By Anthony S. Ercolano
Eight members of the St. Kevin Mission Team, Flushing, left LaGuardia Airport Aug. 20 for a week-long mission to the abandoned, developmentally disabled children and young adults of the Mustard Seed Communities in Nicaragua. The team carried 11 suitcases, each containing 50 pounds of supplies for the residences in Managua and Diriamba.
Prior to their departure, the team, under the direction of Margaret Brower, had raised more than $21,000 to help support the work of the dedicated staff that ministers to the children at both sites.
Upon arrival, they were welcomed by Julia Castillo-Bryan, the director of Hogar Belén, Diriamba, and by their guide, Fernando Bosques-Flores, and were transported to the Mission House, which would be their home for the week.
Sunday was spent attending Mass with the children at San José Church and getting to know the children from that campus. For some, it was a pleasant reunion; for most, it was an effort to memorize the names of 42 residents, most of whom were non-verbal.
Monday and Tuesday were days of work: digging a ditch for a water pipe and priming steel beams to be used in the new residence building being constructed to house the overflowing population of children. Tuesday began with Mass for the team, the staff and the children which was celebrated by the team’s spiritual director, Father Paul Kim from St. Kevin’s parish, Flushing.
On Wednesday, the team visited the Sewing Center in Nicaragua, an institution sponsored by Mustard Seed that educates former residents from the city dump in the art of sewing and baking, to prepare them for productive careers. This was followed by a stop at a chocolate factory and a supermarket to collect essential supplies, before arriving at Hogar Belén, Managua, the residence for the younger, and far more disabled children under the care of Mustard Seed. The team took the little ones to the park and entertained them by blowing bubbles and doing “wheelies” with their wheelchairs.
On Thursday, Bosques-Flores and Castillo-Bryan accompanied the group on a tour of the countryside. They introduced them to nacatamales, a popular weekend breakfast treat; the marketplace in Masaya; the scenic overlook and resort on Laguna de Apoyo; and the town of Granada. The boat ride on Lake Nicaragua was especially memorable.
On Friday, they were treated to a visit by Mustard Seed founder, Msgr. Gregory Ramkissoon, and Archbishop Donald Reece, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies, who celebrated an inspiring liturgy and joined them for lunch.
The day concluded with a celebration, including a piñata, pizza and fireworks.
The week ended all too swiftly with a dash to Managua to attend the pre-dedication festivities for a new chapel. Then it was off to the airport for the journey home.
The members of the St. Kevin Team credit their success to the support of their pastor, Bishop Raymond Chappetto; administrator, Father John Costello; and the people of the parish for their financial and spiritual backing.