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A father and son who attended a mission trip to El Salvador report back on their experience.

group
A total of 23 fathers and sons went on the trip.

January 21, 2009. Washington, DC. Bert Rosica hadn’t necessarily been planning on going to El Salvador for a father-and-son mission trip. But, with some encouragement from Fr Michael Sliney, LC, he found himself with 9 other dads in a group of 23 fathers and sons who were embarking on a pre-Christmas mission to serve the poor. It was his first mission, along with his son.

“I take no credit, yet it was the best thing I ever did in my life,” he said.

Angels Bearing Soccer Balls

The missionaries, all from the Washington, DC area, departed for El Salvador with plans to return on home December 23. Their mission was to go to a poor community, doing door-to-door missions in the morning and organizing activities for the local children in the afternoons, along with Bible studies and discussion groups for parents. They also sang Christmas carols, played soccer and lacrosse with the older children, and helped out with whatever material needs they could meet.

The main afternoon activity was an “Angel for a Day” Christmas party. The boys had spent the weeks before the mission collecting soccer balls, cleats, and all the other soccer accessories that the local boys would appreciate, since soccer is the preferred sport for El Salvadorian boys. The gifts were a hit, naturally.

The younger Bert Rosica, nicknamed “IV” (Four), said that the mission was an experience of intense self-giving. “I have never spent so many days working and living with the people we were helping,” he said. They were on
lacrosse
The missionaries played soccer and lacrosse with the older children, and helped out with whatever material needs they could meet.
the go from morning to night, constantly doing things to serve the people. By the end of the day, they fell into bed exhausted.

It was also an experience of the reality of material poverty, something relatively unknown for many of the boys.

“The families are really poor,” IV reported. “They do not have anything: beds, floors, or doors on their houses…” And the missionaries did have some small opportunities to share in that poverty—like the cold showers they took every morning.

But there were also some small consolations, like the Pop-Tarts that Fr Michael had brought along. Sometimes little things can make a big difference, especially to hungry boys.

Rosario’s Smile

Alongside the material poverty, they witnessed the generosity and joy of a people whose poverty helps them to be close to God.

“Everyone is very poor, but they are really happy,” said IV. “They were really happy that Father was there to say Mass.  They never know when a priest will come. We are lucky… we take it for granted that Mass is available daily for us.”

IV’s dad, Bert Rosica also commented that there were countless acts of kindness and charity from the El Salvadorians to the missionaries. In particular, one moment during Mass stood out for him as an image of what their mission was all about.

“On our final night there, the Mass in the humble little chapel was particularly beautiful – and crowded. Father Michael had said Mass and heard confessions for three days in a row, and word was starting to spread, so each mass was more crowded than the one before. This Mass was standing room only.

“One of the older women in the village, Rosario, who is in her 70s or 80s, lived up in the foothills about a mile or two from the chapel. When we met with her in her house earlier in the day, she was very excited and grateful that Catholic missionaries were calling on her. She is a warm woman of good humor with a beautiful smile and a graciousness about her that must come with age and the joy of
mass
The missionaries witnessed the beauty of a simple faith.
her faith, which she radiates. She was particularly thrilled with the beautiful crystal rosary one of the dads had given her. At Mass that night, there she was, sitting in the front row and literally glowing in a beautiful white dress adorned with a white lace shawl on her head – and her new rosary around her neck.

“At the start of Mass, we saw one another and waved and smiled. When it was time to offer a sign of peace, to my surprise, she hurried over and gave me a hug and a kiss.  It was very touching,” he said.

Rosario was just one example of the beauty of a people whose faith had kept their hearts open and full of love.

A Clarion Call

When asked how he had seen God working in the group of missionaries, Bert said, “We thought (out of arrogance or ignorance or both) that we were coming to minister to poor people. They ministered to us. It made me rethink my perspective on the meaning of ‘poor.’ True, the people we met are poor materially. But I now know exactly what Christ meant when he said it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. That is, material possessions can be an obstacle to our faith and our ability and willingness to follow Him.”

IV agreed, “Now I really appreciate all that I have and realize how hard my parents work for my sisters, my brother, and me. I realize we are given much so we can share with others and help whenever we can.”

“On a more practical note,” added Bert, “the trip serves as a clarion call, and a vehicle, for this particular group of men and boys, to formulate and act upon ways we can help these people materially as well as spiritually. We all desire to go back, if possible. In the meantime, the village has simple needs we can help meet. The first thing to do, for example, is to send writing tablets and pens and pencils to village so the students have something with which to write. There are many other things being contemplated. One of the dads, a retired marine, has agreed to put together a follow up plan outline to serve as a guide for our actions throughout the year.”

Male Bonding

The trip was not only a blessing for the individuals who went; it was also a chance to grow together, to bond, and to share an experience of teamwork and unity. For IV, it was a gift to be able to spend the mission with his dad.

“I like that my dad and I went together,” said IV. “Everyone worked really hard do everything Father wanted us to do. Everyone worked together and all the dads were really nice.”

Father Michael Sliney said, “This was a deep bonding experience for the fathers and sons, and a real eye opener for all of us. The simplicity and joy of the people who had so little materially, yet so much spiritually was striking and helped this become a real transformational trip.”

For more information about upcoming missions trips, visit the Mission Youth web site at www.youth4missions.com.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-01-22


 
 

Related links

Altius Foundation
Catholic World Mission
Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center


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