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An Encounter With Jesus in Jamaica View Comments
By Suzanne Rose

THE BISHOP’S VAN let our Pilgrims of Hope group of 11 women and men off at the end of the dusty drive in front of a long, concrete building. With a bit of paint and polish, the Missionaries of Charity had transformed this former warehouse into a nursing home for the elderly, those abandoned in the streets and on the hillsides of Jamaica. Many of these seniors were left behind by adult children, who sought better lives in more prosperous countries.

In a country with a crushing unemployment rate, the desire for better living conditions has left many elderly Jamaicans impoverished, without family to care for them. The sisters of this congregation, founded by Blessed Mother Teresa, minister to the destitute, or “the poorest of the poor.” The Missionaries of Charity do not lack work in this Third World country.

Mary Help of Christians is lettered over the doorway in blue; the entire building in Balaclaza, Jamaica, is painted the blue and white of Our Lady’s colors. The wish for Peace to All Who Enter Here greets visitors and residents who enter through the building’s oversized doors.

A young woman, dressed in the white and blue sari worn by members of this community, welcomes us. Two large German shepherds follow her as she begins a tour of the facility.

Men occupy the first floor of the building. The dogs pad quietly through the corridors, accompanying us into the women’s quarters on the second floor, where we will work alongside the sisters during the day.

Sister reviews the medical stock in the storeroom to evaluate what may be useful to us as we minister to the residents. The few supplies on the shelf take only a moment to count. Rubbing alcohol seems to be the common treatment for ailments.

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Suzanne Rose is the volunteer coordinator with a refugee resettlement agency and also the founder of Pilgrims of Hope. Her article “St. Monica and Me” (August 2010) described how the survival of her son, Jeremiah, now 32, who worked near the World Trade Center, brought her into the Catholic Church in 2003. She and her husband, Tom, have two other children, Bethany, 30, and Emily, 16, and live in Owensboro, Kentucky.

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Pedro de San José Betancur: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de San José Betancur by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002. Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. 
<p>Calling the new saint an “outstanding example” of Christian mercy, the Holy Father noted that St. Pedro practiced mercy “heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.” Speaking to the estimated 500,000 Guatemalans in attendance, the Holy Father spoke of the social ills that plague the country today and of the need for change. </p><p>“Let us think of the children and young people who are homeless or deprived of an education; of abandoned women with their many needs; of the hordes of social outcasts who live in the cities; of the victims of organized crime, of prostitution or of drugs; of the sick who are neglected and the elderly who live in loneliness,” he said in his homily during the three-hour liturgy. </p><p>Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line that the Franciscans had established. </p><p>Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. </p><p>Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. </p><p>He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve <i>posadas</i> procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. </p><p>Pedro was canonized in 2002.</p> American Catholic Blog We sometimes try to do everything on our own, forgetting that the Lord wants to help us. Let's never be afraid to admit that we are weak and can't do things on our own. St. Paul gives us a great example: "On my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:5).


 
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