Missioner tales

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I had recently arrived in Peru and was assigned to Taraco in the department of Puno, 13,000 feet above sea level. Every six months we had to take a break from the physical stress of the high altitude. I decided to go to Lima by way of Cuzco and Machu Picchu, the famous Inca ruins. I arranged a tour to the ruins. The woman at the tour agency said, “Be here this afternoon at 2. You are the 15th member to sign up for the tour.”

I arrived on time to find that my 14 companions were seven elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their wives. I, dressed in Roman collar and black suit, was pretty much the tour guide in the cathedral in Cuzco and in the churches we visited. The following day, my new Mormon friends shared with me their sandwiches and beverages on the railroad trip to Machu Picchu. Naturally, we talked a lot about religion!

James V. Roth, M.M.


One day when I was visiting a village in East Timor, I was surrounded suddenly by a bunch of barking dogs. I was “rescued” by a little girl named Paulina, who started throwing rocks at the dogs. Soon the dogs ran away and I thanked Paulina for helping me. I wondered why Paulina wasn’t in school because I had encouraged her to register for the first grade. After I finished visiting another family, I went to see Paulina’s mother, who told me Paulina wasn’t going to school because she didn’t have a uniform. Well, I could help with that. I took Paulina to the market and bought her a uniform. When I saw her a year later, Paulina proudly told me she was entering second grade.

Mary Mullady, M.M.


Once a month in the parish in El Salvador where I served as a Maryknoll lay missioner, the neediest families would come to the chapel for the children’s nutritional program. There they would receive about $8 worth of rice, beans, sugar, salt and other staples for the equivalent of $2. If they could not afford the payment, they were exempt. Social outreach promoters would weigh each child. Many who began the program malnourished improved with time.

Early on the morning of the distribution day, we would gather with the promoters to prepare the food portions. We also sold used clothing, toiletries, food and basic goods at bare-bones prices. With the difficult economic situation, more families were seeking aid. We enjoyed working with the promoters, with whom we shared a common mission of helping the community’s poorest residents. Each time we came, Sonia, a promoter who lived in the area, would escort us to our vehicle, even though we parked directly in front of the chapel. This was a violent gang area and she wanted to make sure we had no problems leaving.

Margo Cambier, MKLM


After a Small Christian Community workshop in the Geita Diocese in Tanzania, everyone gathered in the home of a community member for the traditional closing meal. Following the custom of the local Sukuma ethnic group, the men sat in a circle around the table. The women served and then ate sitting in the back of the room. But this time one person among the group politely challenged this custom, saying, “We have just finished a workshop where everyone participated equally.
Now we eat in a way that makes women second-class. Let us all sit around the table in a big circle and eat together.” And so it was done. This was a real learning experience for all the men and women present.

Joseph G. Healey, M.M.


It is common in the markets of Bolivia to see small altars with statues of Jesus, Mary and some of the saints. People bring flowers and light candles when they stop to pray at these altars. One day while our late Maryknoll Sister Marilyn Belt was visiting the mother of a young boy, the mother suddenly noticed that her child’s hair was singed. When the mother asked why his hair was burnt, he replied: “I was talking to God and my hair caught on fire!”

Apparently, the boy got too close to a lit candle on one of the altars.

Joyce Hylazewski, M.M.

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