An Unforgettable Visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe Province
On March 11, 2011 there was excitement all around as 350 students of Pallotti High School flanked the walk way and the band broke all silence as they welcomed Our Mother General, Sister Izabela and her Councillor, Sister Bozena with the playing of “When the Saints Go Marching In”. They were escorted by the Principal, Sr. Clara, through the assembled Students and again The Music School welcomed them with the angelic sounds of the violins. A short but impressive welcome was the beginning of an official visit. The sisters then entered the Convent proper where a short prayer service was held in thanksgiving for their safe arrival.
The following day, our Provincial, Sr. Consuelo, and the visiting team visited Bishop Dorick Wright and paid their respects. They were now free to travel from the Rio Hondo to the Sarstoon and from the Caribbean Sea to the Maya Mountains. This free reign of the country of Belize was theirs and they made the most of it.
Saturday afternoon, nine sisters boarded a thatched-roof tour vehicle and were driven through the streets of Belize City. This was enjoyable to the sisters who participated in the tour as well as to the people of the city who clapped and welcomed them to their land.
On the 13 to 15 of March, the visiting sisters travelled to the most northern town of Corozal where they visited with Sisters Rosalyn and Brendan and were treated by the blue waters of the bay. The sisters were eager to visit all areas that had some historic semblance to our sisters and our mission. This brought them to Consejo where two of our sisters, Sister Francisca and Sister Veronica and our Bishop Hopkins, S.J. were drown when the Africola capsized.
March 18 saw the sisters travelling to our second convent in the north, but the visit had to be done in two parts as Pallotti Day was scheduled for March 19 at Pallotti Convent. All the sisters from the entire province gathered for a day of prayer, recreation and socialization. Sister Izabela’s talk to the Sisters was the highlight of the day. At the end of the day all the sisters returned home and the visiting sisters returned to Orange Walk to continue their visit.
The sisters in Orange Walk treated the Superior General and her Councillor to the best of culture, of friendship, of ministry. They walked along with the sisters in all that they do. Of special interest was the cultural prayer service of the death anniversary of Sr. Consuelo‘s uncle where prayers, food, and sharing to commemorate the first anniversary of his death were the highlights of the night.
March 21, five sisters crowded in the Land Cruiser and drove the most scenic highway where hills and valleys converged and streams watered the luscious green vegetation of the Humming Bird Highway. It was a four and a half hour ride to our most southern convent, Novitiate Nazareth in Punta Gorda. At the entrance of the chapel we were welcomed ‘a la Ketchi style welcome’ with incense, harp, violin, and guitar all made locally by local craftsmen. Our guests were escorted in by Ketchi young women who danced to the music of the local instruments. The young women were colorfully dressed in their native clothes and together with the music of the harp and its accompaniment, it was a scene to behold.
At Nazareth the General Superior and her Councillor accompanied us as we walked her through our ministries of - visiting the shut-ins, distributing meals on wheels to the elderly, attending social gathering with the elderly, visiting a remote village and participated in weaving a local bag and cooking a local dish. This was very different from what the sisters did in Rome, but both sisters immersed themselves in all they saw and greatly appreciated the variety of ministries, culture, people and practices of the people of Belize.
The four days visit was crowned with a community trip to one of the Cayes (islands) sitting in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. There we swam, enjoyed the refreshing waters of the Caribbean, picnicked, sported and returned home refreshed, reinvigorated, and happy after a day quite different from the land experience.
During the visit of each of our convents, our General Superior gave undivided attention to each of our sisters in the Province and spent some time with each of our UAC group. She also visited our parishes and met with the pastor.
Our trip back to the City was far from uneven table as we took the opportunity to stop and greet our retired Bishop Martin who lives in Dangriga, and to visit the Marie Sharp’s Pepper factory since Marie Sharp’s Sauce has become a familiar addition to our dinner tables in Rome. Our final leg of our General Superior’s visit was the visit to Pallotti Convent, the home of the Provincialate. There the General was treated to a great boat ride to English Caye and a day of snorkeling, relaxation and fun with good company.
The last social gathering was the meeting with the UAC members of Belize City. There was great enjoyment and laughter as the group portrayed the talents and tales of the Creole, Spanish and Garifuna cultures – the three main cultures in Belize. It all culminated in a joint supper where the UAC joined the Sisters.
As the last days ebbed away, we savored each other’s company with serious, far-searching meetings, advice, consultations, suggestions and a mutual support and respect for each other.
Sr. Stephen Franco, SAC