News and Stories
Navajo Mission 2008: A Reflection by Cecilia D'Acquisto
Carl and I had been thinking about going on a Mission Trip for several years. The time just never seemed to be right, although we were always encouraged to go by Deacon Lissak. I think our kids would have loved to stay home by themselves for two weeks, but I guess we thought that wasn’t such a hot idea. Now that the kids are out on their own, 2008 appeared to be the year.
Carl was armed with the basic knowledge of fixing things around the house. Sort of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type thing. I am, of course, completely hopeless at everything. We were still allowed to go! Amazing! Not only that, we were encouraged greatly by the other people going on the Mission in the meetings leading up to the trip... “There will always be something for you to do. Don’t worry, it will be fine!”
We spent two weeks working harder than we have ever worked in our lives. A typical day was: up at five, eat breakfast by 5:30, out the door to the cars for the trip to the job site by 6 a.m.. You work until noon or so, or until it gets too hot to work, then back for lunch. And you know what? You CAN’T WAIT to get another assignment for the afternoon! Someone said that the area where we were was so dry that you really don’t notice that you sweat. Boy, is that a lie! But one of the beautiful thing about the experience is that every Job Leader was very conscious of safety…there were plenty of breaks and water for everyone.
We did things that we never thought we could do. Both of us were up on roofs, stripping old roof material, laying tar paper and nailing the new rolls of roofing. I used the tools I bought at Home Depot! (Did you know that they will sell a tool belt to ANYONE?) I helped construct a sheep pen, and painted a church. Carl worked with Rich, who was an expert electrician from Morris, Ill.. He learned not only about wiring, but did plumbing work too.
I would have to say that the most impressive things were:
1) The people from the Diocese of Joliet are the hardest working people I have ever met. I am not kidding when I say that the Spirit of work was flowing…from everyone. No one ever complained about anything. Just get your assignment and go. Everyone helped each other any way they could. I was able to help out a little with medical issues because of my background as a nurse. Carl volunteered for both sessions of Sunday Bingo at the parish, and befriended a little Navajo boy, probably about three years old.
If you couldn’t lift it, someone would help you. If you were tired, someone noticed and told you to take a break. If you had physical challenges or inability to do certain jobs, no problem! There were plenty of other things you could do.
2) The staff of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, where we stayed, works unceasingly. Fr. Blane is in residence at this parish, but he covers two other churches on the reservation. Sr. Adelaide runs the Food Pantry, the Thrift Store, and until recently, was on staff at the Talbot House which is a Counseling Center for the Navajo People, as well as a meeting place for AA. I was assigned to help her clean out her trailer one day, as she will be moving in a few months. The phone must have rung five times with people who needed counseling, people come to the door for food, to rent the gym for basketball, for help with a pressing problem…it was constant. Every time she was needed, she dropped what she was doing and was totally present to the phone call or person at her door. And you know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world.
3) One of the Parishes that Fr. Blane covers is St. Anthony Mission in Many Farms, a town on the reservation. The on-site religious is Sr. Christa. She lives in a trailer behind the church. She is responsible for the day-to-day running of the parish. Some of us were assigned to paint and do some remodeling work in her church. They have a raised platform for the altar, much like St. Pius, but on a much smaller scale. The platform had a green shag rug on it. Sr. Christa made the comment that it was “ordinary time in this church 24/7!” I thought that was pretty funny, except she was serious! Sr. Christa is a Fine Arts major…she really did not like that carpet! She was so happy with the new wood dais and the new paint job! She is an amazing person. She was talking about the time she was deciding to become a nun. She described looking through a book of listing religious orders, and her eyes fell on the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. “That is it” she said. “What more could I want?” The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were founded by St. Katherine Drexel, who established the St. Michael Indian School in nearby St. Michaels, Arizona, on the reservation. Sr. Christa lives alone, services the Catholic community where she lives, and lives with the disease of multiple sclerosis. When we were done painting, we went over to her trailer to invite her to see the finished product. The distance between her trailer and the church was no more than a eighth of a block. But due to the heat and her difficulty walking, she drove the distance. It was just easier.
How could I ever complain after witnessing her courage and dedication?
I have left so many things out. There just isn’t space to talk about all the wonderful things that we experienced on the Mission Trip to the Navajo Reservation. I hope that you will have the opportunity to go on a Mission Trip yourself, if you feel called to do that. If not, maybe you could help support a missionary with a monetary donation to defray the cost. One of the women who went on the trip raises the entire cost every year in her parish. She cannot afford it on her own, but feels strongly called to participate every year. You can be so proud of the people in your Diocese.
If Jesus were here in body today, I know that he would be a willing participant on a Mission trip. He loved the poor. He loved the workers. He would have worked along side any and all of us to help out another soul who needed something done, and could not do it themselves. But as it was, we saw him in the work, the staff of Our Lady of Fatima and St. Anthony’s Mission, and in the faces of the Navajo people who treated us with such respect. We learned so much about Navajo Spirituality and symbolism, and the wonderful efforts of the staff of Our Lady of Fatima to incorporate this spirituality in the ritual of the mass. You can be so proud of the people in the Catholic Church.