Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 comes to an END!

The Mission is quiet. Christmas is over, tamales eaten, workers taking days off to be with family. Tomorrow we perform our annual, clinic inventory, and also begin preparations for our New Year meeting on January 4. Despite the violence that has engulfed the country, the end of year seems more peaceful. Our Mission Personell will again celebrate together the beginnning of 2010!

Tonite the young people of the parish are celebrating the end of year in our large meeting room on the MIssion Ground. There is music, games, prayer and food.

Today we cut the ribbon for a project of Libby, Montana in a small, very poor community, Pasin. A group of friends of the Mission, from Libby, donated 3,000. dollars to construct bathrooms for the rural primary school in this very poor community. We hope in 2010 the Rotary of Libby, Montana will improve the water availability also in PASIN. This is a big project for over 300 families that must follow all the guidelines of Rotary International to begin, so we hope it will happen in the first months of 2010. The Clinica Maxeña chose Pasin as recipient of this generous offer as they are perhaps one of our poorest communities that we are priveleged to serve. Very few children have graduated from highschool from this community. This past year less than a dozen finished sixth grade. Many of our malnourished infants also are from Pasin. We also have donated some ONIL stoves to selected families in this community because of the severe poverty.



Include Foto of our Mission Team, Sr Mary, Sr Anna, Fr Hazy and myself. At HOME we are SENIOR CITIZENS; here we are distinguished citizens of the THIRD AGE!!!!
Our Volunteer, Alex Woelkers, graduate of Carroll College, and working in Asuncion, Parish Junior, Senior, Highschool is home for Christmas Holidays.

Foto of the Cutting of ribbon of Project in Pasin of Libby, Montana


Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I wish to share my Christmas Letter to my Blog readers. I have enjoyed sharing my experiences here in our Mission from the Diocese of Helena, Montana, through this space. Christmas is a very special feast for me since I was a small child, as it is for all people, so thank you for your interest.

Friends and family,

Here in Guatemala we are at the end of the rainy season, approaching summer. We are at the beginning of the Coffee Harvest. The small coffee trees burst forth with the red berries, which can be seen from the roadside, as one travels up the bumpy dirt roads to the mountain villages and even driving into town where our Mission is located. They are our CHRISTMAS TREES! There are no icy roads or flakes of snow in the air. All over the world, in tiny towns and big cities, CHRISTMAS is a day of PEACE and HOPE. In GUATEMALA, we pray and hope that CHRISTMAS will be a day with no violence or suffering and that there will be a lasting conversion of HEARTS! Many homes have suffered loss of members of their family from the VIOLENCE during 2009. ALL come together around their table and their church of worship in Prayer and to celebrate the BIRTHDAY OF JESUS.

Here at the Mission we are preparing for the Posadas, where the Nativity scene is carried through the streets with candle light, prayer and music, in search for an INN for the Christ Child. Fiesta celebrations for the elderly and for the personnel bring us together as family. The custom of gift giving is not a CHRISTMAS tradition here but rather there is a sharinng of tamales, bread and "caliente", a HOT pineapple drink. Visiting neighbors and family fill the CHRISTMAS morning hours. As a Parish family we celebrate the vigil MASS on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day our Mission Team enjoy Turkey and all the trimmings at HOME.


Send your Christmas Gift for our Clinic to:
Guatemala Mission
Nurses Fund
Diocese of Helena
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT 59624

You can also direct deposit for the work of our Mission at the web site:


Sheila McShane

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Few Days of Rest away from HOME

Family and Friends,
As Christmas draws near, as Santo Tomas celebrates it's FEAST of St. Thomas Apostle, I have wandered to the neighboring country of El Salvador to be with a friend for a few days. El Salvador is four hours by bus and it was a very comfortable enjoyable trip. I was met my Susan Dewitt, CSJP and we drove out to the beautiful small colonial rural town, Suchitoto, where she is a Missionary. I have been an Associate of the CSJP, Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, for seven years so this journey was an important time of sharing and praying together for both our ministries, in this time of ADVENT. Guatemala and El Salvador are both experiencing times of increased violence and poverty.

Yesterday was sad for me. I had visited Manuela, who was being treated for Leukemia in the Children's Cancer Hospital on Thursday. She had lost her hair from the chemo and was receiving intravenous nutrition. She had some complications from the treatment, which is expected, but she appeared stable. She had several toys in her bed as SANTA had been through. Her dad was sitting attentively at her bedside. She was asleep but woke to our presence. I had told her in her QUICHE language, not to be sad, and she responded, "I am not". Myself and the clinic worker departed and I told her dad I would return to visit them on December 22nd. Yesterday I received an urgent call from her doctor that she was in Intensive Care on LIFE SUPPORT. Her platelets had dropped and she had an internal bleed. She died that same day. I was able to contact clinic workers to be there for the family when her body was brought back that same night to her village. This Hospital provides excellent support and high quality care and they covered all expense for her being brought home to her family. I understand the community supported and waited with the mother and other children until 3 AM when the body arrived. She will be buried tomorrow. She is an ANGEL in heaven today and at peace. This has been a very difficult time for me for acutely ill children. Christmas is a TIME OF GIVING and a blessing for those who accompany us in our work with the POOR. THANK YOU!

Today Susan and I traveled to the Cathedral in San Salvador, and to mass at the crypt of Archbishop Oscar Romero. On March 24th, it will be thirty years since his martyrdom and he is considered a SAINT already for the people of EL Salvador and Central America.

The news speaks of snow and blizzards at home, here there is drizzling rain and the lights coming and going. All over the world we are waiting for the celebration of CHRISTMAS! My love and Christmas greeting to all my friends and family from EL Salvador.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Patient Updates!

Friends and family,
Today we were very busy for a few hours in our small emergency room as some apparent African BEES from a local coffee processor escaped and swarmed over several passer bys in town. We had five emergencies from this incident, one unconscious, two went to the hospital, by ambulance. The unconscious person was a wheel chair person, who was sitting peacefully in front of the church when he was stung several times. I just came back from visiting him in his home as he was discharged and recovered after four hour treatment in the hospital. We were very grateful that we now have oxygen available in our small emergency room which was put to good use. One of the doctors from the local government clinic came to assist us as we had necessary medicine available and the patients were arriving to our clinic and our doctor on vacation.

I had written a few weeks ago about an infant I had in intensive care in the government hospital on life support for severe dehydration and other complications. The parents requested that their child be brought home as they felt she was not improving and the doctors acknowledged their was little hope for recovery. They disconnected Julianna from life support and I wrapped her gently in the sheet I had brought with me, picked her up and accompanied the parents out of the hospital. I was aware, as I walked out of the hospital,she had died peacefully in my arms. The family would report her death in the local government office in their community. Neighbors had come to the hospital with a car to accompany the family home. It was an important decision and a right of the parents that I honor without question.

Manuela, the child with Leukemia in the Children´s Cancer Hospital in Guatemala City, has had a difficult week but seems to be improving. Her condition is complicated because of malnutrition. Her father has stayed faithfully at her bedside. Tomorrow we will deliver one of our wood saving stoves, some fire wood and also some basic food for the seven children who are at home with their mother. We had gone over to the community yesterday to visit the family and were suprised that the oldest daughter had gone with the mother, on the bus, to the city to see Manuela. The small children were home alone, with bare cupboards. Although the mother and daughter traveled on the bus with only the experience of the daughter bieng one time in Guatemala City, they had a successful trip. The mother returned more at peace that she had visited her daughter and saw herself she was ok. When you visit their very humble dirt floor homes, without even light, you know that there is a lot of fear and apprehension, to have their child apart, in a large modern hospital,where their indian dialect is not spoken and where there are no familiar sights. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers that Manuela will return home healthy eventually. I will travel to the city Thursday to visit her and her father. He is committed to stay with her until Juanuary when hopefully she will be improved and his older daughter can relieve him and he can return to work and help out his family. In the meantime we will offer financial support for nutrition to the family.

Daisy, our infant with AIDS, is not progressing as she has been discharged from the hospital and the family is not compliant with her appointments and treatments. Many prayers and patience is needed in accompanying these patients. Daily more emergencies from malnutrition and poverty arrive at the doorstep of the clinic.
We are blessed to have many committed workers who bring hope and healing despite the obstacles. THANK YOU also for all you do in supporting our work.

Included are two photos; one is Manuela´s younger siblings sitting happily on their bed; the other is Manuela´s mother talking on my cell phone to her husband and to Manuela. When we take patients to the city, if they do not have a cell phone, we leave a clinic phone with the patient and if necessary I will go to the home so the family can stay connected. Technology is a great asset to us in our work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Friends and Family,

End of year is always very busy at the Mission but yet there is no vacation for the sick and poor. Our clinic continues very busy. Daily we send one or two patients to the government hospital that we must track. This morning we heard Manuela, our child with Leukemia, had a difficult night with bleeding in the Cancer Center for children. We are currently awaiting a call from her doctor. A four month old infant had to be rushed to hospital the weekend for emergency transfusion of blood for severe anemia. This infant, Catarina, was discharged four days later, smiling and breast feeding.

We have visitors here. Monte and his wife Tracy, from Richland, Washington, have been here almost a month. Monte has repaired our water pressure for the Mission, installing a reserve tank and pressure pump. Water is vital here and as all over the world there is a scarcity; the water in this area has been affected greatly by the Volcano fire. Chris, another friend of the Mission, is here to share in the Christmas celebration for the elderly; she brought her bag stuffed with small gifts for seniors.

Myself and Tracy visited the Coffee Cooperative in one of the villages, PASAC. This Cooperative of coffee is thriving today. It was begun by the first Montana Pastor of the Diocese of Helena, James Tackes. Coffee harvest is in process and for the first year the women of the Cooperative have succeeded in obtaining a name for their coffee, "CAFÉ FEMININO". This aspect of the coffee production is a WOMEN´s Project. The labels are not yet ready but they have begun to sell some of the bagged product. We will be investigating how this production and cooperative can continue to thrive. It would be meaningful for the Diocese of Helena, as one of the initiators of the Coffee Cooperative, if we could assist in some way the export of Coffee directly to people of the CHURCH OF MONTANA! Campus Ministries from Montana are interested in this project and we hope we can make it reality.

I am including a photo of Alberta, one of the young women in charge of the WOMEN´s project of CAFÉ FEMININO:

Another very important celebration for our Mission was the high school graduation at LA ASUNCION on November 27th. Included is a picture of Alex Woelkers, volunteer and graduate of Carroll College, with some of the graduates. Alex has lived and shared with the students at ASUNCION since his arrival in June to our MISSION.

As always your prayers and support are needed.
Happy Advent Season as we prepare for the Birthday of Jesus!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A visit to the National Hospital!

Good Evening,
This afternoon I went to the government hospital to check on two infants we have in Intensive Care. This Hospital is located about forty five minutes from the Mission. It is one of the oldest government hospitals in the country but with new government administrations they do seem to at least paint the structure. Over the years the Pediatric Unit has improved thanks to international donations; this includes equipment and better staffing. Again we are fortunate as the Chief Doctor also did his senior year rural practice with us and also was one of the first Physicians for the Clinic Maxeña in the eighties. We do ask him to monitor our patients and also for second opinions in difficult cases.

One of the infants is the daughter of a couple with AIDS from our area. Daisy has converted positive for aids and was critically ill when the parents brought her to the hospital last week. She was to be admitted to another hospital to initiate treatment for AIDS but the parents, at last minute, did not take her and she became gravely ill with intestinal infection. She has improved and we hope we can now have her transferred by ambulance to the Hospital where she will receive AIDS treatment. We will consult with Roberto, the Pediatric chief of the Unit on Monday.

Julianna, the other infant, remains critically ill and I was told that she may not make the night. Our Doctor in the Clinica Maxeña sent her Friday as an emergency with severe dehydration and fever. One of our workers took her to the hospital. She is on a Respirator and continues with fever, diarrhea and respiratory distress. Cell phones are a blessing here now as they do keep us connected with our patients. I will help the parents get her out of the hospital if she should die. I have asked our carpenter to make a small casket, as it is the weekend, and this will facilitate my avoiding the cost of going to a funeral home, which is very expensive. Here if the child is not taken out within twenty four hours after dying they will be buried in the local cemetery so one must prepare for the worst. Culturally this would be a major crisis for the family. The Beatitude "Blessed are the POOR for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" is a PROMISE that will not be denied them! My Irish Faith helps me on difficult days as today!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Child with Leukemia

Manuela is 10 years old and newly diagnosed with acute leukemia. She was with difficult breathing and very pale when she arrived with her parents to our clinic. She lives in the village of Pasin with her parents and seven siblings. We know the family as we had sent their youngest child to the hospital last year for a severely infected leg. I remember the mom as a very young looking 32 year old Mayan woman and was astonished when she told me she had eight children; she married at 15 years. She stayed with her baby at that time for ten days at the bedside in the government hospital. We knew they were responsible parents who would make a sacrifice for the welfare of their children. The Cancer Hospital for children is in the city, three hours from the mission. The treatment is without charge but a parent must accompany the child during their stay in the hospital. Manuela was admitted to Intensive Care on arrival with severe anemia. She was placed in oxygen and in the next two days received two blood transfusions which greatly improved her status and she was removed from Intensive Care. Her father chose to stay with her since there is an infant in the family of nine months and the mother is breast feeding.

We are very fortunate to have an excellent contact with one of the physicians in charge. Today she called to give an update on Manuelas condition. The initial treatment with chemotherapy requires two months hospitalization with the entire treatment is received over two years. A Psychologist explains the treatment and committment required and the risks to the family. Manuelas parents are willing to accompany their child on her long, difficult road to a cure. The doctor has asked if Manuela can return to our clinic after the initial two months since their home has a dirt floor and the possibility of infection and adequate nutrition are risks that are a concern in her convalescence. I agreed we could take the responsibility for her intermittent care between chemotherapy treatments with one of her older sisters accompanying her in the clinic. We would also facilitate her transport to and from the city for future treatments. Please keep Manuela in your prayers. I will update you on her journey to wellness!

Photos included are are a picture of Manuela in our clinic before she departed for the Childrens CANCER Hospital in Guatemala City and the other picure is of their kitchen at home. You can understand the concern the doctor has for risk of infection and adequate nutrition. This is another family we will gift one of our ONIL stoves. Thank You for responding to our request also for purchasing a stove for a poor family for $100.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The United Nations and the World Health Organization proclaimed November 14 WORLD DIABETES DAY! This disease is now a world epidemic. The theme for 2009-2013 is "Understand Diabetes" "Take Control"!! For Diabetics it is a message about EMPOWERMENT through EDUCATION. Over 1000 Diabetics have passed through our lab services and consult in the Clinica Maxeña during 2009.

The Clinica Maxeña participates in WORLD HEALTH days, including DAY for AIDS, DAY of the ENVIRONMENT, and now for DIABETES. We hang a banner for the month across the width of our road at the entrance of the MISSION. This year, we invited many to commemorate this Day for Diabetes, which included known Diabetics, persons who feel they have the symtoms or risks, and relatives of diabetics who feel they may have this disease. We were pleased with the response to our forum and day of exposition for Diabetes. We advertised about our event and the symptoms and risks of diabetes through the clinic, local communal radios and printed flyers to other health organizations. Eight new patients were diagnosed DIABETIC during our commemoration of World Diabetes Day; over 60 persons attended. One youth of 17 years, a new diabetic, came to the forum. He was being managed by a pharmacy in town on oral medication. Yesterday we initiated his insulin regimen in our clinic as he is a type one diabetic and this is vital for his future health. We will look for a sponsor for him as the cost for insulin dependent Diabetics is approximately $30. dollars a month; this is impossible for families who are field workers who only earn $7.00 a day!

We had a young Mayan Psychologist who spoke on the emotional effects of this disease. I reviewed some of the physical symptoms, risks and complications of diabetes. Our exposition presented medicinal plants and the nutritional aspects. Members of our Diabetic Club, LA MAXEÑA, prepared the diabetic snack for the participants. We considered the day a SUCCESS!!

Included is a photo of Diego, 17 years old and new insulin dependent diabetic. He is in his third year of Junior High in town. If you can help Diego with $30. dollars a month this would enable him to not worry about his disease and lead a normal life.

In the second Photo, one of Members of our Diabetic CLUB, LA MAXEÑA, shares her experience with living with DIABETES!

Donations can be sent to:
Guatemala Mission
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT.



Good Morning to all!
I am up early; it is Sunday morning. This weekend was difficult. Friday, at the end of the day, Francisco, a nine year old child arrived in the arms of his father. He was severely malnourished, weighing only 41 pounds. Ever, our doctor, examined him and started intravenous fluids for his dehydration. Francisco was acutely ill. He had surgery three weeks ago for a perforated appendix, resulting in peritonitis. He was hospitalized in the government hospital for two weeks. It appears he was discharged with intestinal complications and the family was told to find a private doctor. Unfortunately they waited nearly ten days before arriving to the Clinic. THIS WAS PROBABLY FOR ECONOMIC REASONS OR FOR RELIGION. He was suffering from an intestinal obstruction, apparently since the time of his discharge; the only solution was another surgery. The family would not go to the government hospital again. The family consented to allow him to have the surgery and a surgeon of confidence for the clinic agreed to see him Saturday morning. He was in weakened condition and his life hung on by a thread. I accompanied them to this clinic. Saturday afternoon two doctors performed four hours of surgery. The doctor called me to share his condition was complicated by the degree of obstruction and adhesions and severe malnutrition but he felt he would be ok. Three hours later he called to inform me that his organs were failing. He died at 9PM. I was sad as I thought he would be ok. Please pray for this family and all little children here whose health care is not assured. Thank You for helping us respond to these needs. Enclosed I share a photo I took of Francisco with his parents before the surgery, in this private clinic.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

That Morning Cup of Coffee!

Good Morning Friends and Family,
In Guatemala from October to December we are in Coffee harvest time. We are surrounded by a few large plantations of coffee, owned by the wealthy, and also communal land where the Quiche Indian have small parcels of land. Early in the morning field workers, men, women and children, crowd into back of pickups with their baskets, gunny sacks, and bits of food and drink for the day and head out for the coffee fields. In front of our entrance of the Mission is one area of pickup for the coffee pickers. This year most owners are paying the pickers between $4.00 to $5.00 for one hundred pounds of the red coffee bean. Most field workers would struggle to obtain the 100 pounds for the day. Little children come along to help fill the gunny sacks with the red bean. The reality is that it is the wealthy land owner that is paying, in some instances, less than $4.00 for the hundred pounds of coffee bean and the small parcel owner who pay the field workers a little more. Fortunately the schools are in recess so the children are able to accompany their parents to the field. Yes! CHILD LABOR!! but it is reality for the POOR:

I was recently at home for vacation. Yes, I did frequent the coffee shops and did enjoy an occassional cappuchino for $3.00. Now back in my own reality, I am very aware that what a coffee picker earns in one day hardly pays for a treatment of antibiotic for a sick child. The poor know they can come to our clinic for care, knowing they may not be able to pay for the medicine, but we will not turn them away. I know times are also more difficult at home. But still I am well aware of my own comforts and security, and of my family and friends. I dare to continue to ask, to beg, for help for the POOR we serve.

I do want to write more on the reality of COFFEE in a future blog. More than forty years ago our missionaries did initiate a Coffee Cooperative, in a villlage less than five miles from our mission, that continues to progress and grow today. They are FAIR TRADERS as Cooperative members. Recently the Cooperative was successful in obtaining a large grinder so they could not only process and dry the coffee bean but also grind and bag it. The placing of the coffee in bags is part of the women´s participation in the Cooperative. This year they will put labels on their coffee.


Please do send a donation to help us serve the coffee pickers and families in our CLINIC when they are ill. Remember them when you enjoy your morning coffee!!

Send your donation to:
Guatemala Mission
Nurses Fund
Diocese of Helena
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Concerns and Joys as year comes to end

Friends and Family,
Greetings from here amidst the drizzling rains. We escaped Hurricaine IDA except for the constant wet soggy ground around us. A concert and meditation on the Eucharist had to be moved to the patio of the school from our mission grounds because of the wheather. It was a joyous celebration with over three hundred in attendance. Fr Martin is campus ministry chaplain for the Diocesan University in San Salvador; during the week he, with his band and sololists, travel nationally and internationally carrying his Ministry of the Blessed Sacrament and joyful music to all.

Also it was the culmination of a successful year for Pastoral Health of the diocese of which the Clinica Maxeña is a vibrant participant. The Clinic Band brought joy and music to the event and to the mass celebrated by Bishop Pablo Vizcaino. Health themes for the Clinic this past year included Safe Water Project, Nutrition, Environmental issues, which includes the wood burning stove, reforestation, and also AIDS, and Diabetes. Coming together with other health workers from other parishes enables one to learn from each other, share concerns, prayer, and hope for a more just world for the sick and poor.

In the clinic as the year ends we are also looking at our financial situation for the year to come, evaluating workers and contracts and planning end of year festivities. The Gospel reminds of the reality that the POOR will always be with us. As CHURCH we cannot and do not refuse treatment to patients. Realities are that more and more patients are charitable cases so we must continue to ask others to accompany us in our Ministry here in order to provide quality care. THANK YOU!!

The Feast of St Thomas, Patron saint of the town and our parish is celebrated December 21. The parish staff hosts a christmas party for workers and pastoral health and social committees plan the Christmas Party for the elderly which is celebrated on the Mission grounds.

Another celebration of 50 years in mission is being celebrated by the Diocese of Spokane Washington in the highlands, about three hours by highway travel. Now one is able to go up a rugged dirt road up the mountains from our mission and arrive in half the time. Alex, our volunteer, went to the first day of the celebration. I hope also to join the festivities on Thursday if I can find someone to accoumpany me. Our mission is three years from a Golden Jubilee celebration.

I include a picture of our band in the diocese Retreat center near the adjacent water fall and also one of myself with Sr Immaculata; she is from Ireland and the Spokane Mission. We have been friends for many years, since the beginnings of both our Missions.
Good Night to all!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Home again at Clinic and Mission

Friends and family,
Greetings anew from our Mission in Guatemala. It is good to be back home here. Surprisingly we are getting heavy rain storms yet in afternoons. This weekend is the remembrance of All saints in our Spiritual tradition and also loved ones who have passed on. All Souls day is a national holiday here. Everyone goes to the cemetery with flowers, candles and also there is music and food booths. The people accompany their dead into the night when the cemetery is aglow with candle lights.

We have one patient in our clinic infirmary. Juana is the woman who was brutally attacked by her husband in September. She had a metal plate surgically inserted in one leg to enable the healing of a serious fracture in the local government hospital. Unfortunately one area of the incision has infected. She is completely immobile so her children are caring for her in the clinic. Her husband remains in prison. He is mentally ill but unfortunately there are no institutions adequate for treating and monitoring such patients. Prisoners suffer greatly at the hands of the leaders of gangs in the prison unless they pay a high stipend to these criminals. We will continue to accompany this domestic violence patient until she is healed. Your donations and prayers are appreciated.

Our cooks son in law, Diego, has finally been deported from the US as an undocumented immigrant, after eight months in prison. He was in an automobile accident where two other Guatemalans were killed; he was not the driver but was injured. Diego was removed from the hospital and brought to a detention center. He was given little legal support during his incarceration and he spoke of thousands of other detainees, undocumented immigrants, in the same warehouse prison. I saw him today and he told me he rarely saw the light of day during this time. The Catholic Church supports immigration reform for the undoccumented who flee Latin American countries for economic reasons.

As the end of the year approaches we know we have had many blessings with the people we serve but it also has been a difficult year for many families economically, with illness, malnutrition and violence. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On the road still!

Friends and family,
Since I last wrote in my blog, I have been to the Weston Priory Monastery, to Montana to visit our Diocese Mission Office and Bishop George Thomas, my brother and family and now I am in Seattle. Today I will go to Bellevue,WA for the Assembly of CSJP congregation of which I am associate for the weekend. In ten days I will be back home in Guatemala. It has been wonderful and rejuvenating to be with family and friends. One feeling I felt immediately on arrival to the US was a sense of security. Guatemala is going through a difficult time of crime and violence and increased poverty. Though it is not always on ones doorstep, the news paper brings it home daily. Accompaniment by friends is most important to us.

The Health Plan for all Americans is in the news daily here as Congress and the People voice their concerns and hopes. In Guatemala Health Care is not a Human Right as it should be in all countries. Basic minimal care is available to some but not all the poor through the Guatemalan Ministry of Health. Once one is diagnosed with a more complex disease the poor are at the mercy of whoever will help them. Health Care in Guatemala is in CRISIS! as it has been forever. As CHURCH people we try our best to accompany them, using National Hospitals and at times Private Hospitals. Since I have been home I have had two urgent appeals from our clinic for help!

One woman was brutally attacked by her husband and suffers many machete wounds, almost fatal. The machete is the large knife used by field workers to cut whatever. Her husband is in jail. The woman is in the National Hospital but needs to purchase a metal prosthesis to achieve healing of a wound that fractured her leg. The cost is 500. dollars. The family includes four children, three are students at our School, ASUNCION. The oldest is married. The community responded by obtaining a loan from Sr Anna for the prosthesis. They have been able to come up with some money to begin to pay off the loan, but are still in need. They are visiting this woman almost daily and giving some emotional support to the family. We will accompany her until she is home and is emotionally and physically well. Violence to WOMEN is on the increase in this society.

The other patient is close to home. The wife of one of our workers, Marcos, who is one of the auxiliary nurses who has worked in our parish clinic for 12 years. She suffered a medical emergency as she had been apparently healthy until she became acutely ill with abdominal pain. She was admitted to a private hospital in the middle of the night. Her diagnosis is Pancretitis and a new diagnosis of Diabetes, type 2. Her glucose was over 400 and she was anemic. She has She went to the hospital on October 9 and was still hospitalized when I received an update on October 15. We are selective in offering financial assistance for private medical care and loans because of our financial capacity and the economic needs of the service we offer in own Parish Clinic These two instances would be examples of exception. . The RIGHT TO LIFE touches every aspect of life, from womb to tomb. Thank You for responding to our needs in accompanying the people we have been called to serve. I am including a photo of MASS at the Weston Priory and also a picture of the woman injured in family violence who awaits surgery.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On the road on Vacation

I am now in the United States visiting family and Friends and also sharing information about our Mission of the Diocese of Helena in Guatemala. In Washington DC I visited friends that I shared and worked with in the eighties. It was a joy to be with Alice Zachmann for a few days. I worked with Alice as she was the founder of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission,USA. I was sort of a translator and followed Alice about in her daily work and met many wonderful friends who worked for justice for the people in Central America. Alice, 82 years young, is now a 12 hour a day volunteer at the International Task Force against torture in our world, TASSC. The next evening we had a lovely supper at the ASSISI Community . Dianna Ortiz, a torture victim in the nineties in Guatemala,and founder of TASSC, lives there and was the cook for the evening. She is doing fine and an inspiration to all. I met Amanda, the now Director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission,USA. Amanda was a Peace Corp Volunteer in an agrarian community in Guatemala in the nineties; surprisingly this community is just five minutes from our mission and part of our parish. She will visit me in December. She invited me to accompany her to the Guatemalans celebration of the September 15, INDEPENDENCE DAY FOR GUATEMALA, in Maryland. I happily went along and was able to sell some crafts for our mission to the Guatemalan immigrants living in our country and help support our mission clinic.

Then I was on to visit my nieces and nephews living in Maryland. I went to a CORN MAIZE with grand nieces and nephews, a lovely shrimp dinner with my nephew Jimmy and family, Peggy her husband and son. It was fun to be with the children and see how they are growing so fast. I went to the Zoo with Peggy and little Aedan the next day. Now I am with My sister Marie, husband Jim and another niece Mary. She lives amidst the trees in Vermont, incredible view and peaceful setting. We drove around the beautiful sites of Vermont and again being treated royally to delicious food and rest and relaxation. Today my sister and I will go to the Weston Priory for a few days. I have always been inspired by this Benedictine Community who gave sanctuary to Guatemalans fleeing the violence in the eighties.

Thank You for your support of our work in Guatemala and for reading my blog. You can send a donation for our Clinic in Guatemala at:

Guatemala Mission
Nurses Fund
Diocese of Helena
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT


Thursday, September 10, 2009

State of Calamity proclaimed for HUNGER in Guatemala

Guatemala has proclaimed a state of CALAMITY for HUNGER. The MINISTER of HEALTH in the Cabinet has lost his position. The Clinica Maxeña is witness to this state of hunger and malnutrition in infants and small children. It is a situation that the CHURCH is in the front line to combat and accompany the people. It is said with this proclamation more funds will be available from International organizations for projects related to nutrition. We are well aware the solution is JUSTICE. An average field worker here can earn as low as $3.00 a day, and reality there is no work available. The corn and bean crop have failed because of lack of rain in many areas. The field workers risk their lives to migrate to the NORTH, the United States; often resulting in disintegration of the family. They pay high interest loans for this dangerous voyage, often with unscrupulous guides. They often lose the little land they have as they had put it up for collateral for the loan; they never arrive in their destination or they are unable to find work in the US.

Last week one infant arrived with severe malnutrition at one month of age. The mother, 40 yrs of age, ten children, has minimal breast milk. She has been supplementing the infant with water. The infant weighed 4 pounds. I visited the home after our worker interviewed the mother. Their situation is critical as it was obvious there was little or no food available, few of the children are enrolled in school, they are mostly barefoot on their dirt floor environment. They no longer own their land, but are now taking shelter, as they had taken a loan for a son to go to states and they could not pay the loan. One of our workers is a neighbor; he related that yesterday the neighbors collected a few pound of corn, beans,rice,and sugar to donate to the family as they knew they had no food to eat. The father has no work and the only crop they have is bananna. The Clinic Maxeña will provide formula for this infant and protein supplement for the other children.

Our Clinic has hopes to be able to collect additional funds from donors and perhaps an international organization for this critical cause of HUNGER which has resulted in a proclamation of STATE OF CALAMITY!!! THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

International Day for Migrants

Good Afternoon from the Clinica Maxeña!!
Today is a busy day as we intitiate the week of the Opthamology Brigade; three Opthamologists from California and one Guatemalan Doctor provided by the association for Blindness in Guatemala, have begun to do exams and eye surgeries.

Sunday the Clinic workers had the opportunity to travel to the Mexican Border as part of Pastoral Health of the diocese here in Guatemala. These campaigns of solidarity are a very important part of the Social Justice themes of our Church here in Guatemala. Twenty five workers went in a bus that the Clinic contracted. In reality it was a joyful day away from the work of the clinic. The clinic band followed an ambulance in the march for Human Rights for Migrants along with other clinic workers, carrying our banner, on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Several other parishes and groups working with AIDS were also part of the march and day of education.

AIDS continues a major concern with migrants and since our state is on the the route to the border it is one of the reasons that AIDS is a major issue in this area. The state of Suchitepequez is third in incidence of AIDS in the country. Pastoral Health of diocese provides training sessions for leaders in the CHURCH on AIDS PREVENTION and COMPASSION for patients with this disease. The Bishops Conference has a complete Program, TEACHING LOVE, that is available and provides sex education from Primary school through highschool. Our Clinic is initiating and coordinating these programs for youth in the area.

As our EYE CLINIC is in process our clinic is very busy. Regular consult by our clinic doctor is happening simultaneously and he has already seen five new cases of severe malnutrition in children under three years. The parents are interviewed to their home, nutrition, and economic status. They are enrolled in our supplemental Milk Program and in the monthly obligatory nutrition class.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Malnutrition CRISIS in GUATEMALA

Good Morning from the Clinica Maxeña! For all who have not visited our Mission, our Clinic is located in the lower coast on the Pacific side, about three hours from the city. Our town is about 13,000 population but borders a mountainous region of over 90communities of Mayan Indigenous population with an estimated 75,000 population.

The rains have been considerably less this year resulting in a critical dryness of the land which caused failed bean and corn crops, especially for the poor from the mountain communities. The failure of the crops and the extreme poverty has caused malnutrition to become a major health issue for the people we serve. Daily we are seeing infants and small children whose weight is critically low. Many children of 2 to 3 years can no longer stand or walk. All babies here are breast fed until at least one year old. This is a blessing as milk is not a product they can afford so children are weaned off the breast to sweetend coffee. We do supplement the malnourished children with formula or powdered fortified milk. Corn is of course grown in this region but more and more village men now use their small plots of land for cash crops such as coffee and a leaf used in making the traditional tamale. Coffee prices are down and the reality it is a once a year crop, the people are planting less coffee too. The land is fertile and there are many healthy herbs that grow naturally if the land is tilled properly. Some vegetables will also grow in this climate but money is scarce so people need assist in obtaining seed and organic compost and instruction. Pastoral Health of the diocese gives workshops on Agro-ecology. We have a Medicinal Plant Clinic that also grows some nutritional plants, native to the area.

The Clinic is constantly looking for ideas on how to assist the people lead more healthy lives. The people in need are knocking on our door for help. We have the confidence of the population, trained personell, but our coffers of funds are low.
We want to offer family vegetable gardens for the mothers of the malnourished and perhaps some chickens. They have small plots of land and we have the personell to teach organic gardens. We need to buy seeds, fencing, chickens and some garden tools. We know it is a drop in the bucket to the immense problem of malnutrition. We are well aware that the economic times are difficult in all parts of the world. We are a PEOPLE of FAITH! The Gospel inspire us to move forward with faith and hope and to reach out to those who are suffering the most. We can only accomplish goals through accompaniement of friends who have responded to our clinc needs over the years. We are now in our 45th year of our mission. Thank You for being one who has walked with us and the people of Guatemala.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Violence and Crime invade Guatemala

Good Morning,
It is Saturday morning. Guatemala is in the international and national news for the surge of crime, extorsions, and assasinations. This week it was close to home. An evangelical Pastor, his wife, and young niece were assasinated on the road to a town about 15 miles from Santo Tomas. They are our neighbors, as the church he pastors, and their home, is right across the entrance to our Mission. Family arrived at dawn from the States. Tomorrow they will move their loved ones to be buried in the town of origin. The motive of the assasinations appears to have been over Land. We sent conodolences and flowers. Extorsions of owners of buses and small taxis is happening all over the country and also in this community. This is very sad and frightening for all the people. Please keep this dear country in prayer. Hunger and malnutrition are in the news daily. The poor are suffering greatly with the economic crisis and lack of work. Many are being deported from the United States so that source of supplement of income is also disappearing. Our clinic daily provides more charity and sees more patients and children suffering effects of poverty and malnutrition. We are grateful for financial support and prayers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feliza arrives back to clinic!

Good evening!
Well this evening Feliza and her dad arrived from Guatemala City on the town bus. It was wonderful to see her look more healthy. Her feet and abdomen are no longer swollen. She is on several medications for tuberculosis. We thought that she would be referred to a Tuberculosis Hospital but actually we are more comfortable to have her here near where her family can be with her. She has been given enough medicine for two weeks and she has an appointment in the Infectious disease clinic in the largest government Hospital in the city. We will accompany her to this appointment. Her dad will go home tomorrow and Feliza will stay with us in the clinic. They are a very poor family and we know her diet would not be adequate at home. We have a kitchen worker who is from a village and lives at the mission during the week so she will assist in watching over her. On my last visit to the city she had asked for a doll. I was a bit surprised as her previous request was for high heels. My clinic accountant and chofer, as I do not drive in the city, laughed when I looked surprised, and his response, GET HER A DOLL!! Of course I did and she is very happy with her doll which is dressed in indigenous attire.

Today we also had the visit of a Swedish Organization that we are hopeful will fund an extension of our environmental project. Please keep this in prayer. Our stove project is very important to us and we have also included request for a nutrition project as hunger increases and we are supplementing more and more malnourished infants with milk and protein drink. We provide nutrition classes and ideally we would want to provide family vegetable gardens. Thank you for prayer and support.
GOOD NIGHT!! I leave you with a photo of Feliza and her DOLLY. love sheila

Monday, August 24, 2009

News from Clinica Maxeña!

Good afternoon,
Life has been perhaps routine and I have not stopped to write a bit of our world in our parish clinic, LA MAXEÑA. We are preparing for our bi annual Brigade of Opthamologist surgeons on September 7, 2009. The majority of these doctors have been volunteering this valuable service for over ten years and most of them are from California. The actual Surgical Opthamology Unit in our clinic was donated by a Montana Opthamologist, Dr. Kuptco of Hamilton, Montana. Over 300 patients have signed up for consult for this opportunity and gift of service.

Our maintenance crew have laid the ground work for another valuable supporter and engineer, Monty Giles. Monty will come in November to install a water pump for a 5,000 gallon reserve water tank. This will insure water for our second floor of the clinic and also for the dental service. This is again a very valuable gift as water around the world becomes more scarce.

Last Friday we had a real emergency that left little time for decisions. Marta is 19 yrs old, married, of few economic resources. She arrived with shortness of breath, very rapid heart beat and in acute distress.She had not been previously to a clinic. It was the end of the day, the end of the week. Our Doctor examined her and knew we had to send her immediately to a hospital. He knew that on weekends the doctor in charge of Intensive Care in the government Hospital is not present until Monday. Resident Doctors would make decisions. He also knew there are few cardiac meds available in the hospital. We decided to send her to a private clinic with an Internist we knew had cardiac experience. After emergency care, electrocardiaogram, chest Xray and Echocardiogram, oxygen and lab tests she was diagnosed of having a serious mitral valve defect, and pulmonary hypertension. She spent the weekend in this private clinic and was stabilized. The cost was less than one thousand dollars. The family was able to obtain 75% of this and the clinic donated the remainder. Today she went to the Cardiac Center in Guatemlala City, which is subsidized by the government. She will be operated by Cardiologists this week. We are confident the cost will be minimal due to her poverty. We are content that she is now stable and we know patients, such as Marta, make real our purpose of mission in Guatemala.

Saturday, Sr. Mary and myself, went to visit the home of one of our patients who we were aware was in critical condition. Israel was 4yrs old and had a brain tumor. He was in treatment for many months with both chemo and radiation. His condition had left him blind and he had glass eyes. Israel was a happy child when he would come to visit Sr Anna with his Mom. Israel was a child who had an ANGEL, from our diocese, who was supporting his medical care. This is a project of Sr Anna and a great financial aid to our medical needs for patients. We knew that a few weeks ago the Oncologist in Guatemala City had informed the family that the tumor had returned and there was no more treatment available except comfort care. His family was very sad. When we did not hear from them we felt he had died. Our visit to their very humble home confirmed this. Israel had died eight days ago. His young parents spoke about his death being in the arms of one of his aunts and he had died without pain. They truly missed him and spoke of how he was loved by all the neighbors and how he played with cars and balls as if he could see his world around him. Again we thank you for accompanying us in our work here in Guatemala. We could not do it without your generosity. I end this note by sharing a picture of ISRAEL and his MOM.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Feliza´s Diagnosis at last

Yesterday I was a bit sad as I waited to hear the result of a biopsy performed in Guatemala city on my young patient, Feliza! I had heard from the doctors that they had narrowed the results to Lymphoma or Tuberculosis and Monday they would know. I was concerned that Lymphoma was a disease that would be difficult if not impossible to cure and I prayed that it would be Tuberculosis. Today I was informed that it was Peritoneal Tuberculosis. Although Tuberculosis is no longer epidemic here and more commonly it is found in the lung, we are increasingly diagnosing this disease in our clinic. The Clinic Maxeña Laboratory performs the diagnostic sputum slides for several government clinics in the area. Malnutricion increases the incidence of Tuberculosis. The good news is that Tuberculosis can be cured.

The Doctor told me, by telephone, that tomorrow they would consult a specialist of Infectious disease to determine the most appropiate treatment and a Health Center closer to her home. Feliza has been ill for over a year and the reality that her disease was diagnosed after many diagnostic tests, several medical consults, and a surgical biopsy, is a victory for us. We strongly believe that Health Care is a Human Right for all people and we are pleased that we are able to provide her with an opportunity to heal and eventually return to school with her friends. Her medical care now will be medicine provided by the Government Tuberculosis program and if need she will be admitted to the Government Tuberculosis Hospital about two hours from our mission. She is severely malnourshed from this chronic disease so we are ready to accompany her until she is well. Again I thank you for your prayers and your financial assistance to our mission clinic which makes possible such miracles.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Feliza needs Prayers and Miracles- UPDATE

The story of Feliza is reality for the POOR. I succeeded in getting her admitted to the largest government hospital in Guatemala City and where I thought she would be quickly attended to. REALITY CHECK! Very little attention has been given to this acutely ill child. Her father is at her bedside from 8am to 5pm. They only allow mothers to stay during night and she had to stay with her other children and also would be afraid to be in the city.

The biggest obstacle has been, that the pediatric surgeon who so kindly assisted me in getting her admitted to his care, has not yet seen her on the ward. All the preliminary exams never arrived to the ward where she is a patient. It is now five days. The Resident doctors insist they did not have access to them. These exams were expensive diagnostic tests that we had done and that are vital for her care. Her father, Antonio, talks to us daily several times with the clinic cell phone we left with him. Saturday he sounded desperate and he related that her condition was failing and nothing was being done. I made an emergency trip to the city to see her on Sunday. I could not retrieve the diagnostic tests as they were left in the adjacent clinic with the doctor who got us the reference with the Pediatrician. It was Sunday but at least I could confirm to the residents that these reports were in Guatemala City and I would see that they arrive to the ward. I also could comfort the father and encourage patience through the person who accompanied me and who could speak the Indian dialect. I did call the Pediatric Surgeon, a bit evasive, but assured me that he would be doing a biopsy for definite diagnosis and not to worry. I sent a clinic person to the hospital today and he also retrieved the diagnostic tests that were still with the othe doctor in another hospital! It has been five days!! He was able to visit the Social Worker and assure that the father could stay in the temporary house near the hospital without charge. One night the father was not given a bed and he had to stay in a cheap room in a not too safe area of the city. He stayed on the floor in a room with three other men he did not know but said he felt safer than if on the street. The cost of the room was less than a dollar.

Feliza does seem to be eating better and though she has received little medication her feet were less swollen and she had minimal fever but still pain and ascities. I returned home frustrated but at peace that she did not seem to be dying and it seemed for now the best place to be for a more certain diagnosis.

Again Feliza needs prayers, a lttle miracle and an ANGEL!!

Friday, July 31, 2009


This is an update on my little sick child, Feliza, who I wrote about in my last blog.

Feliza is now in the Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City. Admitting patients to this hospital, which is the largest in the country, is often difficult if not impossible. Usually they are transferred and referred by National hospitals in the different regions of the country. Many of patients in our region do not go to these hospitals for lack of confidence and the reality that care is inadequate and there is little support system for the indian culture and language.

Feliza was not improving and the reality, that even with all the lab and diagnostic tests done, the doctors we consulted were not sure of the exact source of her illness. We are fortunate to have a contact and friendship of a doctor in the city, who works in the Cancer Hospital for children, adjacent to the ROOSEVELT HOSPITAL. She suggested that we bring her to the Cancer Hospital and she would consult a Friend Pediatrician at the Roosevelt to admit Feliza. Again this contact proved very fruitful for us. As this doctor from Roosevelt, a Pediatric Surgeon, worked for us in the seventies, when he was a Med student. He was very concerned and committed to the care of Feliza. He also agreed to help us with another child we have been trying to admit to Roosevelt Hospital for surgery for six months. He accompanied us directly to the Emergency of Pediatrics and gave instructions to the residents to admit Feliza to his ward. This process took six hours and yet we still left the father with Feliza in the emergency room when we headed for the Mission so to return before dark. The father could stay during the day with Feliza and the hospital provides a bed and meals in a temporary house near the hospital for him. I left a clinic cell phone with him so we could communicate daily with him.

The day before when Feliza was in the clinic she started to cry. I thought she had pain and when I asked her what was wrong; she said, "I want a pair of shoes". Her parents were surprised at her request and laughed. I sat down with her and asked her what kind of shoes did she want. She said, I want "TACONES", which is spanish for hi heels. Her little feet were swollen from her illness. I bought her instead furry mouse slippers which made her happy. I promised when she was well I would get her the heels which many young indian girls wear at school. Feliza is in the fifth grade in her community, and despite her illness she continued to go to school until the teacher sent her to a doctor at a government clinic who then sent her to us.
The Bishop of the Diocese of the mountainous area we serve was here the night before we decided to take her to the city. He prayed with her and her dad and blessed her. I ask you to also remember Feliza in your prayers.


Saturday, July 25, 2009


Feliza is 11 years old;she lives with her parents and 3 siblings in a small mountainous village. Two weeks ago her father brought her to our clinic with a referral from a government clinic with a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis and malnutrition. Government doctors in village clinics have no access to diagnostic tests and only basic medications. The minimal care received in these clinics is without cost to the patient. Feliza appeared sad and very ill; she was very frail, thin and juandiced. The translation of her name is HAPPY.
Unfortunately this is not reality for her now.

Our Doctor,Ever, ordered an ultra sound to identify the mass in her abdomen and other lab tests. We must accompany patients to the next town, provide a translator and usually pay the cost of the ultra sound. Many chemical lab tests are performed in our own clinic but others we send out to a larger Laboratory with a Bio Chemist in this same town. Felizas condition was chronic and complicated. Her tests showed negative for hepatitis but she had a yet unidentified mass in her liver, chronic fever and pain. A Pediatrician was consulted and he ordered an abdominal CAT scan and more complex laboratory tests. The results showed a severe peritonitis, necrotic ganglion, a Liver abscess, probably a result of intestinal amoebas that were also identified. She had lower extremity edema from the malnutrition and the ascites, abdomial fluid retention, was increasing.

In our culture Feliza would be in Intensive care! Not so in the rural area of Guatemala where Health Care for the POOR is unavailable and inadequate. There was no way we could admit her to the government hospital because we knew she would not receive the care and medications needed or could her parents be at her side. We wouldnt send her back home! We brought her back to our small ward for patients in our clinic. Her prognosis was grave. Cirrhosis was feared. She was profoundly anemic and her father donated blood for her and she was transfused. This was done in our clinic infirmary. Antibiotics, amoebic treatment,pain medication, small diuretic doses and IV infusions have been happening. Last night she had a difficult night but now 24 hours after the transfusion she seems slightly better and smiling.

Feliza is one of the reasons why our parish clinic has a mission. We are not here to solve the health issues for the government. We are here as mission people, making present JESUS, at the bedside and in the communities, where there is suffering and injustice. OUR MISSION is one of a PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR AND MOST NEEDY and thus we participate in the construction of a just society with solidarity and service for LIFE!


Send your donations to:
Guatemala Mission
Diocese of Helena
P.O. Box 1729

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fire Wood for the POOR

Last week we bid farewell to one of two La Ceiba trees that were planted over forty years ago on our mission ground. The tree had a large split in it and as these tree are the National tree of the country, and their trunks and branches are huge and heavy. We could not risk possible damage to property or life; we had to eliminate one. There seemed a certain saddness to see it come crashing down with the assist of seasoned tree cutters and volunteer personell. This corner however is now much brighter than before. Today other workers are cutting the huge branches and trunk with electric saws. We will donate the firewood obtained to the very poor who do not have access and often suffer in being able to cook and have food available for their families. Sr. Anna and Diego from Pastoral Ministry are choosing the neediest and elderly for this gift of firewood.

The LA CEIBA TREE is an important element in the Mayan Culture. It is known as the TREE of LIFE. Often I sit outside in the morning with my coffee and watch beautiful yellow and orange birds fly in and around the trees. So often we dont appreciate or enjoy the beautiful surroundings and peace we all enjoy in the environment our creator gifted to us!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dilia comes Home

Palm sunday was a sad day for us. Pedro, one of our lab technicians, younger sister, a deaf mute, had got on a town bus in the early hours by herself to the city. No one heard her leave the house. Dilia is 24 years old. She is a pretty indigenous young woman who lived quietly with her family. She would go places only accompanied by her family. On a few occassions in the past she had left alone but was easily found in nearby homes. Her family did everything they could to try and locate her. In this country there is little assistance available for the handicapped. She had no skills of communication. Prayers services by both catholic and evangelical churches were happening. The family went to the city, and other towns, to Police stations, put out communications and appealed on the radio. They put it in Gods hands and went on with their lives but were positive that she would return.

Yesterday, three months to the day, her picture appeared in the local newspaper. She was in a home for the aged and the handicapped in Guatemala City and was looking for her parents. We were overjoyed, tears of JOY. Her brother, our lab assistant, her mother and a friend, myself and a clinic driver left immediately for the city. We went to the center of the Attorney General for Guatemala, as it was from this office that the ad was placed in the newspaper. We were late arriving as we had to obtain official copies of her birth certificate. We were unable to visit her and bring her home, as their office was closing and we only finished the necessary paper work, no time for the official receiving of Dilia. We did learn she was 12 days on the street before it was denounced to this office and she was brought to a safe environment. This too was a relief as we now knew she was not three months on the street but 12 days. We still knew we would have to see that she had a complete physical and was welcomed back into her home and community. 5PM today with the Catholic Community we received Dilia with firecrackers and hugs and prayer. The neighbors gave coffee and bread to those who welcomed her home and supper to the family. The clinic provided her with a bed, which she did not have, as she had slept on boards. We all went home grateful and with peace. For all present it was a miracle amidst difficult moments when all came together to celebrate her welcome HOME and give thanks to GOD for bringing her home SAFE!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Last week we had the joy of inaugurating our new Kitchen for the clinic personell, patients, and mission visitors. This has been a great gift. As explained in a previous blog our mountain project is now administered by a newly formed organization managed by their team of doctors and has moved out of the clinic. This kitchen had been in the budget and we are delighted at its completion and inauguration. We celebrated the founding of their new organization and the inauguration of the kitchen the same day. Archbishop Curtiss, previously Bishop of our Diocese in Helena, Montana was visiting and accompanied Our pastor, Fr Hazy as he blessed the new construction. We enjoyed the traditional tamales and band music with this celebration.

The new kitchen has a tile floor, two new Onil stoves to save on fire wood, many windows that let the sun shine in. Indeed this is a real change and pleasant atmosphere! This week we have continued to paint cupboards, position the appliances and have begun to serve meals. Forty years ago I purchased a straw cross in front of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City for one dollar; this cross now adorns the wall. We hope visitors and personell will enjoy the service of our new kitchen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Diabetes now a Major Health Issue

Last year we became acutely aware that Diabetes had become a major health issue for the Mayan Indigenous of Guatemala. That this chronic illness was completely ignored by the Ministry of Health was of deep concern for us. Most of the new diabetic patients have type 2 Diabetes. These patients are more easily managed with oral medication and diet. We have initiaed a Diabetic Club at the Clinica Maxeña which meets monthly. We have excellent support for classes from the Nutriitionist of Pastoral Health of the Diocese.

We are more concerned with two young patients who are coping with type 1 Diabetes.
Lorenzo is 26 years old and a teacher; he is a graduate of our parish highschool, Asuncion. Two weeks ago he came to the clinic in acute distress. He had difficult breathing, fatigue, profound anemia and malnourished. He related that he was advised in January by a auxiliary nurse in a Pharmacy that he had diabetes and he sold him oral medication for one month but gave him no medical advice or information. Since he felt a little better and for economic reasons he did not persue more advice or treatment. Unfortunately he has complications from the disease from lack of immediate treatment. His vision is damaged and more diagnostic tests have to be performed. He stayed as an in patient in our clinic for one week. His pneumonia was treated, lab tests performed, and he was started on insulin. Within the week he was smiling and feeling much better. His severe vision complication will need the intervention of an opthamologist. He was fortunate to have a younger brother who was willing to donate a unit of blood for his severe anemia. He was committed to come to the Diabetic Club.He is married and has one child. Fortunately his wife is literate and can assist him in reading the insulin syringe and supervise his injections twice daily. Lorenzo had just obtained a teaching position before he fell ill. He has sent a relative to cover his classes to not lose this important opportunity of employment. We are aware that even though he has a professional position, for now he is unemployed, and will need economic assistance from the Clinica Maxeña. Insulin costs approximately $35. a month for insulin, syringes, and glucose checks. $60. would purchase a glucometer for an insulin dependent diabetic. Lorenzo was able to see DVDs of previous classes by the nutritionist and will assist for the first time the Diabetic Club this week.

Our other young patient with insulin dependent diabetes is more a challenge. She is 16 years old, with only third grade primary education. Unfortunately home environment is not ideal with her father being unemployed and alcoholic. She is also malnourished and does not accept the reality of her diabetes. She also was an inpatient this past week with crisis of hypoglycemia and unstable glucoses. She comes to most meetings of the diabetic club with her mother.

November 14 has been named by the United Nations as WORLD DAY OF DIABETES. The Theme chosen is Know your Diabetes and Take Charge. We at the Clinic will continue to help our patients learn how to control their diabetes and to understand this illness. Thank You for Your support to make this possible.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pasin, a very poor community

Last week we hosted members of Libby, Montana Rotary. They came to visit the community Pasin. Pasin is one of the poorest communities we serve. This is evident as you enter their community as there are only a few homes that are constructed with block.The homes are built with wood or bamboo and tin roofs. Less than five have graduated from highschool. We have several children receiving milk and protein supplement from the area because of severe malnourishment. The Rotary of Libby have plans to upgrade the water availability for people in the community. Their system is very old and most families only have water at night. Water is in cement sinks outdoors and for many they share the water source with two or three other neighbors.
The project will not begin until 2010.

Manuel, 14yrs old, who suffered severe burns from firecrackers is from this community. His father is disabled and unable to work and his mom has a chronic illness. The Libby Rotary responded to our need to provide ONIL stoves to the most impoverished free of charge by purchasing two. While they were here we installed one of these stoves in the home of Manuel. As the picture shows, they had been cooking on the open ground. Firewood was impossible for them to purchase so the father and Manuel would gather twigs from trees from the nearby woodsy area. This gift will be of great service to this family. Each stove costs $100. You too can respond to this need by sending a donation to our Mission.
Guatemala Mission
Nurses Fund
PO Box 1729
Helena, MT.
Note that it is for ONIL STOVE:
thanks much and PEACE to all your family.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


June 5 is celebrated throughout the WORLD as the day of the environment. Garbage dumps everywhere, lack of sanitation and potable water in many communities, forest fires and brutal deforestation, lack of recycling, make this month of major importance for Guatemala and the Clinica Maxeña. Human beings do not feel part of NATURE but rather OWNERS of the PLANET. NO longer are we good gardeners! We cannot as Human Beings and CHRISTIANS not make a difference. We must reflect and act with urgency to make changes in the PLANET. This Years THEME is THE PLANET NEEDS YOU! The CLINICA MAXEÑA has placed a banner on the entrance of town to commemorate the MONTH. This theme plus the phrase, PLANT A TREE, adorns the banner. Pastoral Health of the CATHOLIC CHURCH reminds us that "CREATION IS A REFLECTION OF THE BEAUTY AND KINDNESS OF GOD"

A few months ago we had a major forest fire on the VOLCANOE PECUL which is the source of all water for the lower coast where our mission is located. 1300 hectares burned and only the miracle of rain was able to extinguish the fire. Local Mayan field workers trudged up the mountain daily as volunteers, carrying a few gallons of water, picks and hoes in a futile attempt to save the mountain.

The FORESTS are disappearing, the WATER is being negotiated, CONTAMINATION advances, ILLNESSES, SUFFERING AND HUNGER are increasing! HELP ONE ANOTHER so that the fruits and beauty of the earth are conserved for generations, present and future.


$100. will purchase an Onil Stove that saves firewood for a Poor family in Guatemala.
$20. will allow us to purchase 50 trees to plant and fight deforestation.

Guatemala Mission
Nurses Fund
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT
THank You!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Successful Mountain Project moves on!

The Mountain Project,as part of the parish clinic of Santo Tomas La Union and mission clinic of the Diocese of Helena Montana, is moving on to new headquarters in town,the end of June. This project began in 2003 as a pilot project to demonstrate to the Ministry of Health of Guatemala a more effective way to provide health care to the diverse indigenous populations who live in remote areas of the country side. Vaccinations increased and maternal and infantil deaths, and malnutrition have all diminished in the area served. This inclusive Model of basic Health Care has proven itself a success. The goal in 2003 was that in three years the Ministry of Helath would adopt the model as an alternative model and assume the expense of the proyect. This never happened and the supporting organizations of Medicus Mundi of Spain and the European Union agreed to extend the financial support until 2011. The reality is the goal to associate with the Ministry of Health is important for this project and the different visions as a parish clinic obligate us to separate the project for the Clinica Maxeña. It has been an awarding experience to be a part of the success story demonstrated when health assistants from the same area who speak the language and understand the customs are given the opportunity of employment to provide medical care in their own communities. Many visitors who have visited our mission have visited one of the six mountain clinics of this project and have been impressed with the interest and success demonstrated by documentation and participation of the community in their own health care. Basic medical care is provided free of cost in these small mountain clinics in the same manner it is in other government clinics. So often in government clinics there are no medications, personell do not speak the indian dialect and are there only for the job which is usually politically associated and little interest in the diverse Mayan culture. The clinic will bid good by to 24 workers in a get together on June 25 with the other workers who work directly in the Clinica Maxeña. There will not be tears but celebration for a job well done and moving on to another structure and organization in our town. We will have tamales, music, games and finally a soccer match between the teams of the two groups. Colaboration, consulting on patients will continue as will the friendship.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hosting campus Ministry

Friends and Family,
Greetings again. These past few weeks we have had many visitors. It is important to us that we share the treasure of mission with our donors, friends, family, and guests from our Diocese. 11 represenatives of Pastoral youth ministry of Resurection Parish and Montana State University, the BOBCATS, and their pastor just departed. They come to visit, and share the life and culture of the people we serve.

They began their visit with breakfast and being serenaded with christian music by the clinic band. The administrative team of the parish clinic then shared a power point presentation of the health program at the mission. Thier tour began in the Medicinal Plant Clinic, which is alternative Mayan medicine. There are 102 medicinal plants and over 20 nutritive plants. Most of these medicinal plants are cultivated in the clinic garden, Teas, soaps, shampoos and other remedies are made from the plants. This clinic is supervised by a chemical biologist from a Health Association of which we are a member. The students and Fr. Val then proceeded up to the Clinica Maxeña which is the parish clinic founded in 1966. The met Dr Ever who has worked in the clinic for four years. He works one evening/night shift at the local hospital. They visited the Laboratory which is managed by our Lab technician who has 25 years experience with the Ministry of Health. Many lab tests allow for accurate diagnosis by our doctor and auxillary nurses. Such tests as VIH for Aids, TB sputums, typhoid, malaria, urine and stool labs are performed daily in the laboratory. Consultation for minor ailments by our two auxiliary nurses also was witnessed by the visitors. The visited the administrative office, accounting office and the small in patient area for patients with acute illness. The clinic has space for four in patients. The Emergency Room still lacks importnat equipment but it is an important function of the clinic. They met the personell from the Mountain Clinic project at the Clinica Maxeña, which includes six mountain clinics. This project is supervised by two Guatemalan doctors and is funded by the European Union and Medicus Mundi España. In the afternoon they traveled over a bumpy road to one of the mountain clinics and shared the progress in health care in the community served, presented by the auxiliary nurse. They also witnessed the devastation from hurricane Stan in one of the mountain villages in 2005.

The next day they journeyed to ASUNCION junior, senior parish high school, initiated by Fr. Hazelton more than a decade ago. There are almost 600 students, including 125 dormitory students who come from very poor families who live at a distance. They shared sports, witnessed a program of dance and poetry of the Mayan culture and a delicious lunch, followed by class visitation. The day terminated with celebration of Mass by Fr Hazelton in their native language of QUICHE and then supper.

They shared a game of soccer with the team of the Clincia Maxeña admist drizzling rain and laughter. The Clinica Maxeña was the winning team and they gladly accepted the gift of two soccer balls and pumps. Another day they traveled to a very poor village and together with men from the community painted three classrooms of the local grade school. A trip for the more hardy was a hike half way up the VOLCAN PECUL, which was recently devastated by a forest fire. The Clinica Maxeña is planning some reforestation in its environmental project on this Volcanoe which is the origin of all water source for the lower coast where the mission is located.

The group of students and Fr Val visited different mountain villages and celebrated mass with Fr Hazy in the native Quiche language. They attend mass with confirmation for local youth at our parish church. Fr Val and Fr Hazy con celebrated this liturgy and sacrament with our local Bishop Pablo.

Pizza in the city on the night before departure ended their experience at the MISSION. Sharing the TREASURE OF THE GUATEMALAN MISSION is indeed an honor for our Mission TEAM, FR, Hazy, Sr. ANNA, Sr Mary, and myself. THANK YOU!