Recently, Fr. Mark Wendling and Sr. Mary Elizabeth Albers led a group of young people to serve in Belize for almost two weeks. Below is a short write-up from one of the missionaries, Jack Kessler.
High: Attending Mass Sunday night I was struck by the deep sense of community present in the parish. The people were clearly excited by the return of Father Mark and the sense of anticipation was infectious. Celebrating the liturgy in Spanish was invigorating both because it reminded me of the universality of our faith and because it challenged me to be present without falling back on familiar routine. I am excited to celebrate the source and summit our faith with the community of Benque again.
God moment: Today I was blessed to celebrate adoration with the rest of the group up here at Chapel Hill. Watching the Blessed Sacrament I was reminded of a, possibly apocryphal, quote from the Cure of Ars Where he described Adoration as “I watch Him and He watches me” That is what we did. We watched God and felt His presence with us. It was very relaxing and helped remind me of the goal of this mission i.e. to serve Him.
New experience: I had traveled to Mexico before so the actual process of traveling to Belize was not particularly new. However, once we reached Benque proper I was astonished to discover that Father Mark is for all intents and purposes a major celebrity to the people there. Driving through the town it felt like he stopped to chat with every person there. The friendliness and courtesy displayed by the Belizeans was disarming in its simplicity. It felt almost like we were all returning to visit old friends, transforming a “foreign” place into a familiar shelter.
Other thoughts: Visiting Belize, I have been fascinated by the many different people I have met and the work that SOLT is doing here. This is mainly because it is such important work with a clear and visible impact but also because I have a personal connection to SOLT’s mission in Belize. My aunt spent several years as a missionary here and growing up I would always hear her talk about how much being here had meant to her. Coming here meant I could in part see what had excited her so much about this country and its people. What I could not foresee is that this would lead to me being constantly introduced to people as her nephew. In that sense I am very much in her shadow. I just hope I do not embarrass her too much.