This weekend, as you read this article, several Knights of Columbus and their sons, grandsons or nephews are traveling with me on our annual (usually) trip to Guatemala. There we will work on several construction projects in the rain forest at the Father Tom Moran Vocational School. Most of the men will be constructing combination tables and benches and a few more bunk beds; and one man (chef) will be assisting in training some of the kitchen staff of the restaurant that is owned and run by the students, teaching them how to prepare foods for the tourists and other customers who arrive by motor launch from the cruise ships that stop across the bay from our hotel. I’ll be using my talents to teach English to future waiters at the restaurant, in order to better serve their customers from overseas. I’ll also be celebrating the Masses (in English and Spanish) at the school, our hotel and in one of the village multi-purpose huts that serves as a town hall and church. The locals are grateful because they rarely get to have a priest visit them because of the shortage of vocations to religious life and the incursion of the evangelicals and other Protestant missionaries who try to convert the poorly formed peasant Catholic villagers away from their Catholic roots.

Among our men will be three permanent deacons (including our Deacon Greg and our parish manager, Deacon Bob). Each day, they will help me conduct Masses and lead us in praying the Liturgy of the Hours (official Church prayer), besides sharing in the work of the other laborers. All of these volunteers give up a week’s vacation, and pay their own way to fly to this slightly overgrown “Garden of Eden.” They are true stewards of the many gifts with which God has blessed them, and they willingly share them with those who are less blessed with wealth and other material things. I thank all of those parishioners who have supported us with their special giving in the recent second collection that helps make the trip possible, and I will be offering some Mass intentions for them while in Guatemala. I ask that you pray for our continued safety and the success of our mission.

Among the many items you have helped us to deliver is a brand new 18 passenger van for transporting thee kids to medical centers to care for their health needs, and that also will be used to transport us from the hotel to the bus station, and to the ancient Mayan capital of Antigua Guatemala at the end of the week. There we can get a little “R&R” and pick up some souvenirs for our families and friends. The old and smaller original van (22 years old) has seen better days (we were able to see the street through the floorboards the last time we came). In a 50-50 sharing of that expense – St. Vincent Ferrer Parish and the Florida State Council of the Knights of Columbus – you have done a true corporal work of mercy by helping make this possible. The kids and I THANK YOU!

We will be returning late next Sunday evening, tired and exhausted by our labors, but also will be invigorated by the experience, as anyone who has made this trip before will tell you. One thing, for sure, is that the many children you help by your support of this program, will not be the ones trying to cross our southern border illegally, but will be praying for you and advancing the cause of developing their own talents and skills by staying in school and learning the ways of self-help — with a little help from their “Gringo” friends up north! Que Dios te bendiga !