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A Ministry of Education in the Amazon

Sr. Doris Regan, OP, ministered as an educator and AIDS counselor in the Amazonian region for almost 30 years. As we consider this week's theme, Educational Improvement, Sr. Doris tells us about the Martin de Porres School where she ministered in Honduras.

Our little school in the Housing Project was named St. Martin de Porres, and I think Martin would like that. The little ones in the school were very much like Martin, very poor, very trusting, and very generous. But they were very much in need of adults to care for them. They came from families that, for the most part, were disintegrated, with single parents and/ or alcoholic, abusive parents.

Time at school was an oasis for them. The teacher herself (who was orphaned at ten years of age) is Montessori-trained and eternally patient. Each time I visit, I am reminded of the special stories in the children's backgrounds. The mother of little Ruth and Isaias was murdered three years ago and their aunt is raising them along with her own two children. Jorge Mario and Luz Marina are among eight children abandoned by their father. Yensy is HIV+ positive. Jacqueline comes from an alcoholic family. Antonio was born in a refugee center during Hurricane Mitch and never received the needed nutrition for his physical development or the eternal stimulation for his mental development. At age eight, he operates at the level of a four-year-old. Several of the children are being raised by grandparents because their parents have gone to the United States or have died.

All that family history is forgotten in the afternoon hours of each day. They are known and loved and invited to speak, to play, and to learn social skills that will help them in the future. They are taught a sense of personal discipline and responsibility, and they experience the effects of community bonding and shared fun. So I say again, Martin would indeed be proud!

Children certainly were the focus of most of our programs. We marched in parades for December 1, the World Day of AIDS, and it was the children who gave us life in the Housing Project. Our end-of-year programs featured singing the national anthem, reciting poetry, dramatizing songs, etc. This end of year in December was a celebration of Christmas for many as well as congratulations to the youngsters. Many of the prisoners' families came to the Christmas Mass in the prison. The liturgy itself, the readings and the chorus, was planned by our Catholic community there. It was a family time for prisoners and their families within a Catholic community. The Bishop looked on the prison ministry as his personal, pastoral ministry.

In each of these moments, it was the children who got our attention, some sleeping through the liturgy, some wandering around outside and inside the chapel, frolicking in the school but simply so happy to BE, a joy in which all could share.

Click here for the Month of Peace Prayer and Study resources for the Third Week of Advent.

3 thoughts on “A Ministry of Education in the Amazon

  1. Doris, I loved your story and the photos. That was/is a wonderful ministry. One time maybe 10 years ago, a Honduran detainee in immigration was going to be deported, but had just found out he was HIV+. I gave him your telephone number. I don’t know if he ever got there, but I have always admired and been proud of you and your work. A peaceful Christmas to you.

  2. Doris,
    Thank you for the sharing and the great ministry you did among the people. I know much of your heart is still with the people you love and continue to care for.

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