to fix the leak, the problem was finally solved, but the ceiling was a mess. A large portion of the ceiling needed to be removed, new insulation put in and then new dry wall applied. All of this was completed today, leaving the finish work to be done tomorrow. They will also weather-proof and exterior door for her.
Miss Judy is a retired CPA. She now sells jewelry at flea markets to make money. Many medical issues have slowed her down quite a bit. Miss Judy shared that she lived in Michigan for many years when she was working. When she came back to Kentucky she brought back a butterfly bush to re-plant here. It is beautiful and attracts many butterflies to her yard. Michelle had an opportunity to spend some time with Miss Judy and learn about her connection to Fr. Beiting. She told her that she met him several times and observed him when he was doing street preaching. One Christmas season she witnessed three people being saved during one of his outdoor sessions. Praise be to God! Many people in this area admire Fr. Beiting for the good work he did in this area. Although he has been deceased for many years, he is still well respected in this area.
After a big pasta dinner, eight of us went to Paintsville to attend Front Porch Pickin’ at the Country Music Highway Museum. It was a fun evening. Different groups played live music every 20 minutes. When a gospel song was played people stood in respect. For the rest of the music many people were up and dancing. Several young people were there, including our friends from Immaculate Conception, as were several senior citizens. They all showed off their dance moves tonight.
It is hard to believe that we only have one more day of service here in Louisa, KY. We appreciate all of your prayers. We will really need them tomorrow, as there will be a hot weather advisory through Saturday when we leave. Blessings to you all!
DAY 3 TUESDAY
Are you a woe or an alas person?
After a big storm last night, we awoke to another hot, but beautiful morning in Louisa. Our deck has a glorious view of the mountains with lots of greenery. Clouds hang low blurring the tops of the peaks. The temperatures have been in the 90’s and it is very humid. We have been very careful to stay hydrated and protect ourselves from the sun. After a long day of work we are very grateful for showers and a cool home to stay in.
Again this morning we attended 7:30am Mass at St. Jude’s. In today’s Gospel Jesus chastised the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida for living sinful lives. He loved them as He loves us and wanted them to repent from evil and follow God’s ways. It would seem that Jesus was mad that the people were not paying attention to His message supported by His mighty deeds. Fr. Mike talked about the difference between the words ‘woe’ and the word ‘alas’. Woe means that something bad will fall upon a person. Alas is more of a remembrance or a sorrow. We were asked if we are woe or alas people. In other words, are we judgmental or sorrowful when it seems that people are turning away from God? That is a pretty intense question. Are we ready to condemn, or are we sad, but hopeful, encouraging repentance? In reality, isn’t it only God’s place to judge us? Therefore, we are called to teach, forgive and encourage.
Our larger group went back to Miss Ann’s house today. The door was finished, insulating and trim work was done and two more windows were changed out. We were able to change out one window with the same size new one, but the other was replaced with a smaller one requiring a lot of boxing in and trim work. Later this week we will continue to try to make her home more energy efficient and decrease her heating bills.
We had more opportunity to talk with Miss Ann today. She is such a peaceful and good natured woman. She has adapted to the loss of her arm so well that we thought that the accident must have happened many years ago. She told us that it only happened about four years ago. She was close to home on a mountain road and lost control of the car and it flipped. Her arm has been amputated about half way between the shoulder and the elbow. She said she thought she was going to die at the time, but during her six month recovery from the accident she realized that she was going to live and had younger children at home to take care of. A determined spirit got her through and now she tries to pay it forward by helping others, even though she has limited resources. It has been a joy to spend time with her on the property that has been in her family for at least three generations.
The rest of our team went to Miss Doris’ to complete their job fixing her porch. They also trimmed out the sides to make it difficult for critters to get under the porch and added additional railings for safety. It made them a little bit nervous when a Coast Guard helicopter was flying very low near the house. The family told them that they were searching for illegal marijuana fields. Miss Doris was happy to have the job completed and was up to interacting a little more with our team. She was feeling a little more at peace about the loss of her sister today. Her and her grandson expressed much interest in Michigan and how our team came together. Miss Doris shared her love of quilting and showed Michelle one of her pieces of work. It was a lovely quilt on her bed. (see picture) She gives them to family members, hoping they will become heirlooms. She also sells some to people in the area.
Dinner consisted of pulled pork and tacos with all the fixins. Unfortunately for our neighbors, the group from Immaculate Conception (mostly youth), the air conditioning in their living quarters is broken, leaving them unable to really cool off after a hard day of work. When we finished our dinner we invited them to come eat in our dining room so they could cool off a bit. They gratefully and quickly accepted our offer. After dinner they joined us for evening prayer. We discussed times of feeling over-whelmed and how to deal with that. It was said that we need to thank and praise God, even in the tough times. We sang our song, BRING FORTH THE KINGDOM. The kids then sang their song, BIG HOUSE, along with the hand motions to go along with the song.
Again, we are very grateful for your prayers. That grace is carrying us through these busy days of working hard in the heat. Blessings!
HERE’S AN “APPLE-ATCHA”
This was my 3rd trip on Mission down to Appalachia and like most of our journeys in life - though the path is the same - the experience is ever changing.
Each year I am left with a more humbling experience and grateful to have the privilege to work and be inspired by the other faith-filled missionaries and to be able to serve those in need. Though the days were long (and hot) and the work was hard, knowing that the St. Martin & St. Michael faith-filled parishioners were praying and holding up the mission team certainly got us through each day. The people we serve are also such an inspiration to me and makes me realize how blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for. Though there were many close moments to Christ that I experienced on my week, not only in the people of Appalachia and with the other team missionaries serving - this year the best was not what I expected. Every year the missionary team has a day of home visits or visits at two local nursing homes. This was my first year to visit one of those nursing homes right in Louisa. During this visit I met a man named Scotty Perry. He was in the mid stages of Alzheimer’s. It was such a blessing for me to talk with Scotty who just was lonely and in need of friends to visit. Though Scotty could not remember how long he had been there or even how old he was - we talked and reminisced about his childhood and family, with both of us at times laughing and having tears in our eyes about all the things he could remember. We ended our visit holding hands in prayer with a hug good bye. It was great for me and Jesus to be in that moment with him. Thank you everyone again for all your prayers and support.
In Christ's Love - Mark Mizak
This was my second mission trip to Louisa, Kentucky. The unity with which the mission team worked and prayed together is something to experience. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone had an important part on this team. Helping God’s people that are less fortunate than us is what it is all about. The work was demanding with the conditions we faced. No one complained, though, but gave their all to help the family. When the work was completed, the look on the homeowner’s face was like seeing Jesus smiling at us and thanking us. I would like to thank everyone who signed up on the prayer clock and prayed for us.
This year, being my third year going on the mission trip to Kentucky I was very excited to return to meet new people in Louisa Kentucky, as well as enjoy the fellowship our two combined churches always seem to enjoy! However, shortly after I signed up for the mission trip this year a scheduling conflict arose and it looked like I was not going to be able to make the mission trip, I was very disappointed. Then, a couple of weeks before the trip my scheduling conflict no longer existed and I was able to regain my spot back on the mission. Talk about God sending his message loud and clear, this mission trip was where I was supposed to be!
This year I was lucky enough to work on two sites with many fantastic people including Michigan missionaries, Kentucky natives, and seminarians. The first home I visited I worked with a crew to replace many windows and door, making the home a more comfortable place. The second home I visited I worked on painting a hallway. Both of these homes were owned by strong women who were working hard to improve their own homes and lives in various ways, yet also had the courage to ask for help. They also both showed that it is important to support others no matter the situation, and treat others the way you would want to be treated. The first homeowner was letting a family stay with her while they got back on their feet, and the second homeowner was taking care of her grandson who has severe cognitive and physical impairments. Talking with and working alongside both of these women and mission crews I learned many things, however two big lessons stuck out. First, each time we go to Kentucky we have meetings both in Michigan and with the mission center before we go to the job sites. At these meetings we talk a lot about how different the people in Louisa Kentucky are from us and how different their lifestyles are compared to ours.
Although it’s not meant to, it sets up a little bit of “us” and “them” mindset. Interacting with the people at these worksites, as well as other people in the area, it truly struck me that we are actually all the same, just doing the best we can for ourselves and our friends and family. They are people just like you, me, and everyone else. Second, if these people who we go down and serve by giving as much as we can physically, emotionally, and spiritually are “just” people, then why can’t we see the people around us the same way. We do not have to reserve that spirit, work ethic, or charity for special times such a mission trip or when we welcome homeless people into our church. We can send that energy out into the world with all people that we meet. Upon reflection I thought “That’s it, that’s what you learned?” because those sentiments seem so obvious. But maybe after three times, once the novelty started to wear away, this mission trip taught me bigger lessons and drove home further ones I thought I already knew.
My reflections in the past have focused on the people of Louisa and us missionaries. Now, I’d like to mention the other missionaries that work along side us. They are the interns. These are three or four young men (usually seminarians) or women who commit a full ten weeks to the mission. They sacrifice their summers to work in hot squalid conditions. They put time in seven days a week to serve the community in whatever way they can. They are blessed liaisons between us and the people we serve. I can’t even imagine devoting myself to that service when I was young. This year our interns were John, Joe, and Richard. They are truly heroes!
This is the third year that I have been blessed to participate as a Missionary in Louisa, Kentucky at the Fr Beiting Center. We had another large assignment and an incredible team of workers that completed a job to the homeowners delight. Miss Ann was astounded and so very grateful that we were helping her bring her home to be more energy efficient. During lunch one day she said "I like having all of you here, wish you could stay". Miss Ann's winter and summer will be much easier on her pocketbook with new windows, and a door to keep the harsh weather out. It warms my heart to know that I have participated in something to help another that will have a significant positive impact on their lives. That is God's gift to us.
However, this year I will say that it was the impact of our "Fellowship" that had my attention and my heart. We had new missionaries this year and returning ones. Spending a week living and working together you get to know each other in a different way. For me getting to know those I have met on a deeper level was profound, and for our new friends getting to know them did not take long. As hard as we work there is much time to talk, laugh, pray, and truly enjoy each other’s company. TEAM work is capitalized because it was many hands together that got the job done; anything from putting up drywall to doing dishes it was together. Hands helped where needed, never having to assign or ask just getting it done.
I can truly tell you I have come to love all on this team and look forward to cultivating our friendships. Thank you for the opportunity to truly witness God's grace.
Sheryl Nieman- Hancock
As a second time missionary on the Fr. Beiting Trip to Louisa, KY with St. Martin de Porres, I was certainly blessed with a new outlook. Last time I was primarily working in the Mission Thrift Store (which no longer exists), I did encounter a variety of people and families in need and shared stories. My experience was different at that time than the other missionaries who were on job sites. This trip I was blessed to be a part of a work team led by knowledgeable men with carpentry experience, who not only taught me about the projects, but also how to use the appropriate tools and be safe. If you followed us on our website or Facebook page, my team rebuilt a dilapidated section of a porch with a caving roof at the beginning of the week and a ceiling repair including insulation, drywall, painting and crown molding at the end of the week both jobs in high heat and humidity. Not only were those projects completed, but we were able to share stories and experiences with the homeowners who touched each of our hearts so deeply. On Wednesday I was blessed to visit a local nursing home where through the gift of physical touch, I polished the nails of five different women. Hands are always so meaningful for me, as they hold many stories and emotions when I stop and reflect.
The Gospel story the weekend of our return, tied my week in Appalachia with a bow. Using the story of Martha and Mary, God provided us the opportunity to be Martha in the tasks we needed to complete, but also gave us the gift of being Mary in the stories we heard, the feelings we shared from the people we encountered and especially through the Eucharist.
Thank you for all your prayers, they were miraculous!
Although this was my first mission trip, the prior missionaries gave me a good idea of what to expect. One comment was that you never knew when or where a simple comment or situation would really touch you. That was certainly true for me. It was on the last day when Cindy at the mission center told the following story. A mother and her child were desperate for food and a place to stay after her car broke down. They were just passing thru and unfamiliar with the area and decided to ask for help at the Fr. Beiting Mission Center in Louisa, KY. Just before the mother left the next day, someone at the Mission Center asked her why she came to the center for help. She shared that her deceased husband said wherever she was in the world, if she was in trouble and needed help, she should go to a Catholic Church and ask for that help.
Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged by all the bad press and overlook the good things the Catholic Church does. This story was a reminder that the world is watching and that a good deed also helps those who are watching. Even though the woman in the story wasn’t Catholic, she had Faith in the Catholic Church based on what her family had seen. Now that I’ve gone on a mission trip, I feel that I’ve contributed in a special way to that Faith in the Catholic Church.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-20)
We have completed another successful mission week in Louisa, KY in the Appalachian Mountains. Partnering with the community at St. Michael has been such a blessing. The prayer support from both parishes has again given us the strength and stamina needed to work in the heat and humidity and to perform tasks that, for most of us, were outside of our comfort zones.
Twelve of us left St. Martin’s parking lot on Sunday, July 14, at 8am in four vehicles and arrived in Louisa at about 5:30pm. We would spend a week in the home known as Padre’s Place, because it was the home of Fr. Beiting. Prayer was an important aspect of our trip. Cindy, the volunteer coordinator of the mission, met us at the home and prayed with us for a successful and safe week. Every evening we did evening prayers with faith sharing time. The first night there we did a hand blessing ritual using blessed Frankincense oil. The rich aroma filled the space and the blessing would help us do the work God had planned for us.
All of the work teams always included members from both parishes, so we were always representing the M&M team (Martin & Michael) and not our individual parishes. Every work day began with 7:30am Mass at St. Jude Church then off to the work sites. There we began and ended our work day with prayer, including the home owners. We were so blessed to have team members with great construction skills to lead the rest of us. So much work was completed! In one home five inefficient windows and a door wall that let snow blow in were replaced by better quality ones. This would greatly reduce energy bills for a homeowner struggling to care for her family. At another home a rotting porch was torn down and replaced with new weather treated wood. Another woman had been living with a very large hole in her living room ceiling that crashed down due to water damage from a leaking roof. It was re-insulated, dry wall was applied and it was painted to match the rest of the room. (The roof was fixed before we arrived.)
In the home of a woman caring for her severely disabled grandson, abandoned by his mother, several home repairs were done including fixing some exterior stairs, weather-proofing some windows, adding some floor transitions, painting a couple of walls and stabilizing a kitchen island. Finally, we were able to help clean up the property around St. Jude Church. Everyone on team pitched in on work sites. (I was even able to do some jobs with my recovering knee!) There was a deep commitment to complete well all that was assigned to us.
As well as improving the homes, though, we took the time to interact with the home owners. Most of those we served were carrying heavy emotional loads. One younger woman had lost her arm in a car accident and was hoping a surgical procedure in the fall would decrease her pain; another homeowner had just found out her sister had died the day we arrived; and all were caring for extended family members having tough times. Their sense of family and feelings of responsibility towards each other was inspiring. They also showed a deep trust in God, no matter how bad things seemed. We all felt richer because of the time we spent with them.
It wasn’t all work and no play, though. Many of us went to “Front Porch Pickin” a local gathering of musicians with dancing. It was fun to hear the music and watch some of the local dancers doing steps they have been practicing for decades. Many of us joined in the fun. We also went to a local coffee house that is also an art gallery and to a diner known for their milkshakes. One of our missionaries can’t have dairy products, so ordered a frozen coke, expecting a slushy type drink. Imagine our surprise when he got a small paper cup with cola frozen in it! It was literally ‘frozen coke.’ An example of regional differences in what some words mean.
We are so grateful for the support we get from our parishes to participate in this ministry every summer. We do our best to bring God’s love and represent you to our sisters and brothers in this very poor part of the country. Your prayer support is essential. The emotional and financial support are so appreciated. Cindy was thrilled with your donation of $2250 worth of Walmart gift cards to help the local children. Thank you!
As we rest in the afterglow of this moving journey, I am so grateful for this experience to serve and look forward to working on other ways our community can live out the call to put our faith into action. Blessings to you all.
DAY 6 FRIDAY
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice”
This was our last morning to attend 7:30am Mass at St. Jude Church. It was great to share liturgy with the youth from Immaculate Conception, their pastor, Msgr. John McCann, and adult leader, Liz, all week. Fr. Mike began his homily discussing how the rules for fasting before Communion have changed over the years. He stated that food and drink are not what’s important. The love of God present in the Eucharist is the important thing. In today’s Gospel Jesus stated, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” referring to the fasting rules at the time for Sabbath. Eucharist should lead to compassion and charity. We need to be reasonable and not rigid.
After Mass our group was broken into three groups to do our last jobs for the week. Dan, Mark, Cameron and Michelle went to Miss Judy’s home to complete the ceiling project they started yesterday. They painted it ‘Pumpkin Spice’ to match the rest of the room and put up the moldings. They ended their work tasks by weather-proofing her exterior door. They were able to spend a little more time getting to know Miss Judy, finding out that she did clogging, a type of dancing. She and Cindy from the mission center belong to a group that dances at local fairs. Miss Judy also sells costume jewelry at flea markets to make some income. Michelle thought she would help her out, so bought several pieces to take on her upcoming vacation. Our team left Miss Judy feeling happy with her completed living room and with a little bit of money in her pocket.
Our second team included Rocky, David, Ashley and Sheryl. They went to Miss Norma’s in Inez, a neighboring city about 35 miles away. She has custody of Brayden, her 14 year old, severely disabled grandson. Brayden’s father also lives with her. He is working very hard to overcome addiction and has been clean for about a year. Their assignment was to finish up some projects started by some other teams. The tasks that they completed were adding a step and a railing to an exterior set of stairs, weather proofed two exterior windows, painted a hallway and kitchen wall, installed some floor transitional moldings and stabilized and improved a kitchen island. While they were working, the neighbor came over to check who was there and inform how much the work was needed. Miss Norma’s dedication to her family and the concern her neighbors showed for her was very inspiring for our missionaries. They felt they really witnessed faith in action.
The last group, Joe S, Rob, Joe C, and Renee’, stayed at church after Mass to help Sr. Pat do some work around the property. It was very fulfilling to give back to the place that had been spiritually feeding us all week. Today was a very hot day (95 degrees) with very high humidity, so all of our teams tried to stay hydrated and get outdoor work done early in the day before the heat hit its peak. This team’s first job was to do some weeding in all of the flower beds around the church. The frequent rains had really helped the weeds grow out of control. The church also had a side patio gathering space with a ceramic tile floor that was cracking and coming loose. About half of the tile was removed and stacked so it could be reapplied with better adhesive. Finally a carpet was removed from an office space, the floor was washed, then a new carpet was put down. This team was blessed to share lunch with Sr. Pat in the Parish Hall and learn a little bit about her. She has led a fascinating life. After entering the convent she first became a nurse, then went to medical school and became a surgeon. She was sent out to do missionary work in hospitals in St. Lucia and then in Africa. When she first came to Kentucky she worked in local hospitals doing surgery, then worked in wound care. She works only for the church now, doing just about anything that needs to be done.
By about 3pm all groups were done with their assignments. We gathered with the Immaculate Conception group at the Point of Hope Center and shared moments when we felt God’s love this week. Most of those moments included the families we interacted with this week. After that Cindy showed us a short moving video about Fr. Beiting. What a remarkable man he was. He said that it was good that he lost his mind early in life. He lost his mind so he could take on the mind of Christ. He said that he went before the tabernacle and waited for God to tell him what to do with his life. Fr. Beiting went on to help thousands of people and build up a remarkable mission ministry. He was able to bring a positive image of Catholics to an area that had formally distrusted all of our faith.
For our final evening prayer we discussed our favorite memories from our experience in Kentucky and how God was present in those moments. We discussed how there needs to be a delicate balance between providing the physical help for the families and the emotional and spiritual care we give. We agreed that we all bring different gifts to this ministry and no one talent is more important than another. Because we all carry the Holy Spirit with us and frequently receive Jesus in Eucharist, everywhere we go is holy ground. We hope to remember this as we return home and look for the best in the people we interact with daily.
Tomorrow morning we will be packing up and heading back to Michigan. We are all looking forward to getting back to our families, but will carry the goodness we have experienced here in Kentucky home with us. We sincerely thank you all for the prayers you have offered for us.
Many blessings from your mission team.