"I know, gusta"

Posted on: August 10, 2017 3:00 pm
Tags: Hispanic ministry, Education, Volunteer, Blog,

Sister Maria Francine Stacy, SND, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

by Sr. Maria Francine Stacy

When I first started studying Spanish in the university, my mom asked me, “Why are you studying that? You know you will never use it.” And I replied simply, “I know, Mom, but I like it.” When I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame, the sister in charge said, “I see you have Spanish studies in your background. Well, we don’t have a need for that…” I replied simply, “I know but I liked it.” I have gone full circle as this summer was filled with Spanish-related activities.

Notre Dame Urban Education Center

At the beginning of June, I gave some Spanish classes at Notre Dame Urban Education Center. What a learning curve to work with the little children! There were children from kindergarten age to junior high. With the expert help of Sr. Mary Ellen Strunk and her materials, we played “Bop,” and “Swat,” and card games. We drew and we sang as the children became familiar with Spanish vocabulary ranging from numbers to clothes to family members.

Pilot Trip

I also took a pilot trip in June to the Dominican Republic with the Catholic Missions group. I was investigating to see if this would be a good match as a service trip for Notre Dame Academy (NDA), where I teach Spanish. The best way to get a feel for the work, of course, is to do it yourself. I worked with a youth group leader and eleven young women from Minnesota to plaster the walls of a new agricultural center and dig a ditch for a vegetable garden fence in Santo Domingo.

San Pedro Macorís

We then traveled to San Pedro Macorís, located about an hour outside of Santo Domingo, to assist at an orphanage. The physical construction of the orphanage struck me as very similar to the SND mission in Buseesa, Uganda. There is a visitors’ center where we stayed with three Italian girls, the school is next door, and down the road is where the children live.

In the morning, we prayed and performed our manual labor, but the afternoon was reserved to play with the children. About 50% of the children have lost a parent, some have lost both, and the others have family situations that warrant their being out of the home. We tried to give them love and enjoyment during our time there. We ate rice and beans with them at the noonday meal. We played games with them.

It was a definite advantage to speak some Spanish to communicate with the children, but the volunteers were able to show their love when words escaped them. Every evening we had a reflection time led by the Catholic Mission-trained university students. We reflected on the simplicity of the living there and recounted each evening the high point and the low point of our day.

Fostoria, Ohio

A similar experience was my trip in July to the migrant camps in Fostoria, OH. Sister Rose Moser, SND, and I traveled with Sarah Zimmer and Aalyah Bowman, Spanish students from NDA, to participate in a vacation Bible school project. This was developed by our Toledo SNDs, Sisters Teresita Richards, Liz Garcia, and Mary Jo Toll, along with an amazing group of volunteers from St. Wendelin Parish.

We camped out in two rooms at St. Wendelin High School. Because the weather was so stormy, we got flooded twice, but luckily not in the quarters where we had our air mattresses! Each morning, Sr. Liz and Mary Kay Coughenour provided us with lesson plans according to the theme of the day, the Rosary, Noah, Jonah, etc. Sarah, Aalyah, and three NDA Toledo students then discussed how they would teach the lesson and decide their roles. We prepared a snack each day in line with the theme and a song with gestures. In the afternoon, we went to the camp and on the way home, we usually stopped at a parishioner’s home to eat supper. We ended the day in prayer, notably with a candle in a jar with colored stones that we added each day to represent the blessings we had received.

My summer was further blessed by being a small part of a Guatemalan women’s prayer group and a Hispanic youth retreat. So, my refrain is the same. “Yes, I enjoy it,” but now Spanish is a great way to serve God’s people and proclaim God’s provident love.

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