I am writing because I want to communicate some important things with you today, as you will see.
Things have almost settled down here in Quito. We had only one more sacrament ceremony: Confirmation at San Antonio this past Saturday. Now things are becoming normal. The new young pastor, Padre Santiago, has increased the number of ceremonies. He had four First Communion Masses, with a Mass for the Dead in between, in one day. Then he arranged for four Confirmation Masses in one day. He is only 29, but it will be hard for him to keep this up.
The community of San Antonio de Rancho Alto really celebrated the feast of St. Anthony. Before the feast, we had a novena - prayer meetings in different homes for nine days. That's when I see my people's poverty and feel like a real missionary. Then, on the feast, June 13, for the first time we had a play about his life. Then, in the barrio center, there was a combination folk group dance and then everyone danced. Saturday we, especially the young people, had more fun. On Sunday, Padre and I concelebrated First Communion in Rancho Alto. He went along with my giving the Host in the hand. Usually the people here receive on the tongue. This will be my last time I participate in sacraments done ála Latin America.
It has always been my intent to give a talk on drug abuse prevention to the parents in the nearby school, Aleman, where many of you have worked on construction. Senor Angel, who is both a teacher in the school and now the barrio president, provided the barrio central building, sent out a letter to the parents, and estimated that about 15 would come. I prepared handouts for about 20. Those who came numbered 55! I guess I should have started doing this earlier during my time here.
Sister Lourdes, who is both a doctor and a nun, is no longer administrator of the Quito hospital San José Obrero, of which our clinic is a branch. I will miss her. I had a chance to say good-bye to her. The new administrator for our clinic is Sister Margarita, who is also the Mistress of Postulants in the house directly opposite the church Santa Cruz and across the playground from the clinic. Most of my time here for this summer will be working with her to evaluate and improve the services offered by our clinic.
Everyone here is agog about the World Cup, the largest international sports event. Ecuador lost to Switzerland, 2-1, with only 20 seconds left. Many people in town wear Ecuadoran colored shirts to celebrate their country's team - blue and yellow - on the day of their games. Last Monday the U.S. scored a goal within one minute of the start, then the game was scoreless for 85 minutes, and then Ghana scored a tying goal. But the U.S. almost immediately came through with another goal and won, 2-1. And on Sunday it was a thrilling game against Portugal, which ended in a tie. Everybody is excited about the games. It's like Chicago was when the Sox won the World series in 2005, or when the Bears won the Superbowl after the 1985 season.
Now the personal stuff: As some of you know, I have decided to "retire" as a missionary here and come home. For four (4) years I've been saying to myself: "It's time for me to go. I've done my thing here." In Nov. 2011 Paddy and I agreed that it was time to turn Santa Cruz over to someone younger. In March of 2012 I told him and the Sisters that I was leaving, I was sure that God was calling me to the rainforest. I spent much of 2012-2013 in the rainforest, six visits and 55 days in all. It was exciting, but my body couldn't handle the heat. Five doctors advised me not to continue there. But I'm glad I went. In the rainforest I was a real missionary in places which hardly ever see a priest - Baptisms, Funerals, First Communions, classes on drug prevention in three high schools.
Then I thought I should try things with the new pastor, but almost immediately after Paddy left I got sick. I was out of action for six months. The new priest had to handle everything by himself over Christmas, and did a good job without my help. Another factor: my Spanish is getting worse every year. It's noticeable. Recently someone came to me with a problem, but because of my weakening Spanish I couldn't be there for her So at this time I feel that I can do more good in the States than down here.
Besides all this external stuff I've long had the feeling that I have another mission somewhere else in life, something different to do somewhere. I know it's time to go. I'm 81. I want to move now, while I'm still healthy.
I've started to say my "second-to-last-time I'll see you" good-byes to people: the kids and principal of both the schools, Diego Abad below and Aleman nearby. My old friend Cristina, who was a postulant twice and left, and is now the mother of a five year-old-boy, dropped by and I said good-bye. I've started to give "remember me" gifts to close friends ... I have interior peace, though I don't know exactly what I will be doing, or where, up there in the States. It's in God's hands.
Another reason I am writing is to invite you to a "coming home" event. For four nights, July 7- July 10, I will be giving a mission-retreat at the parish where I was pastor for 12 years, St. Mary's in Downers Grove. I will be sharing what I have learned in Quito about the faith from these simple, uneducated people. That is: how to subtract, how to push stuff - philosophy, psychology, theology - aside and just focus on Jesus. That's the faith for me now: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Each night the talks will focus on one of the Gospels: Monday on Mark; Tuesday on Matthew; Wednesday on Luke, and Friday on John. I will be sharing where I am now, after 12 years here, and hoping you can come closer to Jesus.
My schedule: I will be in the Naperville-area from July 1 to July 15. Then I will come back to Quito to host the medical mission in late July. After that I will stay in Quito for a bit, working on improving the publicity and services of the clinic, and to say good-bye. I plan to "retire" and come home on August 14, but that date can be changed.
Tidbits: Before I leave, I want to go, with my friend Carlos Maldonaldo, to the top of Mt. Chimborazo. Then I will be farther from the very center of the planet Earth than those who climb to the top of Mt. Everest. This is because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but is flattened at the poles and budges out at the equator, which is the site of Mt. Chimborazo....Though I won't be here the whole season, I signed up for the baseball channels, which usually show only Eastern teams: Yankees, Red Sox, Mets. To my surprise they had the White Sox on seven times. The Sox repaid my loyalty by losing all seven games....Sister Rosa had to have an injection in each eye recently. She is gradually losing her sight.
Thanks to all who have made these past 12 years absolutely fabulous.