Catholic Mission Honduras
Celebrating the 11th straight high school
mission team into Honduras, Gehlen Catholic Schools hosted a send-off ceremony
for 29 high school students and adults on Thursday, March 25th in the
school gymnasium. This ceremony has become a wonderful expression of faith and
tradition for the entire school and community. This year’s theme, ‘Watching Over
Me…’ became the central focus of the entire ceremony. After a brief introduction
to the program by Richard Seivert, director of Mission Honduras, Sara Roder, an
8th grade Gehlen student, sang a beautiful rendition of ‘O God, You
Search Me,’ accompanied by Bev Evans.
A very special part of this year’s ceremony involved the
recognition of Sister Joan Polak and Linda Reichle for all their work and effort
in the mission program of Gehlen. They were presented with ‘The Cross of Gehlen
Catholic Mission Honduras.’ This was only the fourth time in the history of the
program that someone had been recognized with this honor.
This year’s program featured another special presentation
from Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras to our local Le Mars Rotary Club. Our
local club, coupled with other Rotary clubs in the Midwest, joined with
International Rotary in funding the water project that this team would work on
in the village of La Florida. Father Kevin Richter and Carolyn Bickford
presented the Rotary members who were present with a plaque of recognition.
For the Lord
Jesus Christ's sake, Do all the good you can,
To all the people you can,
In all the ways you can,
As long as ever you can.
After watching a shortened version of last year's
production of the mission journey, Fr. Jerome Cosgrove from Bishop Heelan
Schools spoke to the entire assembly about the importance of this year’s theme,
‘Watching Over Me...’ Fr. Cosgrove was on the mission team of 2009 and spoke
from experience when he shared with everyone ‘that God does watch over all of
us was such a meaningful theme for our trip.
As we celebrated the liturgy,
we lived the message in all that
we did during the time
we were there.
~ Fr. Jerome Cosgrove
Chaperone from Heelan
An emotional and very special part of the ceremony unfolded
when all missioners were introduced and presented with their t-shirts, crosses,
passion readings, and junta booklets by family members. As the 28 team members
formed a large circle in the center of the gym, six kindergarten students
carried in the wooden cross and placed it in the middle of the circle, followed
by senior and junior classmates who brought in the rest of the bags of donated
items. At one point all team members ceremoniously carried bags to the cross in
the center of the gym while the theme song ‘Watching Over Me…’ played in the
background – Fr. Kevin Richter, President of Gehlen, then blessed all missioners
and bags with Holy Water. The mission team overnighted in Omaha, Nebraska, on
Thursday night March 26th and flew out early the next morning for
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the start of this wonderful journey of ‘Watching Over
This year's mission team arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras,
right on schedule, Friday, March 26th. They were met at the airport
by Francis Seivert, one of the team leaders, who had spent the previous week in
Honduras making final preparations for this mission. This was his 65th trip into
Honduras and the 55th representing Gehlen’s program. The team arrived
without 10 of the 56 flight bags. It would be another two days before the team
had all the supplies and personal belongs in those late-to-arrive bags. Team
members are encouraged to live simply and humbly while in Honduras so the
absence of a few bags made little difference.
These 29 team members, 20 high school students and 9 adult
chaperones, represented 4 different school systems and came from 3 different
states. The chaperones were: Francis Seivert, Elkton, SD; Carolyn Bickford,
Bruce Kellen, Tim DeLarm, and Elizabeth Rogers, Le Mars, IA; Fr. Jerome
Cosgrove, Sioux City, IA; Sister Joan Polak, Omaha, NE; Linda Reichle,
Alton, IA; and Pat Jones, Orange City, IA. The 20 high school students were:
Cassie DeLarm, LeMars Community Schools; Kayla Frey, Sarah Liewer, Tony Tran,
Emily Weber, and Miguel Lopez-Campos from Bishop Heelan Schools, Sioux City, IA;
Katy Freidel and Liam Duffy from St. Thomas More Schools in Rapid City, SD;
and Jordan Sitzmann, Cole Heissel, Drew Kellen, Rachel Koopman, Shaun Ryan,
Sarah Jentz, Samantha Woerdehoff, Tera Langel, Leah Ruhland, Aaron Schlesser,
Paige Ellensohn, and Sara Mayer, from Gehlen Catholic Schools, Le Mars, IA.
Each missioner on all Gehlen Catholic mission trips is
responsible for all their own costs within the program. To date the Gehlen
program has placed 538 missioners on the ground in the second poorest country in
the western hemisphere. Gehlen sponsors two trips each year - a medical team in
January and a student team during the Easter season. Three other mission
programs have been created from this program - the Briar Cliff University
program in Sioux City, IA, the Sisters of St. Francis, from Dubuque, IA, and
the high school mission team from Springfield Catholic High in Springfield,
MO, which is making their first trip into Honduras this spring. The Gehlen
program, along with the Briar Cliff, the Sister Water Project, Mission Honduras
LeMars, and Rotary For Life Water Project, have completed 28 water projects to
date. Clean drinkable water, Kids Against Hunger food, and professional medical
care, remain the major goals of the Gehlen Catholic program. For more
information on the medical program please visit this same web site for the
January medical trips. For more information on Kids Against Hunger please visit
the Gehlen website at
www.gehlencatholic.com and find the Kids Against Hunger program under
people of Honduras taught me so much about the importance of having
gratitude and appreciation for all that I have been blessed with in my
life – and to never take anything for granted.
~ Leah Ruhland
After being met at the airport in Tegucigalpa, the team
made a three and a half hour bus ride to the small village of Esquias, Honduras.
Esquias is a small colonial village straight north of Tegucigalpa just inside
the district of Comayagua. The previous six mission teams into Honduras have
called Esquias their home while in the country; prior to Esquias the teams had
stayed in El Guante. Planning for this mission journey began in earnest in early
summer 2009 when Francis Seivert, Carolyn Bickford, and Richard Seivert,
traveled to Honduras to lay some initial groundwork.
was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful that I had the
opportunity to go.
~ Sara Mayer
This was an absolutely life changing experience. After returning from
Honduras, I now appreciate what I have in my life much more. I hope to
go back some day. If anyone ever has a chance to go on a mission trip
anywhere in the world, I suggest you take it.
~ Liam Duffy
St. Thomas More Junior
This year’s work project became a new water system in La
Florida, high in the mountains, 1 hour and 30 minutes from Esquias. La Florida
has always had surface water for all their needs. This project, when completed,
would bring clean drinkable water to this small village of 39 families and 166
people. This sprawling project involved building a huge reservoir to capture
water from a natural water source, constructing a brick and cement 5,000 gallon
water tank atop a hillside, the purchase of new gas powered pumps, digging
trenches from the tanks to each home in the village, burying the pipes
throughout the village, running a water line with a shut-off valve to each home,
hooking up the pumps to the tanks, and filling the tank with water. Once at the
tank all water projects are chlorinated to provide clean drinkable water for all
the people of the village. On different days throughout their 11 day mission
journey to Honduras this team of high school students went about the task of
this water system. On their last day in the village, Holy Saturday, the team
celebrated with the people of La Florida. Team members and village
representatives spoke about the effort and how important it was to the people.
The Gehlen team then passed out a number of the items donated from the States
and carried to Honduras. From toothpaste to shoes they handed gifts of
friendship to the people of La Florida. It was an amazing and emotional
experience for the high school students to say farewell to the people of this
village. The Gehlen program has three main goals for each mission journey into
Honduras: to do a work project in a poor rural village, to immerse themselves in
Easter Week religious celebrations, and to experience the poverty that grips so
much of Honduras and the world.
You make everything beautiful,
You make me complete.
Everything in my world
I lay at your feet...
~ lyrics from this year's
'A Bird without Wings' by Celtic Thunder
Along with the work project in La Florida this mission team
got to experience many of the other facets of Gehlen Mission Honduras, Kids
Against Hunger, and Mission Honduras LeMars. One morning the team got a chance
to stop in El Guante, Honduras, the site of Clinica Asistencial La Caridad. La
Caridad is a medical clinic constructed by donations through the Gehlen program
and Mission Honduras LeMars, and both programs continue to support the clinic in
various ways. Prior to this clinic healthcare for thousands of people in this
area of Francisco Morazon was almost nonexistent. On another day the Gehlen
mission team had the opportunity to travel to Sulaco, Honduras, just inside the
Yoro District. In Sulaco the team got the opportunity to visit the malnutrition
center and see poverty up close – a very emotional experience for all of them.
While in Sulaco at the malnutrition center the student team voted to purchase
new high chairs for the center using donated money right from the students. The
students at Bishop Heelan in Sioux City had raised $325.00 to be carried by this
team and used wherever it was most needed. Before the team even left the United
States, the total monies for this project had risen to over $1100.00. The team
also made a major decision to purchase immediate food aid for the Tolupan people
of Montana de la Flor who are suffering terribly in an 8 month drought and have
nothing to eat. That decision and money led to more than 2,500.00 other dollars
being spent in emergency food aid to help the Tolupan – which came from a Kids
Against Hunger LeMars food packing event in Churdan, IA. The high chairs for the
malnutrition center and the emergency food aid for Montana de la Flor arrived at their destinations on April 7th. Gehlen Kids Against
Hunger coupled with Kids Against Hunger LeMars, sends food to the malnutrition
center and Montana de la Flor each spring, but the 8 month drought has made the
situation desperate for the people of that region. The infusion of basic food at
this time will have a great impact on saving the lives of many.
This mission team also fulfilled another of the program
goals through the religious celebrations held during this very holy time in the
Catholic Church. To experience Easter in the Spanish speaking culture of
Honduras is very special. A wonderful addition to the mission team again this
year was Fr. Jerome Cosgrove, Bishop Heelan High School, Sioux City, IA. Fr.
Cosgrove was making his third mission to Honduras and immediately jumped
headlong into all the activities of the student trip. He worked on the water
project, side by side with the students in the village of La Florida and said
Mass on their return some nights. Fr. Cosgrove and all team members participated
in all the Holy Week celebrations while in Honduras. On some occasions he
concelebrated with Fr. Inez Bonilla, pastor of the Church of Esquipulas in
Esquias. A couple of highlights for Fr. Cosgrove and the entire team were those
times when he celebrated Mass in the courtyard of the compound where the team
stays. On Tuesday of Holy Week, Fr. Cosgrove and the team celebrated Mass with
the wonderful people of La Florida – Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Team
members say it was a very special Mass.
Even in their poverty the Hondurans are always so generous
with all they have – and they give it so joyfully that
I sometimes feel selfish for having all the things that I do.
I have never met a more giving people.
~ Carolyn Bickford
While in Honduras our high school students were encouraged
to immerse themselves in the culture and to interact with students their age.
From working daily in La Florida, to soccer matches and religious celebrations,
our student team got a taste of what it is like to live with very little. From
handwashing their own clothes and doing daily chores, to one-minute cold
showers and sometimes bucketing water for toilets, to working in the daily heat
of over 100 degrees, to long rough rides through the mountains each day, our
students and chaperones experienced the normal life of a person in Honduras. The
team worked hard at using Spanish, and many of the students said they improved
greatly. This team made many new friends during their twelve-day mission
trip. Many did not want to leave. The Gehlen student program over the years has
developed a custom of returning home with only the clothes on their back. Each
year the individual team members begin sorting through all their personal items
and on the last day stacking everything in their living quarters. These items
will be taken by the ladies and men of the village, washed, and distributed
among the most needy.
The Gehlen mission team returned home late Easter Sunday
night, tired but full of the energy of the wonderful Honduran people they met,
worked with, and lived with. The theme of this year’s journey, ‘Watching Over
Me…,’ was experienced each and every day the young people saw, worked, and
interacted with the people of Honduras. Each missioner, touched by their 11 days
in Honduras was changed – many forever. Each missioner encourages others around
the world to get involved in helping those less fortunate. To a person, each
member of this year’s team was sad to leave the wonderful people of Honduras,
the wonderful people of La Florida – we will never forget you and we will pray
for you. We hope we came into your lives – you certainly did into ours, never
forgetting that God is ‘Watching Over All of Us.’ God Bless Honduras. God Bless
The Poor Of The World.
This was a life changing event. It was a blessing for the students and
chaperones to be able to participate in this mission. It certainly
opened a few eyes on the difference between needs and wants. I think it
would be great if all seniors were required to participate in a trip
like this prior to graduation. We gained many new friends from the
States and Honduras. I was very proud of everyone. I was fortunate to be
able to share this with my daughter Cassie, something I know I will
~ Tim DeLarm
Chaperone, Le Mars
Two days after the Gehlen team returned to the United
States a group of 14 high school students and adults left Fayetteville,
Arkansas, airport, Tuesday, April 6th, destined for Tegucigalpa,
Honduras, to continue the water project in La Florida. The group from Springfield
Catholic High School, in Springfield, Missouri, has been planning this trip
along with the directors of the Gehlen program since early summer 2009. Staying
in Honduras to help this new team carry out their mission were Francis Seivert,
Sister Joan Polak, and Linda Reichle. Leading the team from Missouri is Merica
Clinkenbeard, Spanish teacher at Springfield Catholic – who had been with the
Gehlen group in 2009. On arriving in Esquias late afternoon Tuesday, April 6th,
the Springfield girls found a letter in their dorm left by all the girls from
the Gehlen program – welcoming them to Esquias, mission work, and general
advice. According to their director, the letter had an immediate and profound
impact on the girls from Springfield Catholic. May their journey bring them as
much fulfillment as the Gehlen program did for our students.
Click above to browse the April 2010 Trip Photo Album...
Click the hyperlink to watch a
Flash Movie of this year's trip.