Friday, April 11, 2014

Final days in Colombia

Praised be Jesus Christ!
  We awoke early this morning to another gorgeous day:  blue skies and warm temperatures.  Or as Fr. Fabio remarked:  just like Bon Jovi's song:  "Another day in Paradise"!  At 7:30 this morning, I had the joy of presiding at the school Mass for the High School Seniors here at the Salesian School.  I celebrated the Mass in Spanish, and Fr. Fabio was kind enough (for the sake of the kids) to give the homily in Spanish.  It was a very enjoyable celebration with these young people who are getting ready to move on to the next phase of their young Catholic lives.   

  After breakfast, Fr. Fabio and I were guests of Fr. Fabio's friend Mario who wanted us to see the incredibly transformed city of Medellin, about a 45 minute drive from La Ceja.  Mario's profession is to participate in the social/civil leadership of this great city of which he is so proud.  The drive itself is quite interesting as the road goes up and over several mountain ranges on good, but very windy two-lane roads between here and there.  Medellin is at the foot of the mountain.  It is a very densely populated city of more than 3 million people.  The city has been recognized internationally as the #1 city for transforming and renewing itself according to cutting-edge environmental standards.  They have positively dealt with the issue of crime, and they have built a state of the art transportation system of subway/bus/cable cars/taxi systems which help with traffic congestion and encourage people to live and work in the city which is easily accessible and very, very safe.  We visited many different parts of the city which has a very festive atmosphere, but at the same time, is a city filled with highly professional people with a strong concentration on financial concerns.  It has been described as the Wall Street of South America.  After some touring, we visited the Salesian Provincial Offices just outside the downtown area where we met Father Oscar who was attending some provincial meetings.  The priests there were very hospitable to us and hosted us for a delicious lunch (that is, another big banquet/dinner),  Following lunch and a little rest, we left to experience the rapid transit system for ourselves as we rode the subway, and then took the cable cars up the mountain to the brand new and award-winning Library of Medellin.  The cable cars are quite an impressive part of the city's transportation system.  We returned to the Salesian Provincial House by subway, and then taxi cab, where we began our journey back to La Ceja with Mario doing the driving honors.  I was happy to find more people in Medellin who were bilingual and spoke English than in La Ceja or the other places we have visited while here.  I am truly grateful for Fr. Fabio who has been a wonderful traveling companion, but also who has been my translator all along the way.  Muchas gracias, Padre Fabio!
   So ends Day 4, and for all intents and purposes, so ends this Pastoral Visit.  Day 5 will primarily consist of traveling on 3 different flights which, with God's grace, will have us back in the Diocese of Kalamazoo by late tomorrow evening. For me this has been a wonderful adventure, a successful pastoral visit, and a very enlightening/inspiring/encouraging first-hand experience of the Church alive and well and thriving here in the continent to our far south, here in LaCeja, Medellin, Colombia, South America.  I give thanks to God for all the graces He bestowed on us through this trip, and for all the blessings that, I pray, will flow from this pastoral visit.  Buenas Noches!  Gloria a ti, Senor Jesus! (Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!)

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