The End

17 Feb

I do apologize for taking so long to officially end When in Juarez.

The last thing that I wanted to do was post pictures of my extraordinary, blessed journey.

You can view them on Facebook, but you don’t have to have a Facebook account.

Here is a sampling…

Our lambs on an outing.
On the left is Mayra, she is the one who gave me a
blessing at the end of the day and said,“I love you for you.”
Alma is in the middle and Teresa is on the right.
Sr. Mary Carmen and Sr. Lisa Marie help one of the youths
strike a pinata at a Christmas party.
Jorge (l) and Sr. Mary Carmen (far right) work on getting the recycling together.
011 marcello art

I have enjoyed celebrating my time with God’s most precious children and the volunteers, caregivers, friends, sisters, and servants with you. Thank you for your kindness, your love, your prayers.

Thank you so much for coming on my journey.


May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Traditional Gaelic blessing

Why did you want to come to Juarez?

31 Dec

A couple of people asked me the question, “Why did you want to come to Juarez?” in a variety of ways, but one woman asked, “Why did you want to come to Juarez, even some of my family won’t come here to visit me.”

As I said in the post, “In the beginning…” my coming to Juarez most likely started out as a joke; I never really thought that anyone would take me seriously. My very first post, “What do you know about Juarez?” addressed this question directly, sort of; basically I said that I knew nothing about Juarez except that I had to go there.

I knew nothing about Juarez. I knew almost no Spanish. I had no idea how cold it would be. I would be hearing Christmas Mass in a language I did not know. I would not even have stable living arrangements as the sisters were moving. But God wanted me to go, and I am His servant.

When you mention Juarez, people think of violence and drugs and corruption. I did not see that. I saw love and poverty and faith. There is a neighborhood near El Manantial that is very poor; the houses are sitting on hills of dirt with tires and garbage neatly piled around and barbed wire like you would see around prison walls. In the middle of this extraordinary poverty there was hope, laughter, and faith. Christmas decorations adorned the houses, images of Our Lady of Guadalupe lined the street, and one house had a large simple wooden cross.

I am not naive, I know that Juarez has been hit by violence, but so has Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and every other major city–Juarez just got the worst publicity.

We have been given the gift of faith, we must extend that faith not just to God, but to our neighbor as well. Have faith in your neighbor’s ability to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t do the right thing your faith is a gift he will cherish and may save his life one day.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
— Mother Teresa

P.S. I wanted to come to Juarez because God told me to go. I want to go back to Juarez because I have faith in all who I met.

La Misa & The Mass

29 Dec

I spent yesterday nearly missing a plane in El Paso and really nearly missing a plane in Phoenix;  hence, no blog, just a posting on Facebook of me in the Phoenix airport (and no, that wasn’t why I was running down the tunnel to the plane after everyone else had boarded and was seated).


Thankfully, my flight was early enough that I was able to attend evening Mass in Owensboro.

I have not been to an English-speaking Mass in a month. I spent all of Advent and Christmas in another country and celebrated Mass in another language. I was honored but horribly confused.

When we went to Mass there was a major difference I noticed right away: it was warm. I don’t mean the atmosphere of the church was warm (although it certainly was), I mean the church was physically warm. Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Juarez has a definitively warm atmosphere but a definitively cold climate.

The responses to the Mass here sounded rehearsed and without feeling, the responses to the Mass in Juarez were varied and filled with depth. Someone from Juarez who doesn’t speak English may say the exact opposite. (When you’re having a new experience, even a road sign can fill you with amazement.)

This does not mean the people in Juarez are praying with more depth than the people in Owensboro, one group of people is not praying harder than another, one person is not praying harder than another. Each person prays to God in a way that is unique to him or her. Each way that we pray is beautiful. Each way was formed by God, and He loves to hear us pray no matter how it sounds to the person sitting next to us.

What was most important about the Mass in Owensboro on Friday and my last Mass in Juarez on Thursday is that the Eucharist stayed the same. The miracle of the bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Jesus Christ was still there. That miracle was the same. I felt the same excitement, I saw the same angels, I heard the same everything–that doesn’t change, because that miracle is everywhere all the time for all time.

Art Corpus Christi

And me without my camera…

27 Dec

How many times have you been walking down the street, seen something incredible, and thought, “I wish I had my camera.” I had that moment yesterday at El Manantial while playing soccer in the parking lot with some of the youths.

When animals are cooped up, it’s only fair that you let them roam a little bit from time to time, which is what they let the lambs do at El Manantial; they go outside of their pen for a little bit–it’s a nice little break. Yesterday, they got a big  break.


As I am just about to kick the soccer ball to one of my favorite people, I look up and there is Sr. Mary Carmen on the other side of the parking lot with about eight lambs following her as she hands them food. She leads them around with her tremendous smile, and all who watched were smiling too.

My first thought was, “I wish I had my camera.”

My second thought was, “I’m glad I don’t have my camera.”

There are some moments that we should just enjoy, we do  not need to record every moment in order to understand it. I’ve been here for a month and probably taken over a thousand photographs (that’s the problem with digital cameras, you don’t know how many pictures you’re actually taking, you just click away).


It is okay not to remember everything, it’s even okay to have different accounts of the same story–the Gospels do a pretty good job with that and people gain more because of it.

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John 21:22-25

Christmas Eve Mass

26 Dec

Christmas Eve Mass was like any other Mass, I guess, it was in Spanish, so I don’t know, but it had the same basic format, except for one thing.

After the priest gave us his blessing, and all the children were rubbing their eyes, and the girls had pulled out their pretty little bows (which I’m sure the mothers had spent a very long time trying to put in), everyone started lining up. I didn’t know what was going on, but I thought it must be pretty important because Padre was holding the baby Jesus that was going to be placed in the manger scene.

baby jesus in crib

He lifted the porcelain statue high and low, left and right, this way and that way. People were kissing this small porcelain statue–some kissed its hand, some its belly, some its foot, some its forehead.

I completely flipped out. I did not completely see what was happening until it was almost my turn. I wanted to say, “What do I do?” The priest doesn’t speak English; the first time he gave me communion he kindly said, “Body of Christ” (what a way to welcome a temporary member of your flock).

Then, I suddenly knew what to do.

I took the statue slightly into my own hands and kissed its forehead and said, “Thank you.”

When I receive the Eucharist, the most important part of my life, I feel as though the priest is laying Jesus in the cradle of my hands.

virgin mary cradling

We do  not worship statues of course, but they remind us of how we feel about the things that are most important in our lives.

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

Luke 2:15-20

La Paz de Cristo

26 Dec

During church services there is a place where you greet your neighbor with a sign of peace; it’s usually a handshake, but sometimes it’s a hug or a kiss if it’s a close friend or a family member.

One of the first things I noticed here was during la Paz de Cristo I was getting genuine hugs as if I’d known these people for years; admittedly, I was sitting with people they knew well. However, even when we were around people who didn’t know us I was getting handshakes with that same genuineness.

What really made the sign of peace special is people reaching over pews to shake a stranger’s hand. They didn’t just nod or smile broadly, they stretched across a pew, and some of them did this with difficulty, but they still did it because they love their neighbor.


The above cartoon kind of says it all because I did not know how to react. In the culture I come from you don’t do this. You shake the person’s hand, say peace, and move on.

But why?

We worry about offending another person by hugging them, we don’t want to invade personal space, we don’t want to make the other person feel uncomfortable, we’re only going to be with this person for an hour and may never see them again.

All of these are valid reasons, but there is one thing that trumps every reason we may have to not be completely genuine in our sign of peace–we’re worshiping God together. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

When I return will I start hugging and kissing strangers? No, because in my culture that makes people feel uncomfortable. But, I will strive to show more genuineness when I greet my brother or my sister.

I got used to the hugging and the kissing pretty and the total love to a stranger pretty quickly, I was just taken off guard.

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 12:49-50


25 Dec



And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7