Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day 3 Pastoral Visit to Colombia

These days here in the area known as "eternal Spring" have been days of cooler than normal temperatures and more rain than usual.  The "rainy season" is typically more in February, I am told, but these days have seen rain off and on every day.  The Motherhouse here in La Ceja is built on the top of one of the high mountains.  This area is where one part of the great Andes Mountains are located.  We are at about 6,000 feet above sea level here, and when Fr. Fabio and one of the Sisters were discussing that on one of our trips, it finally dawned on me that was the reason why I was having a harder time breathing; and they agreed.  It's because of the altitude, and it takes some adjusting to get used to it. 
     Today was a very pleasant day of seeing some of the sights in the big city of Medellin.  I had visited that city the last time I was here as well, but it really is huge, and quite advanced.  Medellin is one of those cities that has captured international attention for its innovations in many different ways, and really trying to be sensitive to the needs of every social class in the city through promoting national/city pride, a mass transit system to help all people get to where they need to go very economically, and also a center for entrepreneurship of all kinds. 
     Two of the Sisters, Sister Mary Teresa and Sister Carmen, drove us into the city where we met up with Father Oscar London.  Many will remember Father Oscar as one of the priests who has come to our Diocese for many years helping in the summers with migrant ministry.  While the Sisters left to run some errands for the community, Father Oscar took us to see some of the wonderful sights of the city.  One of the things I was unaware of is that Medellin has an international reputation for huge and elaborate Christmas decorations. 
People come from near and far to see them.  While they stopped lighting them after January 15th, many of them were still up so it was interesting to see them.  I took a photo of one of them that depicted Christmas presents piled on top of one another that had to be three or four stories tall.  As in most major cities, there was certainly a "rush hour", but the unique thing about Medellin was that this "hour" was actually more like "rush-all day long".  The drivers in Medellin are polite but at the same time aggressive.  There is very little horn-blowing and no signs of road rage; the roads are full of cars, buses, motorbikes, bicycles, all sharing the same good roads through and around the city. 
     The highlight of what Father Oscar showed us is the Shrine and Tomb of Saint Laura Montoya (May 26, 1874-Oct. 21, 1949), the first native-born Colombian to be canonized a saint---only four years ago in 2013.  Mother Laura, as she is known to everyone locally, founded a religious community in the Dominican tradition, I believe, to evangelize and catechize the indigenous people of the area.  The community she founded is known as: Misioneras de Maria Immaculada y Santa Catalina de Sean(Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and Saint Catherine of Siena).  One of Father Oscar's blood sisters is a member of this religious community.  We were given a grand tour of the Chapel, and the Tomb of Mother Laura. 

While praying at this holy place, I particularly remembered the intentions of all our faithful, priests and laity, my personal and family's intentions, and the needs of our Diocese, and in particular prayers for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life  The Sisters in this community are affectionately known as Laurelites.  In this great city of Colombia in South America, Father Oscar chose to take us to a wonderful Italian restaurant known as "Crispina".  Outside of Rome, this restaurant had the most delicious pasta I've ever had. 
     By mid-afternoon, it was time to once again meet the Sisters.  Sister Mary Theresa has two blood sisters who also are members of the same community, and their family lives in Medellin.   So we met them at Sr. Mary Theresa's home, where we also met Sister Dora (her blood sister), and the members of their family who were there, including her mother and one of her other sisters.  There were nine children in the family, and three of them are members of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit.  We had a nice visit, which of course had to be accompanied by some delicious food and drink, and then Sr. Dora joined us for the trip back to the Motherhouse.
The last stop we made in the city was to visit the home where Mother Blanca, the foundress of the community, had lived before she entered into religious life.  Mother Blanca's father was a very well-known and respected judge, and Mother Blanca herself was studying to be a lawyer in the local university when she heard God's call to religious life.  Since none of Mother Blanca's family have need for this house, the community has purchased it to have as a guest house when needed in the city, and to have it as a place of veneration and respect for their Foundress.
     After about an hour's drive, we returned to the Motherhouse in time for Evening Prayer and Dinner.    After prayer and preparations for the following day's Mass and Homily, Day 3 came to a peaceful and welcome conclusion. 

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