The Missions: San Francisco and San José

Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity...Consequently, being missionaries means loving God with all one's heart, even to the point, if necessary, of dying for him. - Pope Benedict XVI

the way the local water system works is that a pump on the side of the mountain pumps water from the river through a pipe which then goes to a holding cistern and gravity feeds it to the two towns. unfortuntely, whenever the river gets too flooded they can't clear the pipe due to the massive intake of mud. so we've been without water for a week - however, thanks to the handy gas powered pump we loaned the local water "company" the pipe has been cleared and we, theoretically, should have water tomorrow afternoon!!!!

UPDATE: the unthinkable has occurred - we have water 12 hours earlier than predicted!!!

in order to shed themselves of the domination of the spaniards, the dominicans changed the national patronal feast day from Nuestra Señora de Mercedes to Nuestra Señora de Altagracia. consequently, they instituted a processional journey of the image through each diocese every year. since we have two parishes we get her for a couple of weeks. yesterday we picked her up - here we are in procession and entering the church:

i found eden today - or the closest thing to it - i went out to the mountains for the brand new "regularly scheduled" Masses on sunday. it was just perfect - the views, the weather, everything. well, except for the fact that my gear box blew out again and we had to ride triple with two backpacks, but why waste a perfect morning with that kind of talk...

all gone.


it was great having the docs and nurses here, but it's good to have a little peace and quiet. i must confess, and i don't mean to be querulous, but after more than two months without a break, i think i have developed a slight case of trichotillomania. i'm champing at the bit for a little downtime with no one walking in to my office requesting water bottles, ketchup, and/or an eye removal.

the light is visible at the end of the tunnel, however, because i will, God Willing, be coming home for a little break in about a month!!!

the reason i didn't blog in yesterday will become apparent after the next few paragraphs: i and 4 young men left banica on three motorcyles around 8:30.

destination: thomassique, haiti.
distance as the crow flies: 5.85 miles.
estimated time of travel: 1-1.5 hours.

we lost an hour fighting with the border guards on the domincan side because the radio in pedro santana was down and they couldn't call to confirm we had permission. i eventually had to drive back 10 minutes to pedro santana, and, as God's Will would have it, the radio began working the second i walked in the door. we then proceeded into haiti and about 5 minutes and one river crossing into the ride, my back wheel locked-up. as in completely frozen. we spent 30 minutes taking the gear box apart with haitians atanding around and laughing at us and we realized that the chain had slipped and jammed into the gear box, cracking it, completely disabling my ability to engage the gears. so, two of the boys headed back to the border pushing my bike. heading off again with two bikes, we realized that the mud that we had heard about was about 10 times worse than could be described. we went through mud pits 3 feet deep. after about an hour of this abuse we finally scrapped trying to keep to the edges and just plowed through them. when we got to this river:

we became a little nervous. we made it across, but the water was up to the seat of the moto, which impressed me that those engines could run under water...needless to say, we eventually made it after about 2.5 hours. on the way back we stopped in saltadere - this was immediately after crossing the river again and i was actually clean at this point:

i had to ride 3/4 of the trip without a front foot peg, cause it busted off, and my hamstring was cramping so i put my leg over the gas tank...i can't describe the elation of crossing that border and getting back to the "good" roads of the dominican only took us 1.5 hours to get back, which wasn't too bad. when the rains stop and the water dries we can get there in about 45 minutes. i had my bike set up with the gps but since we had to send her back, i don't have the actual mileage (the odometers are busted on the other bikes).

i can't believe that i haven't written anything since wednesday. wow. thursday i spent picking up 24 doctors, nurses, and engineers and their 60 bags and 10 million in medication without the help of the department of health. only the grace of God gave me the words necessary to finagle the people at the airport to let every bag through without even opening one...friday i spent morning saying Masses, then trying to get half of said people out of here and into haiti. this morning i did the same and finally sent half of them into haiti - some of which were walking to thomassique and got to take this great ferry across the river which separates the two countries:

i must admit that logistics are not my strong point, and since i can't have a dominican who doesn't speak english handle all of it i get thrust into the middle of it. heck, my dad was a surface warfare officer, not a supply guy. oh well, no one has starved or been dehydrated...they will be here until friday i think...we are planning on taking the first ever motorcycle ride into thomassique on monday morning - it should be interesting....

first off, happy feast day to all named after this great doctor of the church, especially the uniquely dubbed young miss avila.

as i was crossing a half-flooded river en route to my second Mass this morning, i struck a submerged boulder and almost wiped out at 5 km/h; however, as chance would have it, i simply dumped my foot into the river, straightened out, and continued onwards. my foot was soaked and clammy in my good shoes, so as i was riding i took off my shoe and sock and tried to "air dry" them, to no avail. so, when i arrived at the chapel for Mass, i needed to make a decision: put on a wet shoe and wet sock (not in that order) or, because it was the feast of st teresa, the discalced carmelite, wear nothing on my feet. sure - alb, white fiddle-back and bare feet...

the good news is that i received an akers gazette today which contained a copy of the ducks on the cover after the big michigan win. the other good news is that i can at least blame the three consecutive spankings on the sports illustrated jinx...

so there i was saturday afternoon sitting at my desk, enjoying a little baseball and seeing the domincans pedro martinez and manny ramirez disgrace the entire island with their behavior when out of nowhere this old american priest taps on my screen door and enters. i stand up and offer my hand and he introduces himself as padre ramon. let me tell you, padre ramon is a legend, a veritable oddyseus, a baptizer of thousands, a golden-tongued master, a flagleresque road maker, in short, the king of the frontier. he was the first priest in the area in over 100 years, arriving in 1963 and staying for 10 years. he re-opened the church, baptised people, married people. overall an amazing man.

he then announced that he would stay here until monday...enough said.

the great taranula hunt has finally ended with great success. my nephew benjamin has waited patiently for us to finish this safari and i'm happy to report that we found this:

he was locked in mortal combat with another, so we took the victor: unfortunately, since he had just won a battle for his life and then was placed in a canvas sack for transport to the rectory, he had his dander up and would not stay in one place long enough for us to get a ruler in a shot, but you can trust me when i say that his body was every bit of 4.5 inches and those legs stretched another 2 on each side. for a full size image (1 meg) click here.

generator's provide power when the government can't, but only when they have access to fuel. i have tried and tried to explain this to people, but for some reason they can't seem to get it: the generator we have at the parish center was on yesterday as we were cleaning and checking water/power systems for the arrival of the 24 man medical team. some knucklehead completely closed the air valve on the tank, thus cutting off the diesel. there are very few things more frustrating in life that re-priming a diesel generator. take off the filter and fill it, prime the small filter, crank it up. wait for sufficient suction to develop. have some kid loosen instead of tighten the filter. get sprayed with diesel fuel like a ballplayer cracking open a shaking champagne bottle. re-tighten and start over. finally get it working and try to explain the point of the air valve on the fuel tank. go home and shower. unsuccessfully try to clean off diesel fuel. man, what a pain. but at least it's working...i think i'm gonna buy a big old tank so we don't have these issues anymore...

happy feastday of our Lady of the Rosary - and happy anniversary to stan and christi.

yesterday i counted out 58,640 pesos worth of donations from the patronales. brutally slow work.

we now have an ambulance: we have been the ambulance service for the hospital for a while, and the government just donated one to the hospital here. all the principles from the two towns and the hospitals came over and wanted to talk about how to most efficiently put it to good use. i told them that i would supply the driver, the deisel, the maintenance. the only thing they needed to do was to give me the key. so, after we all agreed on that, i went over and blessed it and checked it out. the director of the hospital kept the key because he wanted to show it to someone, and i said, "sure, bring it by later." to make a long story short, he took off for the capital and he still has the yesterdays emergency was handled with the church truck...ahh, efficiency abandonded yet again...

final days of the patronales report:

check out the make-shift city that the pilgrims erected at the foot of the mountain. as the day wore on the tents grew and grew. we arrived up to the cave and celebrated Mass from this elevated altar. i have no words (at least charitable ones) to explain the absolute ridiculousness of the event. as you can see from the picture, it appeared to be chaos incarnate, with men hawking rosaries and medals, people drinking heavily at 0700, people carrying stones to the little crosses and placing them as "promises" and just a general disregard for what was about to take place. luckily, we temporarily installed a gloriously voluminous sound system which enabled the bishop to out-shout the din of 500 people...afterwards, we descended and headed for the church, which was beautifully decorated and celebrated a more "normal" Mass. afterwards, we processed around the town with the statue of st. francis until we at last placed him back in his side-altar, which conclluded a long 7 hours...all around a unique experience.

0445 - reveille

0530 - quick breakfast

0600 - depart for cave with bishop, frjack, and choir in tow

0700 - Mass in the cave. estimated duration 2.5 hours

1000 - Mass in church. estimated duration 2.5 hours

1330 - procession through town with st francis statue and bishop. estimated time 1.5 hours.

i'll bring my camera....

i'm not one for creating a big hoopla over a rainbow, but i remember that my mother used to see one and talk about noah and how much she liked a good rainbow - so here is one for her and any others who aprreciate such things (like fr violette and fr kloster)...

another night of prolonged aural overdose caused by loud music and the arguing of drunks with the police across the street has left me slightly tired. however, the feast day of the guardian angels has elevated my soul - for, as any regular blog reader knows, my life is pretty much proof of their existence...


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