Sunday, June 17, 2007

Greetings from Rome!

Taken on the terrace outside our room at the VOICA house

Picnic in Y'voire with Therese and Paul

Ilaria, Lucy, Diggy and Mary in St. Peter's Square

Convent of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa

Diggy, Sr. Lisa, Ilaria, Sr. Pat, Mary and Lucy after one of our sessions

Statue of St. Magdalene of Canossia, Foundress of the Daughters and Sons of Charity of Canossa

View near the Canossian Institute at night

Dear Family and Friends,

I am thrilled to be at this first stop of my mission journey: Rome. Overall, my trip here went smoothly after recovering my passport which was accidentally given to another passenger at check-in, and being bumped to a Lufthansa flight and routed through Frankfurt rather than an Air Canada flight via Montreal. I arrived in Paris June 7 (with my guitar, but minus my checked bag), and got on TGV train to Lyon where I spent two days resting and exploring.

The evening of June 9, I began my stay with Thérèse and Paul, wonderful models of French hospitality. The following day we picnicked on the shore of Lake Leman by the medieval village of Y’voire and went on to see Evian and other villages in the area. Not sure that they had shown me enough that day, they got up at 5:30 the following morning to show me the town of Chambéry before my bus left from there at 8:30. The bus took me through amazingly long tunnels (Fergus, the longest is 13 kilometers) to Milan where I took a train to Rome where I arrived about 8:30 in the evening. I was met in the train station by Sr. Lisa, the assistant director of VOICA.

Sr. Lisa drove us through the crazy traffic of Rome to what will be my “home” for the next couple months. The Canossian Institute is situated on a hill a couple of kilometers south of the Vatican in full view of the Dome of St. Peter. The walled grounds are filled with grass, parasol pines, walkways lined with tall hedges and birds constantly singing. Across the road is and immense park. It feels like we live in the country, but in the middle of Rome. It takes about twenty minutes to walk to the Vatican. The buildings and land of the institute were donated by a childless countess. What is now the convent used to be servants’ quarters. What used to be the barn is now volunteer housing for VOICA. The buildings are hundreds of years old. They tell us there is even a tunnel from the convent directly to the Vatican (now sealed). I feel like I’m living in a fairy tale . (My lost luggage even arrived by courier the day after I did.)

Three other volunteers will be participating in formation this summer along with me: Mary, a nurse from Minnesota who will spend a year in Togo, Lucy a pediatrician originally from Malaysia, but most recently from Louisiana who will serve for two years in West Timor, and Ilaria, a banker from the north of Italy who will spend a year serving in Togo. Diggy also lives in the VOICA house. She is from the Philippines and served in Papua New Guinea and Togo. She also helps in formation. We began formation sessions on Thursday with Sr. Pat, the director of VOICA who spent sixteen years in Hong Kong teaching before becoming the director of VOICA ten years ago. The language of the formation sessions and the house is English.

In formation sessions we’ve begun to learn about the history and spirituality of the Canossians. June 25 through July 24 is missionary month when sisters and priests from all over the world come to share their mission experiences. In August we will learn more about theology, mission spirituality, culture and working in mission. September 1 is the planned departure date.

I will be going to Aru, Congo, near the Ugandan border where there is a great need for teachers. The Canossian community was established in Congo fifty years ago, but I will be the pioneering lay volunteer going there through VOICA. Sr. Pat says I will be working mostly with Italians, so I may want to learn some Italian along with my French. Mama mia;-0. I plan to spend a lot of time studying.

Today Mary and I attended mass in French at St. Louis church where the French Catholic community of Rome is centered. It happened to be their parish party/concert/gathering for beginning of summer break. I stayed for several hours and met quite a few people who speak French including a man from Acapulco, Mexico, who teaches biblical studies courses in New York and used to live in the St. Louis community in Rome. He introduced my to several other people there.

I love the international and Catholic flavor of Rome. The day after my arrival I attended a Mass and party in honor of Filipino Independence Day! Half of the church was filled with priests and sisters and the other half with diplomats.

My time in Europe so far has been filled with delight, surprises and excitement for what is to come. There are many, many opportunities to learn, grow and prepare here and I am thrilled to have begun.

A bien tôt, hasta pronto, ciao!

Love and prayers,


Thank you!

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings from Rome! All is well here with me. You are often in my thoughts and prayers.

I am eager to share my experiences of the last ten days with you, but first I want to thank you all for your generous and multi-faceted support as I prepared to depart from Denver. Thank you Ben, Kathy and Kristi for planning and hosting a delightful going away party with my Denver friends (and thank you Kathy for my song). Thank you Uncle John and Aunt Madelyn for hosting my wonderful Grand Junction goodbye party with our family. Thank you St. Dominic Parish for your blessings and financial support. Thank you Tony for letting me store my stuff in your garage and for giving me flowers each time I brought a load. It made my move much more pleasant. Thank you Lydia, José and Doris for your hard work and efficiency in moving my furniture and other stuff in you trucks the Saturday before my departure. Thank you Chuck Murphy and David for making the sale of my house possible. Thank you John for recording my song on short notice. Thank you Mom and Dad agreeing to receive my mail and take care of my affairs while I’m away, for assisting me with my last minute errands, for helping me keep my sanity the day before leaving Denver and for seeing me off at the airport. Thank you Paul and Thérèse for welcoming me to Europe with your wonderful French hospitality.

Thank you all for the many ways you have blessed me with your spiritual, emotional, practical and financial support of my plans and desire for mission. I couldn’t have made it here without you!

It’s amazing how God provided everyone and everything I needed for me to leave. I received an offer on my house June 1, the last day of my novena to St. Joseph, five days before my departure. The inspection was done June 3, and the closing is set for June 28!

Grazie, merci, gracias, thank you!