Living the Mission - Honduras 2015

April 20, 2015
Pic of SPSSOD faculty and students in Honduras
Pictured L to R: Cheryl Reinking, Dr. Deborah Savage, Annie Kopacek, Dr. Kenneth Snyder, Dr. Christopher Thompson, Carla LaBore

A small group of lay students and faculty from The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras for a week in January to participate in a “Medical Brigade” at the Holy Family Surgery Center.

In addition to providing support services to the surgery center’s medical volunteers, the students and faculty spent time with the children of the orphanage, including those with special needs, and engaged regularly in the prayer and spiritual life of the community. In addition to the service component of the trip, the students completed a directed studies course that they will apply to their degree requirements.

The impact of that service work, as well as Christ continuing to work in them and through them becomes clear as they reflect on their experiences.

Carla LaBore, who will be graduating with a Master of Arts in Religious Education was struck by the openness of the community to embrace a different way of seeing their reality for the good of the children. In the orphanage, the idea of family is redefined to include 600 “siblings”, and many Aunts and Uncles. LaBore observed that while western culture may view that as falling short of the goal of the two-parent family, for these children it is a safe, permanent home where they feel the love of the whole community. Experiencing a shift in perspective of what makes a family, she understands the importance of thinking outside of the box when serving the Church and others. “In ministry it is easy to fall into the trap of ‘this is how it should be done’, instead of opening up to the possibilities that other perspectives can bring.” She recognizes that the Church has an obligation to reach out and assist in any way it can in caring for people all over the world and in different cultures.

Cheryl Reinking, as student in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry program saw her time in Honduras as a blessing not only to those she was serving, but those she served alongside. She lives her faith daily with the belief that “God calls us to do small things each day with great charity and together we can make a great impact on the world.” Reinking chose to travel to Honduras to fulfill what she felt was the simple task of volunteering in the surgery center and visiting orphaned children. In fact, through the charitable service of the surgeons, nurses, caregivers, and students, what she experienced through charitable service, was truly the Kingdom on Earth.

For Annie Kopacek, also a student in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry program, as well as a John Ireland Scholar, her experience was a humble reminder of her own life’s blessing of family and faith. That reminder has prompted her to consider how the Lord has called her to serve and lead others to Christ through ministry. She has become more keenly aware that the Lord speaks to each of us when he says “Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required.” (Luke 12:48.) Not only should we be focused on the external fruits of our service to others, but on the interior fruits that result from our personal, ongoing conversion to Christ. “I understand that in order for me to truly serve the Church and thus make a difference in the lives of others, I first need to allow Christ to make a difference in my own.”

“It has been a priority of mine since arriving as the Academic Dean to not only provide a solid theological foundation, but the opportunity to experience the Church’s teachings in action,” said Dr. Christopher Thompson. “I am very proud and grateful for the resources made available to accomplish this aim.”