Saturday, January 21, 2017

Final Day of Travel - Coming Home

            This day began very early as I arose at 1:00 a.m. to be ready at 2:30 a.m for Mother Consuelo, Sr. Mary Theresa and Sr. Mary Eugenia to take Father Fabio and I to the airport for our very early morning flight.  Most of the Sisters had not gone to bed since they were keeping an all-night/all-day vigil with the deceased body of Sr. Antonia.  In spite of their lack of sleep and our small amount of sleep, we had a great final trip through the dark, middle-of-the-night Colombian countryside, filled with pleasant and friendly conversation.

              One of the things that I have failed to mention is about the natural beauty of this part of God's beautiful world.  The terrain is mountainous with lush green growth everywhere

much of it forest area.  Because it is always springtime, flowers and trees are in bloom all year round.  In fact, the La Ceja area of Colombia, and many other parts of the Colombian countryside, are known for their flower industry.  All around are farms and nurseries which raise flowers of all kinds; greenhouses, mostly covered in plastic for protection can be as tall as a two story building and these greenhouses of a particular farm might cover many acres.  We were told that with St. Valentine's Day coming up, this is a very busy season because Colombia provides 70-80 percent of the flowers that will be sold in the U.S on Valentine's Day.   That's quite something.  Fr.Fabio has some beautiful photos of the natural beauty of the area that I hope we will get to post.

           Speaking of the flower industry, the Sisters said, and others verified, that the unemployment rate is so low that there is not a percentage given to it.  If what we saw during these days is any indication, we can certainly verify that because everyone on the streets and in the cities were constantly busy.  When we visited Medellin, we saw many signs of homelessness, but those who are homeless are not people from that area, but rather refugees who have been displaced or have escaped from the guerilla warfare going on in other parts of Colombia. 

           We arrived at the airport in plenty of time with very few people around. The Sisters insisted on going in with us and seeing us through check in and until we had to go through security.  Our farewells were tinged with sadness but sealed with the joyful reality that lasting relationships have been formed and that we are more than partners in ministry with the Missionary Servants of the Divine Spirit, but that we are truly brothers and sisters united in our shared faith and desire to advance God's Kingdom everywhere.
Bishop Bradley praying in the Panama City airport chapel. 

          While I don't mean this in any way to be a commercial of any sort, but I do want to say that these Sisters live the most modest lifestyle one can imagine, certainly worthy of those committed to following the simple Life of our Lord, but none of their resources goes to making their own lives more comfortable or enjoyable, but rather to help them send these joyful and loving Sisters to serve where they are needed in all parts of the world, including the Diocese of Kalamazoo in Michigan.  If you would want to send them a donation, or regularly adopt them as one of your worthy charities, you can send your donation directly to the Diocese of Kalamazoo with an indication on the Memo line of the check for the Missionary Servants of the Divine Spirit, and periodically, we will make the electronic transfer into their account.  You can be certain that these donations will truly be helping to do the work of Evangelization and bringing the Gospel of Joy to those who long to hear it. 

        All four of our flights were wonderfully boring, that is, nothing remarkable.  Each was smooth, safe, on-time, and best of all, our bags got to Kalamazoo at the same time we did.  Now it's back to doing our more normal, less exotic, but wonderfully important work of God. With thanks to God for blessing this 5,160 mile (round trip) Pastoral Visit with success and many graces for me and Fr. Fabio, with deep gratitude to the Catholic Extension Society who is funding this wonderful fuve-year program with the Sisters, including providing the funds for this pastoral visit for me and Fr. Fabio to have spent these days together with the Sisters, and assuring you  that your prayerful intentions accompanied us all along our way, I remain

Faithfully yours in Christ,

 + Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo

Day 5 - Pastoral Visit to Colombia

            Today was the most beautiful day of the week, weather-wise.  It was sunny, clear, fresh, and warm throughout the day.  While as I understand it, our Diocese has also been experiencing some moderate and higher than normal temperatures (which happily also means no snow or freezing precipitation as is normal in January), I will very much miss the constant Spring-time weather here in Colombia.
            During the night, the Sisters were able to bring back the body of Sr. Antonia from Medellin, with the help of many of the civil authorities and the funeral director, arriving back here around 2:00 a.m.  By time for early morning prayers and 7:00 a.m. Mass, Sister's body was lying in state in the Chapel where it has remained throughout this day.  Fr. Fabio and I celebrated the morning Mass for Sr. Antonia's eternal rest, blessing  her body and beginning the Vigil that has taken place throughout the day and will continue through the night and tomorrow until the Funeral Mass at 3:00 p.m tomorrow afternoon.  The local Bishop, Bishop Fidel, will be the Principal Celebrant.  Because this Religious Community is Diocesan, the Bishop acts as the ultimate superior and spiritual Father. 
            As all of us know all too well, death often enters into our lives unexpectedly and never invited.  As I mentioned yesterday, this is this Community's first experience of one of their members dying.  While yesterday's shocking news was like that proverbial punch in the gut, the faith of these young, dedicated religious women has moved them past shock and grief alone, and relying on the Hope of the Resurrection and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to move them forward.   They are truly an inspiration.
            After Mass and Breakfast, Mother Consuelo and Sister Cielo, along with Fr. Fabio and I, met with Bishop Fidel as a courtesy visit during our time here.  We had met with him on our last trip, so it was good to renew his acquaintance, and he graciously met with us for the better part of an hour.  I wanted to bring him up to date with how the Sisters were enriching our Diocese through their presence with us, and to ask his blessing on the agreement that Mother Consuelo and I have reached about making their "house" in our Diocese more permanent.  He was happy to give his approval and blessing.  We had a very pleasant conversation about many different things before our meeting came to a close.  I thanked him for the special relationship our two Dioceses have thanks to the Sisters of the Holy Spirit.
            Upon returning to the Motherhouse, Father Oscar met Fr. Fabio and I there and gave us a tour of some of the additional sights in the La Ceja area, including the Cathedral Church for the Diocese.  This Diocese is known as Sonson-Rionegro.  Those are two separate and large cities that were combined to form one Diocese.  Bishop Fidel is the Bishop, and the Cathedral Church is in Rionegro, under the patronage of St. Nicholas.  It is a beautiful, old and magnificent Spanish-architecture building in the very center of the city, as was usually the case in the old days.  Most towns/cities had the Church and the public square at its center, with businesses flowing off the square. 
We also visited a few other historic places and beautiful countryside, and enjoyed a delicious meal together along the way. 
            After we returned, Fr. Fabio and I had only a short while to get ready for the Mass to celebrate with Fr. Evelio's parents, Luis and Celia Ramirez who will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in April.  Since Fr. Evelio was not able to accompany us on this trip, he asked if we could celebrate this special Mass with them.  As I mentioned in one of the postings earlier in the week, this couple is so special.  It was a joy to celebrate that Mass with them and many members of their family who came to be with them.  This Mass was originally going to be celebrated in the Motherhouse Chapel with all the Sisters present, but in light of the Wake for Sr. Antonia, the Mass was moved to the Salesian School Chapel.  A few of the Sisters joined to help lead the singing.

            We shared one final meal with the Sisters after returning to the Motherhouse.  At this point, there must be 50 Sisters who are here, with more still coming and on their way.  What began on Monday evening with a small group of Sisters, concluded with the room practically filled.  After the meal, I had a chance to express to the Sisters my gratitude for this wonderful relationship that has developed over these several years, and assured them of how much I look forward to this relationship growing stronger.  After about 50 hugs and 50 personal blessings, it was time for Fr. Fabio and I to pack and prepare to retire for the evening.  We need to leave the Motherhouse at 2:30 a.m tomorrow morning to be prepared for our 4:50 a.m. Flight----the first of four flights (Medellin to Panama; Panama to Miami; Miami to Chicago; Chicago to K-zoo) on our journey back to Kalamazoo that will take 12 hours tomorrow, God willing. 

            This has been a wonderful week and a blessed pastoral visit.  I am grateful to God for the providential way He guided all the twists and turns of what it took for us to get here, and for all the blessings that have been experienced in so many ways over these days.   Be assured of my prayerful remembrance for all of you at every holy point along the way of these fuve days.  May God bless the Misioneras Siervas del Divino Espiritu (Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit) in the wonderful witness they provide in so many missionary lands far away from La Ceja, including our own Diocese, and may God bless the Diocese of Kalamazoo.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Day 4 - Pastoral Trip to Colombia

Today was a beautiful day here in La Ceja.  It began with sun shine, blue sky, light breeze, lush growth all around us---just like Heaven must be like.  This was another good day with wonderful opportunities to grow stronger the bonds between the Sisters and our Diocese.
            The day began with Fr. Fabio and I celebrating Mass with the entire community.  Just a note about that before I reflect on the beautiful Mass.
            As most everyone knows, normally the Motherhouse of any religious community is not very full.  The only ones who typically live there during the normal months of the year are those young Sisters still in formation and those Sisters in leadership with administrative and formational oversight.  Here in Colombia, most of the schools are "on holiday" for the month of January, not commencing the new school year until February 1st.  Similarly January is a time when many of the Sisters spend some vacation time with their families.  And, of course, during the normal time of the year, the Sisters "on mission" are busily involved with the ministry to which they have been assigned throughout South America, in Italy, and now in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA.  However, in light of the upcoming first anniversary of the death of the community's Foundress, Mother Blanca Ilvia Alvarez, as much of the entire community as can do so is returning to the Motherhouse these days for a week of observance of this anniversary and time to be together.  So, when we arrived here on Monday evening, the only ones here were those young Sisters, novices, postulants and aspirants in formation, along with the administration (about 25).  However, each day there has been one or two or three additional Sisters "returning home".  By this morning, the numbers had swelled, and I'm sure the numbers will increase even more the rest of today into tomorrow.  So, we are slowly able to witness the coming together of most of this religious community. 
            Getting back to this morning's Mass, then, the Chapel was almost twice as full as it was in the beginning of the week.  Father Fabio and I had decided that we would celebrate a Mass of Anniversary for Mother Blanca while we were here.  It was a beautiful celebration.  I was privileged to preside and I preached the homily as well, in Spanish, and it seemed that the Sisters were able to understand----so, thanks be to God for that. It is clear that Mother Blanca's impact on the growth and development of this community remains very strong, as does her maternal presence here on a daily basis.  She is revered and held in great esteem.  May she Rest In Peace.
            After breakfast, there was some free time until Mother Consuelo and the Council took          Fr. Fabio and I to a nearby town for a pleasant lunch/meeting at a very traditional restaurant by the name of Sancho Paisa.  Indigenous cooking includes a lot of fire grilled meats and foods.  I chose the delicious grilled fish, accompanied of course by patacon and the delicious fruit drink known as guanabana.  The meal was great and the company/discussion among the Sisters was even better.  But to make the point about what a strongly Catholic country this is, as we were getting ready to leave, one of the young waiters came over to ask me to bless his rosary, and the young man who waited on our table took off his hat and asked me to bless him as well.  Then we went outside to get in the car, and the young parking lot attendant stopped and asked very politely for a blessing.  As I said to the Sisters, you would not find that happening very often in Kalamazoo!
            On the way back to La Ceja, we stopped at a beautiful natural waterfall in the lush forest-like countryside.  It was so beautiful that, in spite of the rain, I asked the Sisters to pull over so I could take a photo. 
Upon return to La Ceja, we visited the Salesian School there in the city.  It was there that Fr. Fabio and I stayed on our first trip here in 2014 because of Fr. Fabio's strong ties to the Salesian community.  It was very nice to see this beautiful Catholic facility once again, a school for K-11, of over 400 students.  Even though the school year is not yet in session, we met two of the 9th grade young men who were there, both of whom are bi-lingual.  Many of the schools, both Catholic and public in the country of Colombia strongly encourage the teaching of English as a second language.  The young Salesian priest who is the Principal of the School has done Migrant Ministry in our Diocese, and it was very nice to see him again.
            We returned to the Motherhouse about 3:30 p.m., in plenty of time to prepare for the Eucharistic Holy Hour scheduled for 5:00 p.m..  That was when the overriding mood of joy and happiness took a bit of a sad turn.  As Fr. Fabio and I were walking to the Chapel a little before 5:00 p.m., we could see all the Sisters milling around.  Mother Consuelo had just received a phone call to say that one of the Sisters, Sister Antonia, who was on her way back to the Motherhouse for this weekend's celebrations, died very suddenly as she was getting off the train in Medellin.  Her blood sister was at the train depot to meet her, and then was to bring her to the Motherhouse.  Instead, she got to greet her sister, who then fainted, and in spite of immediate emergency assistance that was offered, died.  Needless to say, there has been a pall of sadness that has descended upon this holy place. 
            Keep in mind that this religious community, the Misseoneras Siervas del Divino Espiritu (Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit) are a younger community than we are a Diocese.  We were established in 1971; these Sisters were only founded in 1983.  Mother Blanca was considered the Foundress of the community, but there are still four other Sisters living who are considered co-founders.  Other than Mother Blanca, Sr. Antonia is the first Sister to die  in 34 years.  Besides that, Sr. Antonia was active, not ill in any way that anyone knew about, and was just 57 years of age. 
            As the Sisters began to move into action to take the necessary steps of driving to Medellin to be with Sr. Antonia's sister, and go through all the steps that would need to be taken in the case of such a sudden death, the rest of the Sisters went to the Source of all consolation---to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  How providential that this scheduled Holy Hour was exactly what everyone needed at that very moment.  God is good!  Fr. Fabio and I also feel that it was in God's providence that we were here for this sad time in the community so that, even in sadness, we can be here to be support and even more strongly forge the bonds between us.  Mother Consuelo and the Council told us the same thing---they are so happy that we can be here to help them through this by our presence.  As I mentioned to the community, Sr. Antonia was on her way back home to the motherhouse for this special time of community celebration; God in His wisdom decided to call her Home for her eternal rest, and all the many sisters who will be here for this week of planned meetings and celebrations can celebrate the life of Sr. Antonia.  May she Rest In Peace.  It is planned that, barring any problems, Sister Antonia's body will be here in time for morning Mass, and then the 24-hour vigil will take place in preparation for the Funeral Mass on Saturday. 
            After the hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, with everyone's faith renewed and strengthened, we enjoyed a delicious dinner together.  Following dinner, Fr. Fabio and I met with Mother Consuelo and the new young Sister the community is appointing to take the place of Sister Dora who had to come back to the Motherhouse due to some health issues.  The new Sister is Sister Maria Eugenia Gomez.  She is what is known as a "junior professed" Sister in temporary vows.  Depending on how long it takes for the immigration papers and process to be completed will determine when she can come, but hopefully by March.  It was a pleasure to visit with her, find out a bit about her background, and see first hand what a great addition she will be to Sisters Maryud and Yulianna.  Interestingly, she is one of 13 children in her family, and one of her blood sisters is also a member of this same religious community.  Of course, we could not let a big moment like this pass without the required "photo op" so I hope you will enjoy that photo. 

            One of the themes for my homily at this morning's Mass as we began this day was the Psalm Refrain for today:  "Here am I Lord, I come to do your will".  I spoke about how living out those powerful words is truly the path to holiness.  As we bring an end to Day 4, with the sadness of the death of Sr. Antonia hanging over this community, those words remain just as true, in life and in death:  "Here am I Lord, I come to do Your will."   With God's grace, as we know, all things are possible, even complete submission to and joyful embrace of God's holy will in our lives wherever He leads us. 

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. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day Two - Pastoral Visit to Colombia

Day 2 - January 18, 2017

            What a pleasant difference to awaken to the sound of birds chirping and feeling pleasant cool spring breezes, even as it was still in morning darkness.  We began the day celebrating Holy Mass with the Sisters at 7:00 a.m.  I presided and Fr. Fabio did a fine job of preaching a wonderful daily homily. 
            After breakfast, Fr. Fabio and I had a very good meeting with Mother Consuelo, the General Superior of the Sisters, discussing how this exchange is doing from each of our perspectives, and an opportunity to discuss what she and I both hope for the future, even after the Catholic Extension grant is depleted.
            The midday meal (much more than "lunch") was a mini-feast.  I have decided to try whatever the dish(es) are that the Sisters provide for us, so I have been trying many new things.  Here at the Motherhouse, the Sisters are very self-sufficient, getting fresh milk and cheese from their cows, a variety of delicious fresh vegetables grown here on the grounds, and enjoying some new fruit drinks and a new kind of hot chocolate that is excellent.  All the Sisters take turns cleaning, picking the vegetables, preparing the food, and cleaning up.  Needless to say, the Motherhouse is spic and span; everything is immaculate (no pun intended). 
Bishop Bradley with the Sisters at the Motherhouse

            After the meal, Fr. Fabio and I met with Mother and the entire General Counsel who advise Mother Consuelo on every aspect of the life of the community.  We met for nearly two hours, and had a wonderful discussion about the great blessing the Sisters have been to our Diocese, and how we can work together to make sure that the Sisters who are assigned to our Diocese are helped in every way to safeguard their vocations while they do so much to bring the joy of the Gospel to so many of our people.
            This community, the Misioneras Hermanas del Divino Espiritu, have been and continue to be blessed with many vocations.  Their main purpose is to form "missionaries" to go forth "ad gentes" (to the nations) bringing the joy of the Gospel to many parts of the world.  While they have Sisters in approximately 15 other countries, they only had one "mission" outside South America, that is in Italy.  The establishment of a "mission" in our Diocese of Kalamazoo is only the second time to send Sisters further away than South America, and the first time to send Sisters to the United States.  We are truly blessed. 
            The good news that has resulted from these two important meetings today is that Mother, in the name of the community, and I, in the name of the Diocese, are in full agreement that we want to see this community send Sisters to our Diocese for years to come, even after the Catholic Extension grant is depleted.  We rejoice in this good news, and we will need to be focusing on the ways we need to put in place to make sure that we have the wherewithal to do so.
Mother Consuelo and Bishop Bradley

            In the late afternoon, two of the Sisters joined Fr. Fabio and I in visiting with the parents and family of one of our priests, Fr. Evelio Ramirez (pastor of Holy Angels in Sturgis and St. Joseph in White Pigeon).  Mr./Mrs. Ramirez are beautiful people who have given the world 9 children, including Fr. Evelio.  Most of their family live nearby here in La Ceja, and many of them were present for our visit.  In keeping with traditional rules of hospitality, they fed (over fed) us with delicious foods.  What a wonderful time to spend with them.  We will celebrate a special Mass for Mr/Mrs. Ramirez on Friday evening as they anticipate the celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary in April. 
Bishop Bradley visits Fr. Evelio's parents along with Fr. Fabio. 

            We returned to the Motherhouse in time to pray Vespers with the Sisters, followed by an hour-long time of prayer and praise.  I must say that I was deeply moved by this prayer experience that comes directly from the very essence of the charisms of this community who are devoted to the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  As I said in one of my Tweets for today, praying with these Sisters is truly a "heavenly" experience.  I wish you all could have this same opportunity.  I want you all to know that during that very special time of prayer, I prayed for all of you----all of our Faithful and our priests/deacons/seminarians----and all the special intentions that are so near and dear to your hearts.  I can also assure you that these dear Sisters pray regularly for our Diocese and all the good priests and people here in the Diocese of Kalamazoo.

            Having completed a very long and full day, I entrust all of you, this night and the remainder of this Pastoral visit to the loving intercession of our dear Blessed Mother, whose "Yes" began our salvation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Day One - Pastoral Visit to Colombia

Today was primarily a very long travel day, beginning with a 6:00 a.m. flight to Chicago, then on to Panama, and finally arriving in Medellin a little after 5:00 p.m. (We are in the same time zone as back in Kalamazoo).  We were both very grateful that the flights were all uneventful, no long layovers between flights, and all our bags arrived at the same time we did.  Waiting for us outside the baggage terminal at the Medellin airport were Mother Consuelo and  Sister Mary Teresa.  While this part of the world is known as "eternal Spring" with moderate and pleasant temperatures all year long, we are at the time of year for the rains, so the weather was cloudy, grey and rainy.      
    The drive to the Motherhouse in La Ceja took less than an hour on narrow roads shared by cars, trucks, busses, motorbikes and bicycles.  It takes a very skilled driver to maneuver all the various traffic, and Sister Mary Teresa did a fine job.
    We arrived at the Motherhouse to see all the Sisters (about 25) standing outside ready to warmly greet us.  They sang us spirited songs of welcome, and gave us beautiful gifts of a sombrero for each of us (mine reminds me of a big 10-gallon white cowboy hat) along with a beautiful hand-woven shawl.  After getting a chance to greet each and every one of the young sisters/postulants (average age probably 25), we went into the dining room for a delicious meal, followed by the highpoint of the day, celebrating Holy Mass together in their brand new chapel.

   The last time I was here, they had a dream of one day building a new chapel because what they had was small, and their numbers were growing.  Since then, and with the financial support of many of the generous people of our own Diocese (in particular the Parish of San Felipe de Jesus), the Sisters have built a gorgeous new Chapel---much larger than one would think of when thinking of a "chapel".  I celebrated the Mass in Spanish and attempted to preach as well in Spanish, and all in all, we had a beautiful and prayerful celebration of the Holy Eucharist.  The Sisters of the Holy Spirit sing with that very same sense---that they are filled with the joy and life of the Spirit within them.  
   Following the Mass, it was time for everyone to retire after a very long but wonderful day.  Father Fabio and I are both staying here in the Motherhouse, and each of us were shown to our very nice guest rooms, where I for one, had a restful and welcome sleep, bringing this first day of our pastoral visit to a peaceful conclusion.