Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Diabetes and Cancer with the POOR

We are coming to the end of the year 2013.  Our Clinic was founded in 1966.  So many years have passed.  We have been present to the PEOPLE in their lives and sufferings. Our very first clinic had a dirt floor, no light or running water.  Myself and another young nurse came as Papal Volunteers for Latin America.  Our commitment was for three years...I have witnessed many changes, progress and suffering. In the year of 2014, we are witnessing, a decrease in funds for our work, as our Diocese struggles with economic issues. The Coffee harvest and salary for field workers is unjust; there is hunger and disease among the POOR.  The Diseases are more complex and costly to cure.  Diabetes is pandemic in the World. Guatemala has over 1 MILLION Diabetics, according to the newspaper report on November 14, 2013.  Cancer is also diagnosed more frequently in the Clinica Maxeña but treatment centers for the POOR do not exist.  The Clinica Maxeña also performs Papanicolau exams and has succeeded in arresting this cancer, with chemotherapy and radiation, in a few women; others have not survived, following minimal treatment provided by the Center for Cancerlogia, INCAN, in Guatemala City.  INCAN is the only CANCER CENTER in a Country of 13 Million population!  A Project for the NEEDY, of Sister Anna, ANGEL PROJECT, helps defray costs for Cancer patients of the Clinic. . Today, a special BREAST cancer patient with Lung metastasis, Maria, will be buried.  She spent the last night in our clinic with oxygen, before dying in our car, as we took her home to be with her family.
Here she stands in her kitchen, over a year ago.  The treatment did give her more time to be with her six children, for awhile longer.
Thank You for your interest in the People of Guatemala and the CLINICA MAXEÑA!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Preparing for WORLD DAY OF HUNGER and The Eye Brigade!

Friends and Family,
We have been very busy at the Clinca Maxeña. We are pleased that the Clinic has a new roof.  Our own worker, Martin, head of maintenance, designed and directed the construction to completion. All are pleased with the success of this project.

The 34th Eye Brigade of Opthamologists, and surgical team of Nurses,
are arriving on October 20th, so we have little time for clean up and set up, for this important Medical service. We have over 300 signed up for eye consult.

We are also celebrating tomorrow, WORLD DAY OF HUNGER, in our GOOD LIFE booth.  Usually we would have this in front of our Parish Church, on a Sunday; time does not allow the workers preparation time. We decided to have a smaller event, in our Good Life Booth, in front of the clinic.  Our Team of Sustainable
Agriculture, are directing this endeavor. We will share without cost, all natural organic snacks,  which includes organic coffee, from our Coffee Cooperative, established by our Mission in the sixties, wheat bread, organic tortillas made fresh on site on an Onil stove, black beans with Xipilin,  a natural herb, from our garden. Most in our audience will be patients awaiting consult. There will be lots of health teaching on diet, sustainable agriculture, and protection of the environment.

We are mostly seniors now at the Mission. Times are changing, as is the concept of Missionary, and the number of persons of Faith, who work in foreign countries, for their Church. We have to embrace change, as our work moves into the hands and hearts of local people. Thank You.

A picture of our Good Life Booth on WORLD DAY OF HUNGER, and Martin, standing on our new roof of the Clinica Maxeña.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Midwives and a SPECIAL PATIENT

Good Evening Friends and family,

The Clinic is always busy.  More sick, more Poor with acute illnesses and less funds to help them.

One very special patient and her two young children come often to our clinic. Isabela, the Mom, is an epileptic whom we provide her medications.  She has several scars from falls and burns. She has two young children.  Their home is extremely poor and rarely is their food visible in the outdoor kitchen. Her husband is an alcoholic.  Isabela is in her ninth month of pregnancy. We have tried to convince her to go to the hospital to give birth but we know this will not happen.  I have become acquainted with her midwife and often visit and bring some food for her and the children.  I have gotten the infants clothes ready for birth and have seen the midwife materials for receiving the baby.  Manuela, the midwife, is visiting Isabela now every two days and her birth date nears.  She has at times slept in the home, even though Isabela is not yet with birth pains. Manuela is in her sixties and has been delivering babies in the area for the last 22 years. She lives about a fifteen minute walk from Isabela's home.
If you are following Facebook of the Clinica Maxeña, you are aware that Isabela did concede to go to Hospital for delivery of her baby.  She had a six pound baby boy, by Cesarean dilivery.  She is now back in the clinic and her two small children are accompanying her and enjoying their new baby brother, Diego.  A good ending makes all very well and all content.

Her living conditions of her home leave much to be desired. We hope to improve this situation when campus ministry students come in the Spring.  Stay tuned. Thank you for prayers and donations for our work in Health with Mayan population of this mountainous area.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Vacation Time

Good Morning!                                                                                July 27, 2013

I am leaving in a few days for MONTANA.  I am excited to be with my family, rest, but also to promote our Parish Clinic and Mission.  I will sell Guatemala Weavings and also beaded jewelry made here.  There are many more Poor and Sick and their financial resources just do not exist to pay for Medical Care.  The Failure of the Coffee Harvest has brought HUNGER to our Mission Area.

The night Clinic guards  begins to give out 25 numbers to see our Doctor at 6am.  Many mornings within a half hour, there are no numbers.  Two Auxiliary Nurses also triage patients, examine routine symptoms and treat, and attend the Emergency Room, do treatments, injections and IV infusions.

We now have a Sustainable Agricultural Team to look for solutions to HUNGER.  Part of the problem is many years ago field workers began not to plant corn and beans in their small plots but the cash crop of coffee.  When the coffee crop failed because of a fungus they were left with unemployment, no money, more illness.  There is less land available.

                                                                                              August 16, 2013

It is now a few weeks since I began this article. In just a few days I will be on my way back HOME to Guatemala.  It has been a joyous journey,  though exhausting. Our clinic is in need of donations and interest in MISSIONS is waning. This reality is for many reasons. Organizations in Europe are also experiencing a decrease in donations. The greatest need in our area is an answer to HUNGER and failure of crops. This reality has also caused more illness and greater call for free HEALTH CARE.

Selling beautiful Guatemalan weavings is profitable. Beaded jewelry also brings in extra cash.  I hope to send some beaded ornaments and a few other jewelry items for Christmas sales in our parishes, to continue this endeavor.


Friday, June 21, 2013


The 50th Anniversary of the Mission of the Diocese of Helena, MT. is to be celebrated on February 8, 2014.  It does not seem possible.  I was blessed to be one of the first missionaries, arriving as a lay Missionary in 1966.  I witnessed the construction of the buildings, the planting of the trees, the beginning of the Coffee Cooperative,  the beginnings of our Health Program, all part of our mission today.

There were many foriegn missionaries of the Catholic Church in the sixties.  Schools and clinics were built. We celebrated together on holidays.  We visited each others projects and shared ideas and faith.
Times changed. Most of the mission are now run by local Guatemalans. Spanish is the language most spoken and holidays now celebrated with local customs.  Many missionaries,  volunteers, visitors, friends, contributed time and talent to develop different aspects of our mission programs.  Most important donors and friends, family, and our Diocesean Mission office and parishes  contributed to make work and progress possible through donation and prayer.

The people are still very poor.  Injustice is as common as it was almost 50 years ago. Education is more available to both girls and boys and the majority of children finish primary school in public schools.
Fr Jim Hazelton contributed immensely to the reality to education in the area of our mission.  He initiated primary schools in most of the communities, where no primary local schools previously existed.  He established two successful junior and senior high schools, in Santa Maria Visitacion and Asuncion in Xejuyup, Nahuala, Solola.

The armed struggle, which terminated in a peace accord in 1996, was accredited much to Cardinal Quedzada Torruno. THERE are MORE MEDICAL CENTERS OF HEALTH of the government present in the rural area but there are NO MEDICINES!  Narcotraffic, Extorsion, Gold Mines and Hidroelectric plants are the reality of exploitation of the poor and their lands in the present reality. THE POOR ARE MORE POOR!  The violence continues. PRAY FOR US!


Monday, May 6, 2013


This past week has been busy.  Many patients passed consult with our Doctor.  Preparations of wood for clinic roof has begun as more wood is ordered and brought to the Mission Property in large town trucks.  Workshop and area of Maintenance is cleaned and secured for wood arrival.

The Day of the WORKER is celebrated in our "BUEN VIVIR" Booth on MAY 1st.  Juana and Metchas, Clinic Cooks, rise early to prepare Tamalitos of the Plant Izote, which grows on our Mission Property.  Miguel Guarchaj, experienced WORKER in Sustainable Agriculture, welcomes patients to listen to Health advice, with a loud speaker, from the Buen Vivir Booth. Tamalitos quickly disappear at 2 quetzales each. Workers come out to relax for a few minutes and also enjoy tamalitos and organic coffee.  Diego Tunay brings Bamboo Baskets to the Booth to advertise them and market them.
He is a young, unemployed, Insulin dependent Diabetic, known well by the Clinica Maxeña.

A week later.

Saturday, Diego Tunay traveled with myself, and Cirilo to Panajachel.  We left him with a friend who has a beaded jewelry shop and who had agreed to teach some jewelry making to Diego. Diego was eager and quick to learn.  He was delighted as he made two rings and a necklace.  They invited him to return so to learn bracelets and other items.  Meanwhile myself and Cirilo visited the sidewalk shops and bought many beautiful Mayan craft items for my scheduled visit to my home in Montana.  I hope to be able to sell some Guatemala weavings and jewelry, hopefully at the Irish Festival in Butte, Montana on August 9, 10, and 11th.

Today six field workers left for a course at IMAP, three of them clinic workers.  IMAP is the Institute of Permaculture whose focus is sharing knowledge of Mayan Ancestral customs and organic sustainable gardening.  The Clinica Maxeña's Sustainable Agriculture team hopes to form a local Association to expand and share their knowledge with local farmers, from different communities, to work together in solidarity, to improve their lives and grow local herbs, and vegetables.  Todays course is on diversification in planting and will focus on corn fields.  The cost of the course is twelve dollars per individual; the clinic is paying the inscription for all who went with the clinic team.

Today, myself and Cirilo, the accountant, and the clinic kitchen crew will plan for the visit of Pastoral Ministry Students, from Carroll College, in Helena, Montana to our Mission; 16 students will arrive on May 13th for 8 days.

At dawn our 18 year old patient, Magdalena, left by the town ambulance, accompanied by Chico, a clinic worker, for re consult following chemotherapy.  She has a severe advanced Lymphoma on her face, covering one eye. Please remember her in PRAYER.



Sheila McShane
Clinica Maxeña

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sustainable Agriculture and our "GOOD LIFE BOOTH"

Friends and Family,

We have spent a lot of energy and interest in organic gardens, promotion of nutritional food, reality of hunger in our midst, malnourished infants and children.   The Clinic has two demonstrative gardens; these gardens are used to teach and also for sharing the harvest, with malnourished children, in our nutrition project.  We do not have many answers but we realize we cannot deny the reality around us and have to look for solutions and organize.

We began to look to the EARTH for some answers a few years ago. Our interest and project of sustainable agriculture continues to grow and gain more interest.  We hope to soon form an ASSOCIATION, "LA MAXEÑA".  The center of the HUB will be our representatives of the Clinica Maxeña, of Sustainable Agriculture.  Others we hope will come from at least four other communities.  We have invited men of the fields, through our Pastoral Social Ministry, of the villages.  The objective will be to plant more family and community gardens and to work together in each others gardens to form solidarity. It is not religion based project, however, "ALL ARE WELCOME".

We also are pleased that our small booth, constructed from BAMBOO, is an effective voice to adervise our IDEAS and HOPES! "BUEN VIVIR", "GOOD LIFE".  This booth is located in front of the Clinic.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, clinic leaders share themes of good health and nutrition.  We have had campus Ministry students from the University assist us to clear a plot of land and prepare for planting in a nearby village.  This small piece of communal land was loaned to us by one of the Clinic Workers.

We will hear reports next week, in our general Clinic meeting, of workshops of sustainable agriculture attended by three workers.  "Together we can, change our world"

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Changing Times of Mission

Friends and family,

It is a quiet Sunday. Many visitors have passed through; we hosted the Rotary Club representatives of Libby, Montana, Campus Ministry students of the University of Great Falls, and the Opthalmologist  team of Montana and California for eye surgeries in the Clinica Maxeña.  Also came Representatives from Swedish organization, AGNI.  This organization goes back to the seventies for providing monetary donation to the Clinica Maxeña.

Missionary interest for long terms is a vocation of the past. Young folk are interested in volunteering for a few months, maybe a year.  Language and culture take time to learn and appreciate.   Investment to learn a foriegn language,  provide a stipend, insurance and air fare, for short terms is beyond the Mission budget.  We are reaching our 50 years of Mission.  We know we must also look in to local talent and commitment for Mission positions.  All of this is in discussion phase.

Life in the Missions however is still a reality of poverty for the majority of Mayan Indigenous. We have made progress in education, and understanding disease and its causes. Medicine however, world wide, is BIG BUSINESS.  The wealthy have a better chance of surviving disease and living a longer life.  Although there is a socialized system with National Hospitals and Government Clinics, attention is sub standard, with little medicine available and decreased staff.  Patients will sell their land, for an operation, that is not available in the National Hospital. Cancer is not treated in the National system, although there are dedicated Doctors, who continue to fight for this HUMAN RIGHT in Health Care.

Our recent Eye Sugeries in Clinica Maxeña benefitted over 200 patients.  Many had cataract surgery free of charge, where others paid 100. dollars.  We are thankful for this service which takes place, twice a year, in the Clinic, for the last 16 years.  We are thankful to the DOCTORS AND NURSES, who use their own resources to come here, plus supplies of medicines and equipment.

As a long term Missionary, I still believe we have a place here, to share our talent and treasure, with the POOR. In 2014 we will celebrate 50 YEARS of MISSION for the Diocese of Helena, Montana.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Visitors, Challenges, HOPE and the FUTURE

Good Evening Friends and Family,

It seems like the days pass so quickly, and the needs of the people multiply and become more grave. We are confronting a ROYA or FUNGUS on coffee bushes,  Practically all the poor people, who live in the mountain villages, depend on coffee harvest and their small area of coffee for income and survival. This fungus has caused the coffee harvest to fail, not just this year, but predicted will affect next years harvest also. There is HUNGER and no WORK for the POOR.  More patients are knocking on our door, asking for medicine and treatment of acute illness.  More diseases, which before were not common in this area are epidemic; DIABETES, CANCER, MALNUTRICION, AND AIDS IS MORE COMMON IN THE POPULATION AND TUBERCULOSIS HAS MADE A COMEBACK.

This month OUR MISSION is saturated with visitors.  Many of them are dear friends of MISSION and regular donors.  Monty and Tracy Giles of Washington, have been coming to the Mission for over twenty years.  Monty, an Engineer, and talented handyman fixes up many small and big issues around the Mission while his wife Tracy cooks delicious meals for the team. We also welcomed Campus Ministry of Great Falls University for their first visit of MISSION IMMERSION.  AGNI of Sweden, donors and Friends for the last forty years, spent a weekend here for publicity of their organization.  The Rotary of Libby, Montana came to evaluate for a possible future project with our School, Asuncion, and to supervise the termination of a water project in a near by community.  In mid March Opfthalmologists, Surgeons of MONTANA, and Nurses from California will make the Mission humm with activity and many of our patients will have the GIFT of sight restored.

Thank YOU for your financial support and PRAYERS.  Lent is almost over and here in Guatemala, the PASSION and DEATH of JESUS is not only dramatized in the streets of Guatemala, in small towns and cities, it is lived by the people in their daily lives.



Sunday, February 3, 2013


Friends and Family,

Busy around mission front as we host our Bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana.  Important for all of us as changes around us and future not all that certain.  We approach our Golden Anniversary as a Mission in 2014.  All of us are SENIORS, except our new Pastor. We are affected by the economy as our Health and Education Projects confront greater needs with the increase of poverty and hunger.  The property of the Mission is also in need of repairs. Spirit of workers fluctuate as they also affected economically and one senses not all on board with our MISSION for the POOR.  They too want higher salaries and more security.

Government Hospitals are in crisis. I discharged one young woman in largest National Hospital in Guatemala City as services came to a halt. NO antibiotics, NO surgeries being scheduled, so she like all patients, just occupying the bed but health needs not being met. I had her operated in a private clinic for one thousand dollars which I will mostly pick up personally. She is now home recuperating and comfortable.  Yesterday and elderly man came with a severe laceration and hemorrhage from a machete wound from cutting firewood. His arm was bundled but did not want to disturb dressing so sent for ambulance and quick Intravenous solution started as showing signs of shock. At peace that he made it to hospital emergency room for treatment.

A few days ago we learned that one of directors of our Parish School is in city with his 12 year old daughter and sad news of Leukemia diagnosis.  We have requested a bed in the Cancer hospital for children but she is still waiting in a National Hospital nearby.  We are fortunate to have good contacts in the Pediatric Cancer center and she hopefully will be transferred there tomorrow.  This Cancer Center is excellent and funded by a foundation.

Good meeting with our Bishop and Administrative team of Clinic.  Some issues not resolved but at least being discussed. Prayer and Patience needed.

We hope to open a small center near Clinic next week.  We will call it "Casa de BUEN VIVIR" that is
"House of Good Life".  This small construction from Bamboo will be used for PROMOTION of organic vegetables from our garden, our Medicinal teas and shampoos, our ONIL stove and ONIL water purifier, and organic snacks. We will sell our nutritious drink, ATOL MAXEÑA and cool organic drinks.  Some favorite organic drinks we share with our Bishop on his visit to the clinic; one made from oranges and carrots and another from beets, lemon, and chay.  Each morning for a few hours different workers will give different talks and health advice.

Next week we will attend our first meeting with other parish health representative in Pastoral Health of our Diocese here.  This ministry of our Faith helps us keep focus in serving the POOR and also sharing of ideas, prayer, and resources.

Blessings and have a GOOD SUNDAY.

Love Sheila

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Good evening Friends and Family,

Christmas Decorations are down.  I think every one misses the lights, family and friends, posadas, good food and the Joy of the Holidays.  There is always a rush when year ends and New Year breaks open.

Not one for resolutions but moving on with unfinished tasks.  A new optimism to achieve more, to live in a more peaceful just world.  To grow older more graciously. To grow closer to my family, especially my nieces and nephews.  To travel one more time to the Donegal Irish sea shore.  To cherish more deeply my Irish roots; to ride again the cable car across the bay to the Dursey Island, and walk to the end of the island, to my mom's neighborhood.  I PRAY to be more focused in my work  in the clinic.

Our mission is nearing 50 years of existence.  As Church, we have accomplished much.  We have witnessed much suffering; internal armed conflict for more than 30 years, earthquake in 76 with thousands killed in 33 seconds,  huracaines and now wave of daily crime and violence.  But yes we feel the presence of GOD in our lives and world here.

Yesterday, at the end of the work day we celebrated the 23rd birthday with a special patient and friend of many of us at the Clinic. You would have heard of her if you check Face Book of the Clinica Maxeña.  Reyna celebrated 23 years of life.  She invited clinic workers to celebrate with her.  She bought the cakes and I added some pop and ice cream and a candle.  Our clinic band provided music and sang the Mañanitas, a very popular HAPPY BIRTHDAY song, celebrating ones birthday.  Each worker rose and walked to the front of the room and hugged Reyna. The room became quiet as Reyna began to talk in a quiet voice.  Reyna thanked us for being a part of her life and helping her during the time of the birth of her baby, when no one else was helping.  We added joy and importance to her being, as she said, "you gave me an inheritance", my baby.  Because of her epilepsy and being a single mom, she was abandoned by her family much of her life and more so when she needed them most. She returned from the hospital to our clinic with her baby and lived there for two months.  One of our workers assisted in the reconciliation by her family. We taught her how to care for her baby, JAUANA. The clinic also improved her living conditions; our maintenance man partitioned off space in the family kitchen, where she had been living, put up a door, light, and a cement floor and we provided her a bed and cupboard. She is doing very well.  Her baby now weighs ten pounds, smiles and a very happy baby.  She comes always to the clinic for her medication for epilepsy.  She is attentive to her baby's needs.  She supplements breast milk with formula, which we provide.  We of the Clinica Maxeña are pleased and proud to have been there for her when she needed our presence.  We are richly blessed by patients like Reyna. THANK YOU, REYNA.  Thank YOU also for walking this journey with us with prayers and donations.  Check out our Facebook page! Clinica Maxeña.  Check out our Guatemala Mission page on the Diocese of Helena Montana Web Page. DONATE ON LINE.  Blessings for a wonderful 2013.

Sheila McShane