Mission ~ Santiago Apostol

Dominican Republic

Mission 2012 ~ Sanitago Apostol

Fr. Murray, Deacon Nelson, Blanca Velazquez and Armando Ayala traveled to  Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic to see the progress of the church that the parishioners of St. James Parish have been helping to rebuild since the first Mission there in 2008.  Please read Fr. Murray's narrative of their trip and the progress of Inglesia la Alta Gracia. 

I am just back from a trip to Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic after a week there in a parish where four years ago we began to help them build a new church. You can see the pictures of the old and new church by clicking here.  Photo gallery The trip began with an early morning arrival and a reception from the pastor, Fr. Camilo and a parishioner, who loaded four groggy passengers and their luggage into a small pickup and off we went. At 3:00 AM there is not much traffic and so we moved along nicely. We arrived in the parish after a three hour drive and so met the dawn with a short prayer of thanksgiving in the doorway of the new church.  There was a sign welcoming us and inviting all to a special concert to be given in our honor to take place on Sunday, December 2nd. Deacon Nelson Agudelo, Blanca Velasquez, Armando Ayala and I were met by various people who were giving us hugs, welcoming us and immediately asking after our trips and needs. Deacon Nelson, Blanca and Armando have been there numerous times and were happily welcomed and caught up on the all the goings and comings of the parish over the last year and what had transpired in the last year with the construction. The church is the new centerpiece of the town we were pleased to see all the progress and hear of the next steps. We met with the committee to give them the money donated this year, which this year amounted to $12,000.00. This large amount was the result of donations, festivals, events and most importantly love. It was very moving and exciting to hear of the future plans that were now going forward because of this donation.   During the week, we accompanied Fr. Camilo around the parish and went with him to celebrate masses at three of the 22 chapels for which he is responsible. It was a great way to meet people way out in the country and see their lives and talk to them a bit. We passed by all kinds of farms, some very humble, some larger. Everywhere we went, we were met with kindness and examples of our common and glorious faith. Nelson and the others are well known now in this parish and as their pastor accompanying them, I was very proud to see how people responded to them.   There were many great experiences, and among them were saying the rosary in houses with groups of people, breakfast, lunch and dinners that were like feasts, and the big event Sunday Mass followed by the Concert.  The folks began to practice as soon as we planned to go and so there was a great concert, with around 40 voices. It was comprised of men and women of all ages and included many families. They were led by a very talented conductor and were accompanied by a small quartet who could play lots of instruments. There was also an angels choir, composed of children from all areas of this great big parish. When they were all together, adults and children it was really beautiful.   In attendance were 600 people, jammed into every nook and cranny in the new, but unfinished church. (Luckily no fire marshals appeared) A bishop who grew up in the town was there as well as the former pastor Fr. Orlando, who was the original force behind the project. The entire evening was dedicated to St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes in Haverhill. (I’ll be honest; this made me weep a bit).  After more visits on Monday and Tuesday, the parish gave us a going away party, where we sang a few of the songs from Sunday night and finished with another great meal. The Advent theme we use around the world is quiet preparation. It was a joy to be welcomed, after being waited for. May it be ever thus also with the Lord and our hearts and minds.  Peace, Fr. Murray 


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