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St. Mary Parish

Gifts of Shelter, Education and Hope

Compassion means that if I see my friend and my enemy in equal need, I shall help them both equally. Justice demands that we seek and find the stranger, the broken, the prisoner and comfort them and offer them our help. 

Mechtild of Magdenburg, quoted in Open Mind by Diane Mariechild

The connection between St. Mary Parish in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and the Sisters of the Presentation began several years ago when Sister Joy Peterson was invited by Father Al Grendler to be pastoral minister at St. Mary Parish. During these years when Father Grendler and Sister Joy were animating Christian community, the parish community decided to sponsor a missionary as a parish outreach.

For the Sisters of the Presentation, the timing seemed ideal as Sister Rita Menart was beginning her missionary activity in the Quiché Diocese of Guatemala. With an open heart, the St. Mary Parish community decided to sponsor Sister Rita's ministry in Chupol, Guatemala.

Sister Rita recalls, "My relationship with the parish of St. Mary Spirit Lake was a great blessing when I lived in Guatemala. In July 1991, I remember Sister Joy telling me that the parish was interested in supporting a missionary to broaden their awareness of the world. The parish's support of my presence in Chupol started shortly after." Sister Rita adds, "Each month I would receive the loose change from one Sunday collection. The donation covered my living expenses, travel and part of the health insurance and social security costs that needed to be covered as well."

To remind the parishioners of their support for Chupol, Sister Joy had special Guatemalan weavings displayed in the church. Each year when Sister Rita came home, she would make a special effort to visit St. Mary parishioners and speak at the weekend Masses. Sister says, "Through the sharing, the people of the parish learned more about the people they financially and spiritually supported in Guatemala. I also learned names and faces of the people who supported me on the mission. I was greatly blessed to be a bridge between two parts of the world with the help of the generous people of St. Mary."

Sister Rita was a missionary for 10 years in Guatemala among the Quiché speaking Indians, forming Christian leaders, some of these years with Sister Marge Healy, until they turned their work over to a lay team in December of 2000.

About the time that the Presentation mission in Guatemala was completing its term, Sister Maura McCarthy, working in Southern Bolivia found herself in dire need of additional help with educational and housing projects among the Guaraní Indians of the Pilcomayo River area of Bolivia. Sister Joy began to discuss this need with the new pastor of St. Mary, Father James Smith, who had worked with the Dubuque Presentations at St. Edmond School in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Father Smith consulted with the parish community, and they began supporting the needs of the Guaraní mission of Timboy in 2002.

Sister Maura says, "The first need was transportation for traveling to the Guaraní communities. Traveling often consists of transporting the injured and sick over very precarious roads in Timboy to the hospitals in Entre Ríos or Tarija, hauling adobe bricks and other building materials so the Guaraní could build more suitable housing in over 20 Guaraní communities, and bringing in the harvested corn and pumpkins, especially for the widows and elderly farmers. The parish's generosity also helped to provide transportation costs for students who boarded in the Ñaurenda area for junior high and high school education and their food costs.

As building projects became completed and ambulances more available in the area hospitals, Sister Maura became aware of the transportation needs of the Sisters working in Entre Ríos for educational, evangelization and documentation work among the more than 120 communities of the O'Connor Province. At the present time, the donations from Spirit Lake are shared for the extensive transportation needs of Sisters Marge Healy, Therese Corkery, Suzanne Takes and Mery Cari Paz as they travel to the distant communities of the O'Connor Province.

"As the community of St. Mary reaches out to the Presentation missionaries and to the 'stranger and the broken' of Southern Bolivia, we hope that this generous compassion is richly rewarded in the Spirit Lake area," says Sister Maura. "Seeing the results of their support first hand, St. Mary is truly making a difference."

 
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