Winding Down . . .

My last three days here in the DR were wonderful. A bit of a different pace — much slower than the steady diet of meetings over the course of the Convencion and the DDG Board sessions.

I’m late with this posting and don’t want to delay it any further. So I will let the photos from these three days tell the rest of the story.

Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Valentine’s Day in the Dominican Republic, celebrated on February 14th, although a bit differently than in the US of A. It’s called “El Dia de San Valentin” at religious events; the public holiday is “El Dia de Amor y Amistad” (the Day of Love and Friendship). Here’s a vendor selling balloons near the El Conde walkway — a common way to celebrate the day is by giving a friend or loved one a balloon. Chocolate is good. Flowers not so much.

The top foto captures The Natural in action — Melvina leading a discussion of El Dia de Amor y Amistad with preschoolers. Next comes the newly finished artwork on the outer walls of El Centro de Milagros Holguin Hernandez in Jalonga. Third is recess at the Centro (OK, not really, but the school seems to believe that no ground should go to waste). Finally, an event that I don’t entirely understand, happening along the roadway from Jalonga to San Pedro de Macoris. Melvina tells me it’s a funeral march (and she should know); the police presence suggests a political connection to me; at the least, it was a sight along a main highway in late morning.

Two very different pictures from my last day (Friday) in the DR. Above is an inspirational poster that greets students, parents and visitors to Colegio San Andres (the message: The Dominican Republic: It’s a Land that keeps a great treasure). Below is a photo of a photo op that illustrates the importance of the Quinceaneara celebration in America Latina. The young woman poses on the hood of a tourist “train” while a team of photographers check for light and distance. Clearly not a trivial celebration for a Dominican family.

I am now home, running a bit late with my posts, but otherwise feeling very good about my time in the DR. I did have another “unscheduled vacation” at my expense (in Philadelphia this time) when a flight was canceled and American Airlines insisted they had no reason to reimburse me. I bear the airline no ill will, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And, if you believe that, I have another one for you: I am tall and have long, wavy hair.

I return to the DR in May. Till next time. Bendiciones y Gracias . . .

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Dreams Come True, They Can Happen to You . . .

I like this title even though I probably don’t qualify for someone who’s “young at heart”. Still, today (Tuesday) a dream I’ve had for several years did come true.

Melvina, Miguelina and I met for long-term planning and a serious look at our next round of workshops in May. We identified some schools that seem targets for improvement projects. We also identified 4 schools that will serve as model schools” as we push forward. And, each model school will host the Education Mission Team when it returns in May. All coming together nicely.

The dreamy part involved where we met. Miguelina, the newly appointed coordinator of the newly established Diocesan Department of Education, and Melvina, just reconfirmed as La Presidenta of an expanded and empowered Junta de Educacion, hosted me in their new office. The room is hardly where they want it (for one thing, it’s an education office without a white board and that won’t do!), but the exciting thing is that it exists after years of hoping that there would be one. This is the spot where I could slide in one of my old sayings (maybe: “Good things come to those who wait”?) but I think you get the point without prompting.

Here are two phots — one of Melvina getting ready for our conversations; the second of us working/planning/smiling.

The DDG Meets Again

My entire Monday was spent in an extended DDG Board of Directors meeting at the Oficina Diocesana. I suppose that I could describe the session in detail, sentence-upon-sentence of descriptive language about what happened. Like Minutes. That strikes me as a great example of “paralysis by analysis”.

Instead, let me offer a brief paragraph about the session, particularly since so many of you have attended all-day meetings of this or that board. Essentially, we opened the meeting with a welcome/introductions. Then there were reports, followed by discussion, followed by more reports. We had lunch. There was a committee working session followed by more reports. We voted. We adjourned.

Anyone needing a better sense of the meeting, please contact me immediately.

I do have a photo or two that captures the day that I’d like to share.As you can see, it’s a working Board. As the Bishop gives his report to the DDG, people are engaged. When a visitor shares an opportunity to partner in clean water projects, we even take notes. !Que grupo!

No DDG Board meeting (never to be confused with a Bored meeting) is ever complete without the official photo. Everyone at the meeting, members and guests, are included. The chairperson of our communications committee takes the shot, which leaves her/him out of the photo. A second photo is taken of this person standing in position (but alone), which is then photo-shopped into the final portrait. Let’s play a little game — name the person who was added after-the-fact. I’ll await your emails.

DDG + Sunday = Dedicate a Fire Truck

I’m always(?) trying to improve my math skills, so I thought I’d title this blog with an algorithm. A simple one since I never got much past the basic functions.

Today was a church day and another demonstration of the good work that the DDG does across La Republica Dominicana. We began early, traveling to Bani, northwest of Santo Domingo for a service that featured a visit by Bishop Quezada. He confirmed/accepted into the Church a number of candidates and blessed a fire truck given to Los Bomberos (the fire company) of the city of Bani. Padre Vicente Pena served as host/master of ceremonies/chaplain to the fire company. Dignitaries were everywhere. Here’s some photos to give you a sense of the proceedings.

Bishop Quezada enters La Iglesia de la Transfiguracion. The mass featured the laying-on of hands that signifies confirmation of membership in the family of Christ; an extensive passing-of-the-peace (you gotta shake hands with and/or hug EVERYBODY!); and a favorite of this Bishop — blessing the children.

Bill Kunkle accepts certificates of recognition and thanks on behalf of the DDG Board of Directors. I could not help (with no disrespect intended) to photograph the respective commanders of the city’s police and fire departments and their impressive collection of medals; had I been able to collect this many medals, I would have left the US Army as a 4-star general.

My love affair with musicians, particularly rock musicians, continues unabated. Providing amazing Christian music throughout the service was Adonai, fronted by Bishop Moises’ son. The second photo reflects my status as a wanna-be rock drummer; this young man, by the way, is very, very good!

Bishop Quezada says prayers of thanks and dedication for the gift of the fire engine, principal donors being the long-time DDG supporters, the Morrow family. The Bishop blesses the truck, asking particularly that those using it be safe. The ceremony concludes with a photo-op for attending DDG Board members.

We drove across town to a terrific local restaurant for a buffet lunch, following the dedication. The name of the place, literally translated is “Goat Party”; you can likely guess their specialty and it was wonderful!

The rest of the day was spent quietly until yet another meal that night. We ate our traditional “welcome dinner” (hosted by the Dominica Diocese) at Angelo’s, a terrific Italian restaurant with a rooftop patio overlooking the Plaza de Colon in the Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo. No photos of this festive event to share; mostly, I forgot to take them (honest). Admittedly, I still remember advice given me by a very wise Dean who counseled that one should never photograph a professional event at which beer/wine might be on the table. Sage advice indeed!

Convencion Diocesana, Round 2

As you’ll see in these next couple of posts, it was a busy weekend down here on the farm. Meetings, airport runs, conventions and dinners. Given that I insist on getting roughly enough sleep every night (silly me), that doesn’t leave much time for blogging. Today is something of a ketchup day; ketch-myself up with several postings.

The second day of the convention (Saturday) was very much a business day. All the conversations that produced ideas and proposals on Friday had to be voted upon. As you’ll see in these photos, a lot happened on Saturday.

In a central event for the convention, the Diocesan Treasurer, Pedro Oliver Santana, reviews the budget and some revised money transfer procedures. As one might anticipate, that prompted a “spirited” Q&A which prompted the Bishop to mingle among the delegations (ordered by regions) taking and responding to questions. The vote to approve was nearly unanimous (lots of green paddles and semi-smiling faces). Vicario General (like a Canon to the Ordinary in the US) Rvo. Juan Marquez (third photo, back left) presided over the proceedings (he is well-versed in Roberto’s Rules of Order).

The Convention features a raffle on the last day. Here is event organizer Patria posing with two lucky winners.

Any major church event must include some “schmooze time” (won’t attempt that phrase in Spanish; Yiddish will suffice). Variously called a receso or a refrigerio delegates have a chance to get a snack and mingle, mingle, mingle.

The view toward the back of Iglesia San Marcos seemed sufficiently Dominican for me that I took a photo. A gigantic, bright green tree roughly the size of the Empire State Building (OK, I’m exaggerating) and a once-bright blue sky turning to rain as the afternoon approached.

After the convention, Charlie and I made an airport run to gather two groups of DDG members arriving for Monday’s meeting. It was a slow day at the airport, as you can see.

Convencion Diocesana, Round One

Today, I’m operating from the assumption that a picture speaks a whole buncha words. I’m also in the process of consuming my third cup of Dominican coffee, which makes my ability to compose coherent paragraphs shaky at best.

So, here is a series of photos in chronological order with brief (no more than 12,000- word) captions for each. I believe that they give a good sense of yesterday’s people, places and events.

Bishop Quezada makes an important point during his sermon at the Eucharist opening the convention; at the close of the service, the Bishop blesses the congregation and asks that the convention continue productively and collaboratively.

The committee for evangelism and congregational development reports on their work this past year. Leading the discussion (in the second photo) is a friend from my days studying Spanish at the Seminary, Padre Izaak, a terrific young priest-to-be.

As they say (well, I think someone said once), a convention travels on its stomach. The delegates break for a very hearty lunch, served on the Colegio San Marcos playground and eaten in surrounding classrooms.

The Bishop paused the business meeting to recognize visitors and members of the DDG. Two long-time DDG members, Julius Ariail and David Morrow (who, unfortunately, could not be with us) received plaques for their many, many contributions to the Diocese.

Bishop Moises delivers his “state of the Diocese” address in the afternoon. I suggested that we hum “Hail to the Chief” before he began, but was ruled out-of-order. I might be just a bit partial, but I do believe he mentioned education as a Diocesan priority about 20K times (OK, OK — maybe only 15K).

The business meeting paused once again while the Bishop recognized individuals for their significant contributions to the Diocese. Padre Sandino Sanchez was named “Priest of the Year”, Melvina Dinsey was recognized as President of the Board of Education (among many other accomplishments), and Padre Juan Marquez received an award upon his retirement. Notice that Padre Sandino and Presidenta Melvina received standing ovations. I’m proud to call them friends.

Melvina posed for some post-session photographs with her colleagues in school improvement work and also with her priest, Padre Emilio Fumero.

Quite a day! More convention news to follow!

Cumpleanos Feliz (Happy Birthday to You)

Thursday dawned bright, clear and breezy at Colegio San Andres. The teachers and staff there tell me that it’s my second home when I’m in the Dominican Republic. More and more that’s proving true. I even wondered why it took me 48 hours after my plane landed to get over to the school. Must have been busier than I’d thought on Wednesday.

The big event today was the birthday celebration for the assistant principal, Loraine — a terrific administrator who makes the school run so smoothly. Principal Miguelina holds a special celebration for her staff members’ life events, particularly birthdays. These photos give a sense of community and very real joy for Loraine’s big day; lots of flowers, small gifts, singing, a little dancing, a lotta food, and time for photos with Loraine’s family at home (husband Emilio and two children) and her family at the school (the administrative staff). In the last photo, Padre Emilio, Rector at San Andres, gives Loraine a birthday blessing prior to the announcement: “Let’s Eat!” A great breakfast of yucca (spiced with onions), scrambled eggs, fried cheese and plantains followed.

I spent the rest of my day with errands, housekeeping, an airport run (to greet 4 colleagues arriving for the Diocesan Convention, including Father John Shaefer from St. Andrew’s, Omaha) and taking a swell napocito (yup, I do indeed speak Spanglish). In the evening, I had supper with my “IT Guy” (his words), Julius Ariail; a good friend and my source of information for all questions technological, Julius remains the reason why I keep this blog active.

Friday has already dawned (bright, clear and breezy once again). I am in Haina, west of Santo Domingo, attending the Diocesan Convention, held this year at Iglesia San Marcos. More about the convention later today or tomorrow morning.