Queridos amigos y amigas:
This is the first letter I've written since coming back from Quito. I had to buy a new laptop here. My old one was not functioning. I was able to transfer almost all the information from Ecuador to my new one. I am typing this in English. Two women have volunteered to translate this letter into Spanish, so I can send it to Quito. I didn't have a good chance to say good-bye when I left. On the day before, we had to make three trips to notaries to transfer my car. Then, at the airport when I was leaving, there was a rope separating those leaving from those staying. I want to send this translated letter and a special note to those who came to the airport in Quito to wish me goodbye.
I am in good health. Everybody says I look great. I guess I must have looked like death last winter. The scare last winter was because of an infection from a pacemaker, which, I guess, was not really necessary. Anyway, they took it out and didn't replace it. I haven't been sick a day since.
As you remember, in July we had a medical mission of 13 doctors, nurses, and translators. Because on international flights everyone is allowed two suitcases, during the week the medical mission was in Quito I filled 13 suitcases with my stuff. When they left, each person on the medical team carried a suitcase back to the U.S. for me. Then, two days after I came back in August, we had a reunion of the team at Dr. Colin Sumida's house. They put the suitcases in my car for me (my car has 226,000 miles, about 360K kilometers.) As a result, I have most of my Quito belongings. Two days after the reunion I went to a public library to think and cry. I knew I was going to miss the people in Ecuador, whom I had loved more than I had loved the people in any previous parish. But then something dawned on me. I realized that, just as I have kept up contact with and visited people in my previous parishes up here, so I can go back to Quito and hopefully stay in the same blue-colored casa where I stayed in my last year there. Especially if there will be another medical mission which I can host in July 2015.
Now I'd like to say a little about the Quito programs. In previous letters I told of how the soup kitchen, which the QBO organization funded, is being transitioned to an Ecuadorian funded Food Pantry. I also told of how the Adult Education program, another QBO organization funded program, was going to be continued by Ecuadorian paid and certified teachers. Both of these programs have reached our goal of self-sufficiency. Going forward www.QuitoBarrioOutreach.org will continue to fund the Day Care Center and the Medical Clinic, with a plan in place that anticipates the Medical Clinic being self-supporting by end of 2015. All of this has been made possible by your generous donations, from which we have a surplus to fund these last two programs well into 2015. As a result, we are contemplating the need for another Quito Raffle and Celebration. TBD so stay tuned.
What have I been doing? (1) I have agreed to say Mass every Sunday morning in a rehabilitation center, run by Franciscan Sisters, at 10:45. (2) I still say Mass every Saturday morning at my old parish, St. Thomas, at 8:30 AM and meet with a men's group until 9:30. (3) In the parish where I am staying, Our Lady of Mercy, on Wednesday mornings a large group meets to view Father Bob Barron's 10 -DVD set named "Catholicism". There are two groups - one in English and one in Spanish. I stay with the Spanish group. (4) I have home Masses in Spanish for a group I've formed from various parishes. That's what I'm doing in my official Diocese of Joliet.
But I feel that God is calling me to a third mission in my priesthood, after 36 years in suburbia and then 12 years in Ecuador, to work with poor Spanish-speaking people, especially the elderly housebound and those near death. I feel that I have something to offer. The Mexican priests who come to this area know the people's culture and faith style, but they don't know American culture or style of faith. On the other hand, those Chicago-area priests who have learned Spanish in a university may know the language but they don't know the Spanish culture or faith style. I feel that I know a little of both.
There is a parish in Aurora, St Teresa's (in the Rockford diocese), but only 12 minutes by car from where I'm living at Our Lady of Mercy. I have agreed to give a Bible class in Spanish every Saturday night at 7:00 PM, and often to say the 6:00 PM Mass in Spanish beforehand. I have met with the principal of the struggling Catholic school there, who is a parishioner of my old parish St. Thomas, and we will start a Young Christian Students group like I had in Ecuador. We are also going to start an English language program for men and families, using the school building in the evening. There is a nearby program in the old church run by Sisters, but it's only for women, and it's during the day. I have also met with the permanent deacon in charge of religious education, and he is scheduling me to give two adult Bible courses during the week, one in English and one in Spanish.
Do you remember Byron Sigcho? The last call I received while in Ecuador was from his mother, a nurse in Quito. She told me to contact Byron in Chicago. Byron is a Quito native who got his doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago. As part of his studies, he did a survey of the needs in the upper barrio Mirador as we were deciding to install water purifiers. He also helped us in Rancho Alto, especially with legal problems with the daycare center Miguelito. Now he is working with gangs in Chicago. We met, and he took me to a church in Chicago where I might be able to help out. I enjoyed the visit.
Do you remember Jose Cruz? He is bilingual, and came on five missions to Quito, both medical and construction. He just dropped by, and we went to lunch. He counseled me to be sure that many of the people I will be working with are not recent arrivals, but have already been partly "Americanized." It was great to see him again. He spends a lot of time in Florida.
Lastly, Mike Fekety, head of www.QuitoBarrioOutreach.org, has made contact with Our Lady of Mercy parish in Chicago. It is right next to the Ecuadorian House which is a gathering place for the Chicago-based Ecuadorian community, and has strong ties to the Ecuadorian consulate. I swear I know some of the people there, and that they have helped us financially in the past. I will check this community out soon.
Thanks for your constant support. Please keep me in your prayers.
Father (Padre) Don (Donaldo)