Cecile Pagliarulo 2017-09-07 01:09:17
Notre Dame parishioners return to Guatemala to build homes for the poor CEDAR KNOLLS Since 2014, parishioners from Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church here have been traveling to Guatemala building homes for some of the poorest families in the country through From Houses to Homes (FHTH), a grassroots organization who believe in strengthening family unity and community harmony in the highlands of Guatemala. From Aug. 11 to 18, 26 volunteers from the Guatemala Outreach Ministry from the Morris County parish traveled to the Central American country and built four homes in the impoverished village of Pastores, Guatemala. According to Cristina Folan, head of communications support at Notre Dame Parish, who has traveled on several of these trips in the past, Notre Dame parishioners in total have built 20 homes providing a place to live for these humble and grateful families. Those who volunteer build a 13-foot by 9-foot block home. These homes replace cornstalk shacks that many families use for housing. The block homes are culturally appropriate and affordable to maintain. A door the family can lock provides the family with a deeper sense of security. They also have a roof to protect them from the elements and a window to provide light into the home. The home is stucco and painted colors chosen by the new homeowner. Working with “From Houses to Homes” and with the financial help and spiritual support of the parish and the local community, Notre Dame parishioners continue traveling to Guatemala on this mission trip yearly. Jean Pankow, pastoral associate at Notre Dame, experienced her first mission trip with the parish team in Guatemala. “This experience has transformed my faith, perspective on life, and my priorities in a way I never could have anticipated. I am grateful to God for such a life-changing opportunity,” she said. In addition to shelter provisions, funds and children’s vitamins were donated to the Clínicas Médicas San José (the FHTH clinic), which provides free healthcare to those in need. A share of the funds was also allocated to continue sponsoring the education of Alex Danilo, a young student at the FHTH Kemna ‘Oj School. Father Jhon Madrid, parochial vicar at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel, joined in this year’s mission. He called the mission trip an amazing experience and said, “It was a great time to be with the people from Cedar Knolls and those in Guatemala from the very beginning to the very end. We all worked very hard and prayed together every single day. It was also special to celebrate Mass in some of these churches that are from the 16th century.” Folan said, “He was an amazing blessing to the ministry, sharing his time, faith and hard work each day with the various work teams. With great faith and passion, he concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral in Antigua each morning before the teams headed to their work sites. This provided important spiritual fuel to the ministers at the start of each work day. ”When he was not working at the site building homes, Father Madrid ministered to the Guatemalan families, the FHTH workers, neighbors and children. He also brought his “Soccer Balls for Joy” ministry to the country. In this unique ministry, Father Madrid collects soccer balls to be distributed for poor children in many countries. He has held this campaign since 2013 in the Paterson Diocese. On the last day of the mission trip, one hour before the Cedar Knolls group was headed to the airport, Father Madrid baptized a baby, Carmen Leticia, who was the daughter of one of the FHTH workers. “It was a great way to end the trip. The father of Carmen was inspired by us working there to have his daughter baptized,” the priest said. For the past three years, Notre Dame of Mount Carmel has been committed to sending volunteers to Guatemala to build homes for these families. For anyone interested in traveling on an upcoming mission, up to 24 volunteers are accepted. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Any volunteer under 21 must be accompanied by a parent. Volunteers donate $500 to help with travel expenses and the ministry hosts two fundraisers to help offset the cost of the $500 per volunteer donation. It is not necessary that participants be knowledgeable in construction or carpentry. Folan has traveled seven times with her family to Guatemala first traveling in 2009 after hearing her friend, Judy Baker, experience the trip. She eventually got the parish involved in the work of “From Houses to Homes.” “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to experience this type of trip as a family. It allows the family to come together and disconnect from the over stimulation like technology and to focus on something completely differently. The children become truly aware of what poverty is and not take for granted what they have. Sometimes they may complain about having to share a bedroom but it gives them perspective when they see these families share this small space together. They also takeaway a huge sense of accomplishment and they can be proud of what they have been able to do,” Folan said. Since 2004, “From Houses to Homes” has built 1,219 homes through the efforts of volunteers like the parishioners of Notre Dame of Mount Carmel. Volunteers are the core of “From Houses to Homes”. Families who will live in these homes work alongside the volunteers along with a few paid professionals. Because of volunteers are the core of “From Houses to Homes,” Folan called on other parishes to learn about the Cedar Knolls Guatemala Ministry and start their own group in their parish. “The ministry’s goals extend beyond merely providing shelter and financial assistance to those in need,” Folan said. “In alignment with the parish’s vision and mission, the preparation process and the journey itself offer opportunities to deepen the ministers’ spirituality and commitment to discipleship in the name of Jesus.” [Information: www.ndcarmel.org or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.Fromhousestohomes.org.]
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