- Candace Neff Director
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Delegation to Travel to Matagalpa
The distance from Gaylord to our sister diocese of Matagalpa in Nicaragua is about 2,000 miles, so we can't meet face to face as often as we would like. And, as the basis for everything we do together is built upon establishing relationships, that is a problem. After all, just getting Catholics within the geographically huge Gaylord Diocese (which includes the whole northern Lower Peninsula ) together to form friendships is hard enough! So the planning for another delegation of Gaylord Diocesan folks visiting the Diocese of Matagalpa this coming February is a big deal up here as well as down there. After all, though several medical and dental missions and other visits have taken place between the two dioceses in recent years, the last general delegation excursion from Gaylord occurred five years ago -- in October, 2004. The hope and prayer (including yours, please!) is that this feast of friendship and Christian camaraderie between our church communities will help to raise our partnership to a new level. Ten people from around our diocese are currently scheduled to represent all of us on this journey. They include Father Santiago Hoyumpa from Lake City, Father Ruben Munoz from Traverse City, Deacon Tom Bousamra from Traverse City, Candace Neff from Gaylord, Cathy Valovick from Cedar, Val Porter from Cheboygan, Bea Kelly from Gaylord, Jozef Drozdowski from Tawas, and Sue and Chuck Amman from Grayling. Jesus Huerta from Catholic Relief Services, which helped us form our Global Solidarity Partnership, will also accompany the group. The goals for this trip, like the 2004 trip, are to create and expand a friendship between our two peoples and churches and to listen to each other so we can better discern how we can work together and help each other. There will be exploratory meetings with the Bishop of Matagalpa and his diocesan team, shared liturgies, forays into the mountains to visit coffee cooperatives, medical clinics, schools and remote villages and chapels, and, hopefully, a fiesta or two. (Nicaragua is a notoriously musical and fun-loving nation, despite its desperate economic plight. Earthquakes, hurricanes and a painful civil war, all suffered within the past thirty years, have not dampened the spirit of the people. Already the partnership has developed a fair trade coffee distribution system for our parishes, a number of medical mission trips and letter exchanges between school students. Generous people from our diocese have been responsible for getting the Catholic radio station in Matagalpa back on the air after its equipment crashed, and have helped to build rural chapels in the remotest areas. Funds are being raised to hopefully purchase a medical mobile vehicle capable of surmounting washed-out mountain roads. (At a cost of just $50,000 this would make it possible to bring medical care and medicine to hundreds of otherwise inaccessible villages.) In the exploratory stage is a plan to introduce pure water filters in areas where the only water is dangerously contaminated. This, too, will require major fundraising within the Catholic communities of northern Lower Michigan. The delegates are expected to return home in February with an infectious enthusiasm for building this partnership and with an enhanced appreciation for the fervor and spirituality of our Matagalpan Christian friends. In the meantime, the partnership is looking for more hands and hearts. Interested people can start by calling the diocese at 989 732 5147 and speaking to Candace Neff or by calling Bill Siler, the chair of our Global Solidarity Partnership Steering Committee at 231.922.1850.