First Archdiocesan family mission trip helps those in need

July 16, 2013

“I wish there was a way for our children to go on mission as a family.”

The idea for this experience was presented by a parish family at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring. They desired their children to have a cultural and faith-sharing experience with the poor; their concept for this was a family mission experience. 

Ruth and Bob Kleeman, both active on the Archdiocesan Mission Council for the education and promotion of mission, responded to the request. Sister Ursula Herrera, OSB, the superior of the mission house, Caridad de Corazon, in Eagle Pass, Texas, was contacted for her input and assistance. 
The participants of the first family mission trip for the Archdiocese were: Jannis and John Snaider and their four children, Jonnathan, 12, Karina, 11, David and Kevin, 8; Ann and Robert Mechler and Kevin, 13; Ruth and Bob Kleeman and Father Gerry Kelly, MM. Sister Ursula also accompanied them to the work sites.

The families participated in meetings to get to know each other and joined in activities, reading about the way missioners are taught by those they assist, learning about the theology of mission and discussing the expectations of mission. Meals, food preparations and sleeping arrangements were also decided. 

The mission trip began on a Thursday at St. Ignatius Loyola with a liturgical sending ceremony at the baptismal font, conducted by the pastor, Father Norbert Maduzia. 

Travel to Eagle Pass was in a caravan of private cars. The first evening, Mass was celebrated by Father Kelly, during which the team members received mission crosses in a commissioning ceremony. 

Each day began with group prayer and ended with everyone attending Mass together at the mission house. During Mass, Father opened part of the homily for personal and spiritual reflections on the happenings of the day.

For two days, their faith was shared through activities of service in helping two elderly ladies. One lived in a dilapidated trailer with holes in the floor, which was next to her house that has been under construction for seven years — it was roofed and enclosed, but had only bare studs inside. She wanted a bedroom insulated and sheetrock so that she could sleep in the new structure. The men and older boys completed this project. 

The other lady was a cancer patient and was receiving dialysis treatments. She wanted the sheetrock repaired in one room as well as the kitchen cleaned and painted. 

However, in the course of the two days, there was time only for a deep cleaning of her kitchen, which was done under her direction. 

On Sunday, the team had a day of rest and explored Eagle Pass. The team visited the “wall” at the Rio Grande border, attended the Sunday celebration of Mass in Spanish in a colony and went to Fort Duncan. 

On Monday morning, the families returned independently to Houston. 

A dinner is being scheduled with the families to share thoughts, the impact of the trip and to discuss ways to share experiences with others within our Catholic community.

Immediately after the trip, there were several highlights mentioned by the parents as well as the children. 

Everyone was touched by Sister Ursula’s and Father Gerry’s attendance and their interactions with the poor and the team. 

One of the children mentioned that receiving his mission cross made him feel like a member of the team; another said they didn’t realize how much joy it would bring them to work with the poor and to experience how doing so little for others can bring so much hope to them. 

In reflecting on the mission experience, the families participating in this endeavor were exceptional and understood the concept of sharing their faith through service and assisting the elderly and poor; of team work and cooperation and in respecting and supporting each other. 

We, as Catholics, are missioners by Baptism and this is one way of living out our Baptismal commitment. In a capsule, this was faith professed, celebrated, lived and prayed in this Year of Faith.