A Lot Happens in the Summer

Several major events are happening again in the Episcopal schools now that schedules have returned to normal. Here are some photos, taken at several colegios in the Diocese that give you a good sense of summer happenings.

Big Event the First. Vacation/Summer School. A fun week of creative activities engage children and extend learning opportunities.

Big Event Numero Dos. Distribution of curricular materials by region.

Third Big Event. After school has ended for the year, students return for formal graduation ceremonies. Happy occasions for students and their families.

Next Stop: Summer Vacation

Keeping the blog going with a few photos from end-of-year celebrations at a number of colegios around the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic. Here are the events with short captions to explain what each photo tells us.

La Rectora Milquella and a school administrator welcome students to graduation ceremonies at Colegio San Esteban in San Pedro de Macoris.
Student and faculty award winners take a bow on the stage at Colegio San Gabriel, Consuelo.
Students assemble for a photo before a historical pageant at Colegio San Andres, Santo Domingo.
Faculty and Administrators at Colegio San Matias, Santana Bani, pose for a group photo.
High school students from Colegio La Anunciacion, Santiago, line-up during their traditional field trip marking the end of their school year.

Look for more updational (a word I just created) photos from the Dominican Episcopal schools as I receive them.

Happy Summer!

I Have Returned from the Return of the Missionary, Day 8

A brief posting to confirm that I arrived home early Sunday morning, in time to smoke lots of pork ribs and brisket for our annual (but suspended for 2 years) Memorial Day BBQ. A good time was had by all and, even after a terrific 8 days in La Republica Dominicana, it was good to be home.

I’m including one photo for those readers who remember the days of filling-out two sets of immigration forms with a ball-point pen and paying an entrance fee ($10 per person) to a guy sitting with a cash register. Migracion has gone virtual; forms are now completed online, stored in a cellphone and will soon be waved in front of a scanner to begin the immigration process. Lots of construction at Las Americas Airport — new restaurants and duty free stores — as well as the new immigration area you see below. Large scale tourism has arrived in the DR.

I had a busy and extremely productive visit with my Dominican colleagues. So good to see so many friendly faces and participate in-person as an advisor to the educational leadership for the Diocese. My plans include a return to the DR in September for the start-of-the-school-year celebrations. I’ll return again with our education missionary team in early December. Although Covid numbers are rising once again in Lincoln, I have faith that my missionary schedule is back to normal.

Thank you gentle readers for your support in thoughts and prayers.

Gracias y Bendiciones.

The Packing Missionary, Day 7

I’m going to write my next-to-last blog post during a break in packing my bags for my flight home tomorrow. I’m also getting ready to go out for dinner with Padre Ashton Brooks, one of the first people that I met and worked with in the DR. We tried a new restaurant for me — an Italian trattoria. Turned out to be a very nice place.

Perhaps my most exciting new for today is that I achieved a negativo on my Covid test, so now I can return home on time. I’ll try to avoid the old joke about passing the Covid test because I studied hard. The lab is very near the seminary and gives top quality service. I was impressed.

Several times, when I’ve traveled here in May, I’ve celebrated a double-header: Mother’s Day comes the second Sunday in May; El Dia de las Madres comes the last Sunday in May. So, I get Mother’s Day twice. The holiday is a “big thing” at Colegio San Andres; teachers prep their students in music, dancing and theater to transport their mothers and grandmothers to some place enchanting. The theme changes every year and is always creative. This year, mothers cruised to Mexico in an imaginary ship that their children created for them.

As always, the pictures tell the story.

Administrators and special guests pose at the visual that captures this year’s theme (“All Aboard Mothers on the Cruise Ship San Andres; destination: Mexico“).
The day began early with a serenade by a local mariachi group. I heard several versions of where they came from: flown in from Mexico; a local band from Boca Chica; transplanted Mexicanos. Whatever was the “true story”, they sounded great.
As usual, today’s audience was standing-room-only. Note that Dominican mothers are a whole lot smarter than mad dogs and Englishmen — nobody sat out in the sun.
Covid forced a change from prior programs. Usually, mothers come to the all-purpose room and watch groups perform in a sequence. This year, mothers went to individual classrooms for performances by their children. Lots of work went into making costumes and practicing dance steps.
Mothers and then students and then siblings got a piece of this Mexican flag-themed ginormous cake. Folks were drawn to the red section which represents the sacrifice of heroes of the Mexican Republic. Or, maybe the teacher cutting the cake went from her right to her left . . .

One final photo in this posting. For those of you who have come to Santo Domingo on mission trips, check out this concrete evidence (excuse the pun) that the city is growing upwards. The vacant lot next to Hostal San Francisco is now a five-story building which likely will house apartments. Remember, you folks who are nostalgic: the only constant in life is change.

Soon it will be back to packing-up and a good night’s sleep before my day-of-departure routine: up early, hot shower, breakfast at Hermanos Villas, drink an extra cafe con leche and meet my ride to the airport. My next post will be a short one, likely from Lincoln, Nebraska, saying something along the lines of: The Missionary Has Landed.


The Wandering Missionary, Day 6

Another travel and school evaluation day, this time a short drive to Colegio San Jose in Boca Chica. I am a fan of this colegio; there’s a lot to like. Solid administration, great young teachers, enthusiasm, a smart/supportive priest, relative strength in technology, a support staff and a strong sense of mission. Who could ask for anything more?

These photos tell the story of my visit to San Jose.

The obligatory “welcome to the school” photo, taken by a teacher who knows her way around an IPhone.
We visit the office of the curriculum coordinator, Suzi Alexis. She showed us her charts for lesson and unit planning; I was impressed. Eisenhower’s plans for D-Day weren’t this complete.
We visited almostevery classroom. Melvina cannot resist a chance to break into a teachable moment.
An important part of evaluation for the team is soliciting student feedback. Here a volunteer shares her observations about Colegio San Jose.
Another measure of school effectiveness is to take a good look at student work. Here recently completed projects are displayed in the science laboratory.
More feedback collecting. These sixth graders respond to a question that roughly translated involves asking them: Who thinks you are learning a lot? Seems like a consensus to me.
These two photos show why I think that Señor Toribio is a terrific principal; in short, little kids love him and he takes the time to love them back.
Here’s evidence that Melvina is the Pied Piper of school visitations. Along with Suzi Alexis, she always has an instant entourage.
The evaluation session concludes our visit. In case you’re wondering, I’m the one on the left.

We returned to La Oficina Diocesana for lunch and my exit meeting with the Bishop (I fly home Saturday). I made plans with the Mission Team Office coordinator for a Covid test and transportation to the airport. As I walked back to the Seminary, I noticed this billboard, which I think might offer some guidance for the Democrats who seem to be struggling for a message. The candidate (now President) tells people that his presidency will go down in history; he also insists that he heads a movement that is like a political tsunami. No messing around for this guy.

I’m out to Colegio San Andres tomorrow for the celebration of Mother’s Day. Dominican Mother’s Day is Sunday, giving me two chances to celebrate in one year. Maybe too much excitement for me? Vamos a ver.

Missionary on the Run, Day 5

Lots of these sorts of days have filled my work in the DR over the years — waking-up early, climbing into some sort of vehicle and driving for a couple of hours to a first school visit, then across town to a second. Both schools are located in San Pedro de Macoris: Colegio San Esteban near the river and Centro Educativo Buen Pastor, closer to the downtown in a neighborhood where the streets aren’t all paved.

Both schools are unique and have attracted a lot of my attention. My work with an organization that raises money for scholarships for Dominican children, Colegio Kids, has drawn me to San Esteban where those scholarships are given. Buen Pastor has undergone a renaissance thanks to a private-public partnership in which the Episcopal Diocese supplies the buildings and MINERD supplements the salaries of the school’s faculty.

The first stop was at San Esteban and I have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The plan was to go to Buen Pastor first but the school is the classic example of “you can’t get there from here”. So, we started at San Esteban and got a 2-priest escort over to Buen Pastor.

San Esteban has struggled in recent years with infrastructure issues and enrollments. I was pleased to see that a younger, more energetic administrative team is now in place and making changes. And, I was surprised to see Deacon Emilio Pringle at our meeting; Emilio just retired as a public school principal who ran out of wall space for his achievement awards a long time ago. He has been asked to serve as Deacon at Buen Pastor. I cannot help but think that he will be giving some insights to the San Esteban team as well.

Now to the photos:

Large group, small room, but a lot still got done. Madre Milquella Mendoza has her back to the camera but you’ll see a lot of her in other photos.
I insist that I’m too old and my arms are too short for taking a “selfie”; the principal has neither impediment, so he took a nice one of the group outside the building.
It is indeed selfie time; this shot captures the group and the school’s brand new entrance.
Buen Pastor has an increased enrollment and lots of teachers who ride “motos” to school.
The church that started it all — Iglesia Buen Pastor.
At my last visit, this new wing of the school, devoted to preschoolers, was almost finished.
I am grandpa to 2 girls, ages 4 and 6; these kids are 5-years old. I could not resist a shot.
Maybe not my best photo, in terms of composition, but every participant in our meeting is in the photo.
Thanks to the kindergarten teacher, we took our farewell shot without needing a selfie.

Another school visit tomorrow, followed by meetings with Bishop Moises and Ned Paulino, the new director of the Mission Team Office. Should be a fun day!

Missionary in the House, Day 4

I want to begin this posting by paraphrasing a song from the Perry Como (my mother’s favorite singer) that I committed to memory almost against my will. Perry would respond to write-in requests; he got lots of letters. So, I’ll start off with this little poem (if you’re under 60, you won’t get this one, sorry): “Meetings, I’ve got meetings, I’ve got stacks and stacks of meetings . . .” That was pretty much today for me. Lots got done; all in Spanish; I have, as my Dominican friends might say: “un dolor en la cabeza”.

On to some photos. My first meeting was part of an ongoing series of professional development activities for educational leaders called: Escuela de Rectores (School for Directors). I’ll make some comments on each photo to give it a bit of context.

Bishop Quezada presides over today’s presentation that began, as always in such events, with a prayer, Biblical readings and the Bishop’s “sort-of-a-homily” on the purpose for school improvement. This workshop series was created, maintained and has prospered under his leadership.
Our presenter was Licensada (meaning she has a professional degree) Benaldita Natali Valerio Perez; she was so professional that she had a PowerPoint and took off her glasses to speak; while I’ve always thought of myself as a fabled presenter, I never did either one.
Priests and lay educational leaders can be a tough audience (I compare them to speaking to a group of secondary school principals); not for Natali, though.
The information provided was thoughtful, direct and addressed the audience’s concerns about creating a classroom atmosphere that is orderly yet still encourages student interaction; funny how Dominican teachers ask the same sorts of questions as their North American counterparts.

After an expansive lunch that included the ubiquitous (rice and beans with salad and chicken) and special treats (kipes, empanadas and ice cream), the meeting of La Junta de Educacion was called to order. I was extremely pleased/honored to be included as the Consultant to the School Board.

Another member arrived post-photo, bringing attendance to 7/9 members, plus Obispo Quezada. In my time in the DR, I’ve seen this Board grow from a group of 3 people who met occasionally to “think about education” to this group of educators who meet on a regular schedule. to digging into problem scenarios and giving solid advice. Membership includes teachers, school principals and a staff member of MINERD (the government’s education ministry). Believe me, it’s a great group to hang around.

On my walk back to the Seminary, I passed an educational foundation with this billboard on the front wall. I’m including it for all the progressive educators reading my blog.

Enough typing for one day. Tomorrow MMT (that’s my new acronym for Melvina, Miguelina and Tom) take to the highway again for 2 school visits in San Pedro de Macoris. News tomorrow night.

The Missionary’s Return, Day 3

I have to begin this post with a quick disculpame for forgetting this photo in my first posting. Several hours before my plane landed on Saturday, the Diocese welcomed in a wonderful ordination ceremony 3 new priests and 3 new deacons (recent graduates of the seminary). I know them all and they are a welcome addition to the Diocese. These new clergy are included in this group photo of the assembled Diocesan Bishop, Bishop Emeritus, priests, and deacons.

On to Monday’s news. As I walked across the seminary grounds I noticed that a “phantom gardener” has added orchid plantings that might be exotic where you live, but they grow outdoors here. Along with holly and poinsettia trees.

Next came breakfast at Hermanos Villar. I was greeted as the long-lost missionary by Wilkin, the morning maitre’d. We exchanged family news. Another Dominican friend that I have missed.

Roberto picked me up promptly at 10:30 and I headed to San Andrés for a planning meeting of the Bishop’s educational advisory team. Melvina, Miguelina and me. We welcomed San Andrés Assistant Principal Loraine and Padre Estiven Porto, from Colombia, the new priest/rector at Iglesia San Andrés. I miss the former Rector, Padre Emilio a lot, but am pleased that the church and school are in good hands.

The group assembles for our planning session. The secretary who took this photo has apparently attended a virtual photography course in creative composition.
Meetings do not begin without prayer. Padre Estiven leads the team.
A major end-of-the-year event at San Andrés celebrates El Dia de los Madres (Mothers’ Day, celebrated a bit later than in the United States). This year’s theme is “Crucero San Andrés” (an imaginary cruise to Mexico for the students and their families). I’ve been invited and am proud to display my ticket.
Wearing a hat appropriate for someone on a cruise, Melvina takes meeting notes.

We enjoyed a great lunch and then headed to Colegio San Marcos, in Haina, for a school visit. The meeting was hugely productive, as we discussed the needs of San Marcos as we move forward in the school improvement process.

The principal of San Marcos’ elementary division greets us on the playground.
El Rector of San Marcos, Padre Felix, welcomes me to his school.
After our meeting, the afternoon session of the secondary division took a break. I’ve been around schools long enough to know I needed to take a quick shot and get out of the way.
No school visit is complete without a group photo. Notice that we are all smiling. Good meeting!

As we drove back to the Catedral, I noticed that GPS advised that the trip should take maybe half an hour. After about 45 minutes (with a distance still to go), I regained my respect for driving in Santo Domingo anywhere near rush hour.

No driving tomorrow. We meet with school leadership and the Bishop. Looking forward to a great day!

Return of the Missionary, Day 2

Today (Sunday) was mostly a restful day with much of it devoted to returning to my “home-away-from-home” church, Iglesia San Andres. The Diocese has lent me a driver, Roberto, who picked me up around 9:30 for the ride across town. Appropriately, the M&Ms seem concerned about safety, so they have me riding most everywhere, in-town as well as out-of-town.

The service was a special one for me because it involved folks that I admire and have learned to love over the years. Here’s the cast of characters from the service:

Deacon Juana inspires me every time she reads the Gospel and every time that I read her daily post.
Padre Herace Fleuranvil gives his first sermon as a brand-new deacon. As a seminarian, he was very helpful to me as I navigated Santo Domingo 2 years ago.
Lots of pride in La Familia Fleuranvil as Herace poses for a foto after the service.

Many things happening Sunday, but none of them worth photographing. Not much exciting in a day of sending emails, reading a trashy mystery novel, practicing Spanish, eating a fish dinner at Hermanos Villar and discovering that yes, you can access Netflix in the DR.

More excitement on Monday when the meetings start. !Hasta Mañana!

The Return of the Missionary

La Pandemia struck all of us across the Americas. My in-person mission work stopped about 27 months ago. I have had “an itchin’ in my heart” to get back with my Dominican colleagues that was finally scratched yesterday.

I arrived at Aeropuerto de Las Americas early in the afternoon and was met by the leadership of Diocesan education, Miguelina Corporan and Melvina Dinsey (I affectionally refer to them now as “the Two Ms”). As they will at times, they made quite a stir. Made me downright emotional as I approached them.

My schedule for a week’s visit is jam-packed as usual — about 8-10 school visits in 5 days, plus meetings with the Bishop and the Junta de Educacion. We have our faithful driver, Roberto, and are up to the challenge.

Roberto and the Ms drove me to my usual apartment at the Seminary. Many changes, but several things have remained the same.

Yup, much is the same. The Seminary remains, officially: Centro de Estudios Teologicos (the Center for Theological Studies). My bedroom windows can be seen on the second floor. Padre Ashton Brooks, Dean of the Catedral Epifinia still drives a silver Nissan Altima.
Our cross-the-street neighbors remain the HQ for the Communist Party of the Dominican Republic. Not to get too silly, but note that the director drives a red car.

Many more posts to follow. Including one maybe later today.

Gracias por leer y Bendiciones.