Mission team tells of most recent trip

February 26, 2013

The St. Laurence Parish Medical and Spiritual team, consisting of 43 people, prepared for its 12th annual medical and spiritual mission project by attending Mass. The team joined Bishop James A. Tamayo of the Diocese of Laredo to serve the poor in Laredo and in the poor colonias along the border in the vicinity of Zapata, El Cenizo and Rio Bravo, Texas. 

The team pulled three trailers filled with prescription and over-the-counter medications, 4,000 bottles of 120-count adult and children vitamins, medical equipment and supplies and durable medical goods (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, canes, port-a-potties, etc.). The trailers also contained dental equipment and supplies and medication to serve a dental team of four dentists and four dental hygienists including dental patient chairs, x-ray equipment, sterilization equipment and a complete supply of dental service tools for dentists and dental hygienists. 
The mission team consisted of 19 licensed and certified medical professionals and the spiritual team consisted of four ordained ministers and one-degreed pastoral minister. Additionally there were 19 lay medical team support members including drivers, dental assistants, patient coordinators, translators, etc. 

Medical and spiritual services, including Mass each morning, were provided at each location. During the day, services included individual and family counseling, reconciliation, prayers for and anointing of the sick, observation of the “3 O’clock Hour of Divine Mercy,” and home and hospital visits for the sick and non-ambulatory. 

Medical services at all locations included general practice, pediatrics, physical therapy, dentistry and dental hygiene among other services. Patients needing continuing care were referred to Gateway Community Health Centers, a local non-profit charity health care provider. 
Medical services in most demand were triage, dentistry, dental hygiene and physical therapy. These missionaries were busy constantly and had to turn patients away into early Thursday morning. All other service areas met the needs of patients locally, but those needing these services really needed those services, for they are either not available to them or they cannot afford to pay for those services. 

In the evenings, for the community, Masses for Healing and Healing Prayer Services with the Laying on of Hands were offered at all locations. Most of the missionaries participated in these services also either as participants in prayer requests or as participants in the services as catchers for those slain in the spirit. These services typically started at about 6:30 to 7 p.m. and lasted from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Thursday evening is mission team sharing night. This night is dedicated to missionary sharing of their experiences. Often patients claim emotional or physical healings and are invited to share those experiences with the mission team. This evening is such an inspirational and moving experience that Bishop Tamayo has not missed it in four years. Crying and hugging are a large part of this evening as people bond in compassion and love as we share in the experiences of others. Tears of release from pain and from joy in finding peace and forgiveness, and laughter rule this evening. 
Bob Kempker, outreach mission team coordinator, and Catherine Short, head triage nurse, had one such experience with an 80-year-old female patient in Zapata, Texas. The patient suffered not only from many chronic illnesses and walked with the aid of a walker, but also had an open wound on the bottom of her foot. With many weeks of non-medical care the injury had calloused, and gave the woman severe pain, making her walk favoring the other side. Catherine, an experienced wound care nurse, comforted the woman, and told her she would personally take care of her. Being able to assist, Catherine de-breeded the wound, she cleaned it thoroughly, bandaged it with sterile dressing, and educated the patient’s caregiver on how to take care of it the next few weeks. 

Seeing that her shoes provided no support or cushion to the wound, Catherine tried to offer the patient her shoes but they wouldn’t fit, especially with the dressings. Bob immediately jumped in and offered his brand new size 10½ pair of shoes that he knew would fit. He was more than happy to see her walk in his “new tennis shoes” that he had bought while having visions of hitting the basketball court with for a little one-on-one competition with a friend.

The smile on the patient’s face was more than words could ever convey, and knowing as an outreach team we were able to provide a small measure of care to our brothers and sisters, truly reinforced the words of Mother Teresa, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
This last mission was our fourth year in Laredo. With the number of patients increasing each year it is certain that our services are needed and along with that, the expression of gratitude from all patients assures us that those services are needed and appreciated. 
As the results of the success of our mission services gets around, interest in providing those medical and spiritual services to others becomes a factor. Presently we are a mission organization with growing pains. Some examples follow:

- Bishop Tamayo would like us to provide medical and spiritual Services to Eagle Pass, Texas. 
- The St. Bryce Foundation would like for us to provide medical and spiritual services to their mission area serving the indigenous Indians in Costa Rica. We are going there in a fact-finding effort in April of this year.
- The Diocese of Lexington, Ky., would like us to work with the four Catholic hospitals in their Diocese as an outreach clinic annually in search of patients needing serious continuing care. We have been there and met with the board of all four hospitals.
Altogether, this represents six mission team opportunities available to any given parish or team of parishes. 

If you are interested in participating in these medical and spiritual mission efforts as an individual or as a parish, please contact Cordell St. Cyr at cordells@mmdmusa.org, or by phone at 832-449-3759 or by cell at 281-794-9094. †

Cordell St. Cyr is director of Medical Missionaries of Divine Mercy.