Last month, nine young adults from St. Louis participated in a mission immersion trip to Bolivia, spending time one-on-one with people. They witnessed the work of the archdiocese’s Latin America Apostolate, served homeless people, assisted with the parish lunch and tutoring program and toured the parish health clinic, among other activities.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of service in Bolivia of two priests from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Father Patrick Hayden and Father James Michler. Father Hayden is pastor of Maria Reina Parish in La Paz and Father Michler is associate pastor. They serve in the apostolate, which is supported by a collection held in archdiocese parishes in the weekend of Aug. 4 and 5. The funds are especially helpful for the parish’s medical clinic, which charges patients only a fraction of its true costs because of the deep poverty of the community it serves.
Bolivia has only one priest for every 25,000 Catholics. Noting that “we are called to evangelize to all the ends of the earth,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson stated that the apostolate provides formation, catechesis, social services and pastoral care — services that wouldn’t be offered without the prayers and sacrifices of the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
St. Louis priests no longer serve a mission area of Calamarca in the high plateau above La Paz, but they are now caring for two other rural parishes covering more than 60 communities. The priests are assisted there by Deacon Francisco Zuletta, a native of Bolivia who worked in Calamarca for more than 30 years. Father Eric Olsen was associate pastor of Maria Reina, but recently returned to St. Louis to serve as administrator of two parishes.
Reflections on the mission trip to bolivia:
Mary Staten was moved by the gratitude shown by parishioners of Maria Reina Parish in La Paz. “Their faith and willingness to serve were very inspiring,” Staten said.
The programs of the parish supported by the Latin America Apostolate demonstrate “the fruits that the apostolate have brought,” and give “hope that through financial and prayerful support over time they can address even more of the needs of the people in La Paz,” said Staten, a parishioner of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Oakville who teaches at Incarnate Word School in Chesterfield. She also is involved in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at Immaculate Conception Parish in Maplewood.
She and the other St. Louisans joined young adults from the Bolivia parish to distribute food to people in need. “We witnessed deep and widespread poverty,” Staten said. “So many people need food, shelter, health services and spiritual opportunities. I definitely feel very grateful for the blessings I have received from the St. Louis Archdiocese and hope the people of Bolivia” have the same blessings.
Elizabeth Dreyer, a parishioner at St. Peter in Kirkwood, said Maria Reina Parish and the medical clinic and tutoring program it operates in La Paz are anchors in the low-income neighborhood they serve. “I noticed a difference the St. Louis priests and the clinic make and how important they are to the people,” Dreyer said.
The Latin America Apostolate uses its limited resources wisely, she added.
Dreyer and the young adults from St. Louis attended Mass each day at the parish, and she was impressed with the number of Massgoers and their level of engagement in the Mass. Several young adults from the parish joined the St. Louisans in service work there. She observed the medical clinic and was impressed with its efficiency.
Dreyer, a NICU nurse at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, also noticed the love shown by parishioners to Father Tim Noelker, director of the archdiocese’s Mission Office, who accompanied the young adults from St. Louis on the trip. Father Noelker spent five years in the apostolate serving at Maria Reina Parish. “They all wanted to see him and were so excited. You could tell they really appreciated everything he did for them,” Dreyer said.
Michael Horn, a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua in south St. Louis, was inspired by the priests from St. Louis who serve in Bolivia. Calling their efforts “tireless,” he recalled that they worked all hours of the day and night. “For example, we would see the priests coming back from a house visit, a house blessing, or a sacramental emergency during the week at 11 o’clock at night and eating meals late,” Horn said. “You could tell they’re so committed to their ministry there and that the relationship they have with the people is so powerful.”
The trip helped Horn realize the universality and connectedness of the Church. “Even in Bolivia we have Catholics who are so devout and love their priests, relying on them for the sacraments and support in times of grieving when there’s a death in the family and happy times as well,” said Horn, evangelization coordinator for the archdiocese.
>> Bash for Bolivia
A dinner auction benefiting the archdiocese’s Latin America Apostolate will be held Saturday, Aug. 25, at St. Joseph Parish, 567 St. Joseph Lane in Manchester. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner is at 6:30 p.m. A live and silent auction and music are also part of the event.
One of the important needs to be funded is the health clinic at Maria Reina Parish which serves more than 5,000 people each year from a poverty-stricken community. For information, call (314) 792-7655 or email [email protected]
Tickets are $50. To order, visit www.stlouisreview.com/jz4.
>> How to help
Archdiocesan priests, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O’Fallon, the Papal Volunteers in Latin America and other lay volunteers have taken part in the Latin America Apostolate for the last 62 years.
St. Louis priests Father Patrick Hayden and Father James Michler staff Maria Reina Parish, which serves more than 14 neighborhoods and about 60,000 to 70,000 Catholics.
Donations may be made:
• at parish collections Aug. 4-5.
• through your parish online giving.
• online at www.stlouisreview.com/bgK.
• by check to Latin America Apostolate, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis, MO 63119.
For information, visit archstl.org/missions or call (314) 792-7655. For an in-depth look at the mission, visit www.stlouisreview.com/bDK.