SJC

Sumpango, Guatemala


Join us on our next trip to Guatemala during the 2018 Winter term!
Contact Sara at: sjcdean@ualberta.ca

Some words from our participants...

Curtis Middleton (Winter 2015)

"The nuns were young, energetic and faithful to their work at the orphanage. The only people with more zest for life were the children with HIV, who scurried around non-stop and never seemed to run out of energy. Modelling loving mothers to these children, the 14 nuns at Hogar Anne Vitello orphanage in Sumpango, Guatemala worked tirelessly from 5:00 AM until midnight to feed, clothe, shelter, entertain, teach and individually care for each of the 60 beautiful kids. Our team was there to provide a break for the nuns by learning how to do God's work from dawn until dusk. We were the dishwashers, launderers, washers, sweepers, moppers, and last but not least, the amusement park rides for the 100 children, who seemed to whisper "love me" with every hug. There were also stages of down time depending on the day for much needed rest, discussion, reflection, sport and music. In CHRTC 339 you can expect to be challenged, to learn, to build international friendships and to be amazed by God's work in ordinary places."

Josiah Ling (Winter 2015)

"As the plane began to descend, I uneasily glanced out the window, not believing that we could sustain this downward trend for much longer. However, as we broke through the clouds, the view that beheld me was majestic. Emerald rolling hills, peppered with clusters of houses, against a sunset hue-the view alone was enough to make me catch my breath.
If I could take anything back from Guatemala, it would be the cascade of multifarious colors that express not only the land, but the entity of the people there. Despite adverse circumstances, the culture is gregarious and amicable, giving testament to the resiliency of their spirit. Love, Joy, Happiness were common themes during this trip along with solemnness, sadness, and desperateness; a contrast to greater extremes, than our emotionally restricted culture back home. Yet the greater extremes-evidence of a rooted faith-worked to offset the ever-looming risk of hopelessness. For the ability to find hope in such dire conditions can only be accounted to Him who works in us (Ephesians 3:20) as a result of the cross.
Rooted faith begets servant hood, and the sisters worked tirelessly to exemplify this. Only in this context had I ever seen such immense dedication to serve, not only for the children at the orphanage, but a group of privileged foreigners whom they hardly knew. Reflecting the humbleness of Christ, each labor became evidence of a desire to glorify not themselves but the One who sent them (Luke 22:27). A living testimony of joy found in hope, the work continues into unfathomable potential to further the kingdom."

Hilary Davis (Winter 2015)

"Traveling to Guatemala was a deep spiritual and educational experience for me. At Hogar Madre Anna Vitiello, the amount of love present is abundantly evident. Here I was reminded of what Mother Teresa said, "not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." The sisters in their vocation showed this by being selfless adoptive mothers to the wonderful children here. God's presence was made known in the smallest of acts of love between the children, the sisters and our group that travelled from St. Joe's. I couldn't have asked for a better experience while learning to serve others."

Tryphena Lai (Winter 2015)

"The first time I heard about this class and the trip to Guatemala was through a different theology class I was in during the fall semester. I didn't know too much about it, but I had inkling that this would be something worth trying. It wasn't until the week before our trip did I start to feel nervous, scared and excited all at the same time. To go to an unfamiliar country with a completely different culture and way of life, as well as with a language I barely knew with ten other strangers was both overwhelmingly exciting and scary. As someone who has a lot of fears, I knew this was a needed trip for me to get out of my comfort zone, grow in my relationship with God, and perhaps also see what God’s calling was for me. The trip gave me that, and more. While our class was there, we were constantly challenged spiritually and emotionally. Our team was able to grow and fellowship together over the course of the trip, and it would be something I will always treasure. Every day, we would see God work in the lives of the nuns and the orphans, and being with them taught me more about humility, being and seeing Christ than any classroom course would. It changed my idea of missions, and encouraged me to answer God’s calling, whatever it may be. Going to Guatemala with CHRTC 339 will be one of my favorite memories in my university career."

Kaley Pederson (Winter 2014)

"When I stepped out of Guatemala’s International Airport, I was welcomed with a busy crowd and humid air and it sunk in - we were there!
I had travelled to South America, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Europe before, so the difference in surroundings and culture was not a surprise. I couldn’t say I was shocked or amazed by my experiences or the sights. Instead, I should describe myself as having stumbled upon enrichment.
When I enrolled into the class, I was looking for answers, both personal and academic. My education had unveiled histories and religious narratives of conflict and colonial conquest. I often wondered if pages could talk, what perspectives would I hear. For instance, how did Christian-led developmental projects reach vulnerable populations and were they helping? In a world where religions are commonly poised in competition against one another, where was there space for tolerance? Or simply, what were differences between churches, faith? Most importantly, how do they steward the world?
I would not describe myself as a particularly faithful person, but as passionately curious. I have love for God and want to see justice done in the world. This class was a way for me to explore these questions. It gave me the time and direction to revisit what faith means to me and to understand how religious faith lives through social initiatives. Initiatives, ranging from a simple gesture of kindness to the care provided for children at Hogar Madre Anna Vitiello.
During our stay, we played with the children. We did dishes with the nuns, discussing their life journeys, passions and thoughts. We toured beautiful places and experienced every-day life, whether that was a run to get bananas from a neighboring village or a trip to the local market. We spoke with affiliates working in the community to discuss healthcare policies, the influential presence of multinational corporations and local politics. However, each day we came back together as a group to share, debate and question. This is something you cannot find from trying a local dish, attending a tour or capturing images with a camera. This is enrichment, a deeper understanding of a place and people that is complex and shared through people, insights and feelings.
I signed up for a class, but really this course is a lesson on life, about what it is to be human and live together in a world created by many driving forces. If you have an open heart and burning questions in your mind, I would challenge you to take up this opportunity, it is truly unique."

Sara Merchant (Winter 2014)

"This trip was much more lasting than the one week in Guatemala. It is probably not surprising to hear stories about how adorable the children are, how great it is to play with them, and how sad it is to leave them. But this trip is so much more than a week of good times with children. It was so great to see the universality of God’s love and how this can be seen even just in recreation and play. This trip led me to a lot of self-reflection on the purpose of short-term missions. My thoughts on this are much too long to get into, but in summary I think what this trip taught me is that God’s reasons for leading people to missions varies for each individual. People must take the time to reflect on the purpose of their trip, and how to best utilize their God given gifts and talents to serve to the best of their ability. The children might not ever remember your name, but they will know that they are loved by God and that God provides for them – not us. The toys you bring are not going to change lives; it is about love, and genuine human connection. Some of the unexpected highlights happened when taking time to get to know the Sister’s and to help them with the mundane tasks; to encourage them for the amazing, selfless work they do every single day. I have never seen stronger, more compassionate women in my life than the Sister’s at Hogar Madre Anna Vitiello. I went there to serve but left feeling extremely blessed to have met and learned from the women who dedicate their entire lives to these children. It was a humbling and eye opening experience."

Stephanie Renaud (Winter 2014)

"I believe a true Catholic education extends beyond the classroom. Catholicism needs to be lived, to be felt, and to be explored. The universal church is beautiful because diversity is embraced and celebrated, especially culturally, because we are unified by our faith and more fundamentally, our humanness. The field education class forms bridges, transforming our perspective of those around the world from "us and them" to viewing everyone as family in Christ. When someone is family, you love them unconditionally. The field education class was a lesson on unconditional love."

Danica Wolitski (Winter 2013)

"I don’t know how to describe it, but Hogar Madre Anna Vitiello is a piece of Heaven on earth. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to experience life at the Orphanage; it has opened my eyes to the true meaning of suffering and poverty. This experience has taught me that suffering from spiritual poverty is far worse than suffering from material poverty. This simple concept has completely changed my paradigm and helped me grow spiritually."

Melody Everest-Harkema (Winter 2013)

"I went to Guatemala as a student with St. Joseph's College not knowing that it wouldn't just change my life but change my family as well. My family had recently gone through some hardship, my husband, my children's father, had passed away a year earlier. After his passing I had resolved to "do more for my fellow man" and began regularly volunteering in the inner city here in Edmonton and I expected much of the same from my experience in Guatemala- I expected to be able to improve someone's life, even for a day, through my own work and feel that a bit of difference is better than none. So I went. And I loved it. I played with kids, I drew with them, I volunteered to do dishes after every meal, singing with the other students and nuns as we worked. What I didn't expect was how I would learn to see that although suffering is always with us in life there is an undercurrent of joy and peace that can be greater. The nuns there were living and serving the a Kingdom of God through their love. It was profound. Back to my family... It changed the way I parent. When I remarried I understood how someone could truly love a child "not their own" and I'm not sure I understood that before. It even brought a depth to my volunteer work here that I lacked. I'm so very grateful I had the opportunity to join the field service class."