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Tawas Parishioners Visit Guatemala Missions

05/24/2010

Thirteen members of Holy Family Catholic Church in East Tawas, accompanied by their Pastor Fr. Charlie Donajkowski, completed a parish pilgrimage to Guatemala last month. They made this spiritual, emotional and physical journey to see and learn more about their sister mission there, Senora Ana’s Nutritional Center of Guatemala City. The parish has supported this mission for many years not only financially, but also by knitting sweaters and making crib blankets for the children. They carried suitcases full of vitamins, medicines and health products for distribution. Since their return home they have been sharing their experiences with others to increase an awareness of our responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in other lands as well as here in the United States. The Tawas Area Knights of Columbus held a Guatemalan Night Celebration and raised over $3,000, which was sent to Sister Ana and her children. In addition to spending time at the mission, the pilgrims had an opportunity to learn about the work of “Food for the Poor” and “Caritas.” Through these two relief organizations the group was able to travel far into the remote highlands to visit indigenous Mayan Indians where they were welcomed into the community and treated as honored guests during their visit. One of the villages visited was El Tabacal, a refugee village of misplaced Mayans following the 30 year civil war which ended in 1996. The highlight here was seeing tilapia ponds fed by a mountain spring. The fish ponds feed the village and also provide additional income because the villagers are able to sell the excess fish at market. Ponds are watched over 24 hours a day. Unlike many villages, running water is available in El Tabacal. Familes were proud to show the faucet at the edge of yard. At the same time, their homes are constructed of bamboo and black plastic with corrugated tin roofs. Whole families sleep on bare dirt floors and women cook beans and tortillas over a smoky fire which blackens the home and gives rise to many lung and breathing problems. A celebration awaited the group when they arrived at another community. It was “ribbon cutting day” for the first of ten block homes being built by Food for the Poor and Caritas. What an honor to be present as a husband, wife and three children walked into their home for the first time! Fr. Charlie was asked to bless the door before the family entered. Later, Fr. Charlie also celebrated Mass for the community in a little chapel on the mountaintop. People had been waiting for over two hours for him to arrive. It was the first time a priest had ever visited and the excitement ran high as he was presented with a hand woven stole before mass. Surprised with a greeting by a drum band, the group visited a boy’s orphanage where a recent oyster mushroom project has been undertaken. The mushroom project has been a huge success and the monks said they fed the boys in the home and also sold the excess to upscale restaurants in Guatemala City. Large bags of mushrooms in all stages of development were visible in the growing shed. Sales of mushrooms had provided additional income for improvements in the dormitories. A soybean project was on the itinerary as well. At a large home for girls the travelers saw how soy beans were processed into soy milk for consumption as well as numerous delicious dishes for the cafeteria. Half of the protein provided to the girls comes from this project. Rooftop solar panels generate the hot water to process the soy. The entire trip – but particularly, the visits to the homes helped to strengthen the bond between countries, church, cultures and individuals. The thirteen travelers learned that every little bit we contribute really does make a huge difference to the mothers and children of Guatemala. A parish pilgrimage to Guatemala is planned annually and the parish is always collecting children’s medicines and vitamins as well as financial contributions for Sr. Ana. For more information, contact the Holy Family Parish office at 989.362.3162.

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