Deacon Michael Seipp
Director, Guatemala Mission
February 12th and 13th, 2019 found me traveling from Helena to our mission in Santo Tomás la Union, Guatemala. This would be my third overall trip to the Mission and my second in the last 10 months. The most anticipated element of the trip, as always, was the engagement and encounter with the people of Guatemala particularly the people we serve, young and old, of Santo Tomás la Union and the surrounding villages. My experiences during the trip were new; either looking through a different lens at places I had seen, or through a lens of discovery at places new to me.
La Asunción Institute continues to live out its mission for the young people of the mountain villages. The damage to the facility resulting from the earthquake of 2017 has been repaired and remediated. Ongoing maintenance and repairs continue at the school even as it continues to expand vocational offerings to the students who board there. Programs include sewing, welding and agriculture and offer graduates the means to support their family and build up surrounding communities.
Clinica Maxeña, facing increasing competition from “for profit” medical clinics, continues to provide emergency, preventative and nutritional services to those with little or no means to pay. Poverty and malnutrition are widespread. The Clinic with its medicinal garden, chicken egg projects and cantina is working to overcome malnutrition particularly in infants and children. Clinic staff, who are also part of the Santo Tomas parish pastoral health team, operate the government-sponsored First Infancy program. The program provides nutrition and health information and best practices for children (birth through 5 years of age) and their mothers. The program is delivered to remote mountain communities with onsite visits.
Evidence of the success of our nutrition programs can be seen in the faces of those who do without. I met Wendy who was born two months premature and left the hospital after seven days weighing 2 pounds. Today she is 5 years old, weighs 15 pounds, runs and speaks not only K’iche (the native dialect) but also Spanish. She easily qualifies as the poster child for the successes of the nutrition program.
During my stay we were able to make two home visits/wellness checks for families living in impoverished and difficult family conditions. Even though their homes were very humble, we were treated as honored guests and were able to encounter the children and parents in their surroundings.
My trip concluded with a meeting with the Bishop of the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu, Bishop Pablo Vizcaíno Prado. We spent one hour with Bishop Pablo and I reiterated the Diocese of Helena’s support for the Mission, Clinic and School.
Our prayers, donations and efforts continue to provide critical assistance to the people of Santo Tomás la Union and surrounding area. Our Mission, Clinic and School are blessed to have strong, local leaders who are accountable not only to each other, to their mission, to the Diocese of Helena but to the people they joyfully serve. Thank you to those who have made a one-time gift or sacrificial pledge to the Annual Catholic Appeal which funds approximately 38% of the 2019 operational costs of the Mission, Clinic and School. Your continued prayers, donations and participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal are very much needed and appreciated. Our continued involvement creates endless possibilities among our brothers and sisters in Christ at our Guatemala Mission.