Living the Mission in El Salvador
"When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus."
(St. Rose of Lima - Dominican Saint)
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers for all those who went to El Salvador from January 2 thru January 11. Once again, it was an amazing trip! Please take some time to read the two reflections below by our students.
By Mary Roedig, Nursing major
During my winter break, I was blessed to be part of a great team and travel with Molloy to the community of Sol Naciente, El Salvador where we helped run a camp for children. In only ten days the people of El Salvador have taught me more than I could've ever imagined. At first, I thought there would be a barrier because we spoke different languages, but I quickly realized that wasn't true. My eyes were opened to a new world with incredible people and memories that will last a lifetime.
We started off the trip by visiting Saint Oscar Romero's home. It was amazing to learn about his love for the people of El Salvador and his dedication to the poor. He had once said, "If you say you love the poor, name them." Well, after this trip I can proudly say I know and love Marleen, Anthony, Jefferson, Icker, Melvin, Juan, Steven, Fernanda, Gabby, Felipe, Olgita, Kevin, and Jeremy. These are just a few of the names of the children who changed my life throughout the following days of this amazing trip.
After a long first day of travelling through the country for hours in a van, it was dark outside and we were all exhausted. We had one more stop to make when we turned down a little dirt road and got out of the van. The first thing I heard were the voices of the kids and their families as they welcomed us through song. We walked into the camp and were greeted by endless hugs and smiles, all from people who I had never met before. It's hard to describe that moment in words because it was more of a feeling--I finally understood what it meant to communicate through the language of love.
The days at the camp were filled with playing outside, making art, singing, and a lot of dancing. The kids were split into three different groups according to age, and I was with the youngest ones, ages 3-8. One of my favorite things to do was pick up a little boy named Icker and swing him around. After my arms got tired I would put him down, but only about a second would go by before he would yell "otro vez!" which means "again!" and he'd be back in my arms.
We spent the week living through the four pillars of Dominican life: study, community, spirituality, and service. I've learned so much from just one week of knowing the kids. I am humbled to have seen how they live their lives in their community with such selflessness and service to one another. They have very little but give without wanting anything in return. Their spirituality was also truly inspiring to see. Their faith in God is always at the forefront of everything they do.
The biggest connections were made through hugs, laughs, and even tears when it came to saying goodbye. I'm taking away a lot from this trip, but a vivid memory I will always have are all the children's smiling faces. I am so grateful to have been able to experience so much love in this country. I have truly gained a second family and a home away from home that I hope to be able to visit again someday. The connections that have been made cannot be broken by distance or separated by language. God is love, and it is love that binds us all together. The people of El Salvador will forever be in my heart and in my prayers.
By Jeffrey Lozanz, Education major
This winter break, I had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador with students and faculty of Molloy College and Dominican College. The mission for the trip was to provide the children of the Village of Sol Naciente in La Union a fun and exciting camp. This being my second year going on the trip, I was ready to say hello to the children but afraid of saying goodbye. The experience was a heartwarming one that I remember fully and will forever keep in my heart.
Upon arriving in San Salvador, El Salvador, we departed to the home of Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Walking into the home of the newly canonized saint, we were welcomed by Sister Ruby, a Carmelite Sister in charge of giving tours of the house of Saint Oscar Romero. I had the opportunity to translate for the group the information provided by the guide. Saint Oscar Romero's mission was to care for the poor and to fight for people's rights during the civil unrest in El Salvador. The guide informed us of the purpose and actions of Oscar Romero to protect and defend the rights of Salvadorians. At the conclusion of the tour, we attended mass in the church where Saint Romero was killed. The mass in the church had a mystical feeling as we celebrated the Eucharist in one of the famous churches of El Salvador.
After leaving San Salvador, the missionaries departed to La Union, El Salvador, to our destination. After a long van ride, we were surprised by the children and adults of the community of Sol Naciente de Japõn. As the van pulled up to the camp, we saw the lights from the candles held by community members awaiting our arrival, outside of the camp. The missionaries were greeted with open arms and salutations in English and Spanish. The children and adults walked us towards the chapel. As we walked in, the children greeted us with flowers, singing, and warm hugs. Sister Flor Baruca, Principal of the Camp the Educative and Religious Program of Saint Catherine of Sienna, hosted us with the community by having a prayer service. At the conclusion of the prayer service, the students laid their arms upon us and gave us the Dominican Blessing. This was the moment in which I felt that God was present with us and going to be with us during the camp.
Every day we were greeted at 7:30 in the morning by our driver, Eduardo, with a smile and warm hug. On our ten-minute ride to the camp, the students on the first day were excited to meet all the children and start the week of camp. As soon as the van drove into the village, the children ran behind the van trying to catch up to us. As soon as we parked, one of the students named Dennis flung open the van door and ran in to give us all a huge hug. This was what every day was like when we arrived at the camp. During the camp, the children were broken into three groups, based on their age. During the week, I worked with three other missionaries with children from the ages of five years old to eight years old. Our groups would rotate in three stages: arts and crafts, music, and playtime. One of my favorite memories from the week of camp was the playtime session with the kids. The kids learned how to share and work as a team, especially in the soccer games we played with the kids.
Throughout the week, the four pillars of Dominican Tradition (Study, Service, Spirituality, and Community) were evident in and outside the camp. One aspect, when the pillar of spirituality stood out, was the religion lessons at the start of the day. Camp would start the same way with a visit from Saint Rose of Lima. St. Rose taught the children about love and the aspects of loving one another, loving your family, loving yourself and loving nature. The children took what they were shown and demonstrated love by bringing Saint Rose homework.
A second pillar evident in the camp was service. After lunch, the children would be given a task by Sister Flor that would help make the community better. The kids either picked up trash, made trash cans, or did lawn work. The children were willing to make their community a better place. This made evident that the children wanted to make their community a clean and better place.
This trip was difficult because I had to say goodbye to a community that welcomed me with open arms. Saying goodbye was hard because I understood that I might never see the people of Sol Naciente again. The relationships I have created will last a lifetime. The words from the song "Remember Me" from the Movie Coco, connected to this trip. The connection occurred, as I will remember the community and the people forever and they will always be in my heart. This mission trip was a rewarding experience that will always be part of my life.