Guatemala Bound

It’s not easy to say goodbye to 11 adorable grandchildren, knowing that they will have grown and changed in so many ways before we see them again.  It’s not easy to be far away from our 4 children and their partners who are also our closest allies.    A long separation from family, friends, and the familiar comforts of home is never easy.    And yet, there we were on January 24, bound for Guatemala to begin a 3-month stay.

It was easy, however, to say goodbye to the single-digit temperatures of a Pittsburgh winter in anticipation of Guatemalan sunshine and warmth.    Our departure from the Pittsburgh airport was delayed by the de-icing of the frozen plane.   This delay necessitated our racing through the enormous Houston airport to catch our connecting flight to Guatemala.  We were the last  passengers to scurry on board, just as the door was closing.  As we strapped ourselves into our seats, we hoped that our luggage had also achieved a swift transition onto this Guatemala-bound plane.  Our few personal belongings were contained in our carry-on bags.  The four large bags we had checked were stuffed with chalice sets, censors, blessing crosses, etc. for the churches, sewing supplies for my students, and new clothing for the 24 boys who share our Guatemalan home.  We did not want to lose these.

Upon our arrival, we were pleased to find that our luggage had also arrived.  We managed to breeze through immigration and customs without a hitch.  Outside, Fr. Andres, his brother Jorge, and Jose, the iconographer were waiting to take us on the 3-hour drive to Nueva Concepcion, where we would stay.  As the men loaded our bags into the open bed of the pick-up truck, I looked up at the overcast sky and said, “It looks like rain.”  “It’s not rainy season,” I was reassured.    As we bounced along the road, I noticed heavy black clouds hovering over a dingy yellow streak of sky on the horizon.  Pointing to it, I said, “When I see that, it tells me that a storm is coming.”  “It’s different here in the tropics,” I was again I reassured.  And then the rain started.  It came down in sheets and buckets.  It might be different in the tropics, but I’m not a stranger to its atmosphere.  We pulled into a gas station and managed to appropriate a large plastic advertising banner to cover our luggage.

Hampered by the storm, our trip took much longer than usual.  Eventually, the downpour  eased into a light drizzle.  As the fiery setting sun winked at us through the receding rain clouds, spreading a warm orange glow over the glistening wet earth, I began to notice familiar surroundings.  Fields of sugar cane and banana groves told me we were almost there.  The sunset had faded to a dusky pink as we turned onto the dirt road that would lead us to the farm compound we call home.

A sign and flowers greeted us at our bedroom door

It was 6:30 when we drove through the gate.  The boys were in the chapel for vespers.  Their robust chanting wafted through the air like a welcoming anthem.  Soon they would come running to envelope us with their hearty hugs.  There was Dona Simona, the cook, and her helper Maria greeting us from the kitchen.  Fr. Alexios and Fr. Fernando added to the jubilant welcome.  Even Paulina the dog and Gatita the cat were happy to see us.

In April, when we are scheduled to return to Pittsburgh, I will be thinking that it’s not easy to say goodbye to 24 boys who see us as mentors and grandparents.  It’s not easy to be far away from the priests who have become like our sons and brothers.  A long separation from our Guatemalan family, friends, and familiar places is never easy.  We are bound to Guatemala, not only in our travels as a destination, but tied to it by our heart-strings, as well.  Yes, we are Guatemala-bound.




  1. Fr. Peter Jackson says

    I’ve been trying to email you folks, but they don’t seem to get through, I guess. Please email me so we can be in touch.

    Thank you!

    Fr. Peter Jackson

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