Father Robert Whelan, pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Bayside, recently led a group of 12 missioners to Mustard Seed Communities in Managua and Diriamba, Nicaragua, for a weeklong mission of work, prayer and support.
Tasks for the group consisted of clearing land of weeds, debris and stones; scraping and painting window grills on residents’ cottages; and painting the residents’ recreation center.
Some members of the group were also responsible for sorting the almost 1,200 pounds of clothing, personal items and medical supplies that they had gathered before their visit. Many of these items, as well as substantial financial support, were the result of generous contributions by the people of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament parish and the friends, relatives and parishes of the individual missioners.
Those on the trip said that the most satisfying and challenging part of the week was the opportunity to interact with the young residents who are developmentally disabled and have been abandoned. Their capacity to extend and receive attention and affection was unlimited.
Daily Mass for the missioners and two Masses at which they joined the children and their caregivers created the liturgical framework for the first week of Advent. There was also time most evenings for reflection, relaxation and socializing.
On the final full day before the group returned home, they were treated to a guided tour of the country, visiting Granada, Masaya, Catarina, San Juan del Sur and a number of other stunning locations around Lake Nicaragua. They also had the opportunity to sample a number of local delicacies.
The mission trip was organized and directed by Margaret Brower, who had participated in a number of missions to Nicaragua as part of the team from St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan.
Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the most vulnerable populations in society. It began in 1978 as a home for abandoned and handicapped children on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica. The group has since expanded and built additional facilities in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Zimbabwe. The majority of its programs are dedicated to the care of children with serious physical and mental disabilities such as Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
MSC also cares for children affected by HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and Zimbabwe. In Jamaica, it conducts a home for teenage mothers and their babies. Their vision for each apostolate is to create a loving and caring environment to aid in the physical, mental and spiritual development of their residents.