Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gracias, Hermana Paquita

It's been a very long week - I've been restocking groceries, getting the car serviced, working on arrangements for our February health mission, and visiting people who get scholarships or family support from PeaceHealth staff. Every errand means a couple of hours of driving time, so the days have been long.

Today the driving time was even longer, but for a couple of very good reasons. In the morning I went to San José Villanueva - our February mission site - with Clelia Estrada from the Caritas office in the Archdiocese. We had a good meeting with Padre Mario Adin, parish staff and volunteers, then stood in the back of the church, standing room only, while lots of beautiful girls and boys made their first communion.

Then I went on to the Bajo Lempa area where a very special Despedida (farewell) was in progress. Providence Sister Fran Stacey, known to her community in the Bajo Lempa as Hermana Paquita, was getting a full-hearted Salvadoran thank you and farewell. Fran retired to Seattle about six months ago, but has returned for a few weeks to visit her many friends, and they - being Salvadoran - decided to put on a full-scale despedida. There were speeches and proclamations and thanks for the remarkable work Fran did during her 16 years in El Salvador, which included founding the Fundación Tierra y Esperanza para el Campesino (Earth and Hope for the Farmer Foundation), working to provide scholarships for local students, and helping raise funds for health emergencies. It seems like she's been a key part of much that's happened in the coastal zone for all those years, and now it was time to say "thank you!"

I had to leave while the thanks were still being spoken, so just got a chance to talk briefly with Fran and tell her thanks also from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. I didn't manage to get a photo of her, but here's one of the dancers getting ready to delight everybody.

Just for the enlightenment of you norteamericanos who may be reading this: the despedida began at 1 PM (more or less, I think it was really just getting under way when I arrived at 2) and was scheduled to go on until 4 PM, with pretty much all that time filled by speeches and presentations. Now that's a serious thank you! Gracias, Hermana Paquita!

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