November 20, 2008
Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings from Nicaragua!
This past weekend we had our first Catholic Youth Bible Retreat in preparation for the Continental wide 2009 Catholic Youth Mission. There were 30 participants, made up of the small groups and Organizations where I am presently working. It was a very good Retreat.
The main goal was to create an environment of community and sharing. Then we sought to motivate the group by creating a deeper awareness of the reality of youth today in Nicaragua and how making the Word of God and the practice of the Sacraments part of their daily lives can indeed enable them to build their futures on a more solid ground.
This Retreat came at a very important moment. Nicaragua is going through a very chaotic situation with the past November 9th Mayoral elections.
Accusations of fraud have resulted in post-election violence, roaming bands armed with rocks, machetes and baseball bats, and the destruction of a few Radio stations, intimidations against the media and other acts of violence. To date this has produced at least 2 deaths and others wounded.
The saddest part is this spiral of violence is opening some of the deep, still unhealed, wounds of the past. The polarization between the current Government and the opposition Party is growing daily and threatening to further divide a society and a people who are already unemployed, tired, and hungry and at their limit, struggling to survive any way they can under a prolonged economic crisis, which has no light on the horizon. There is frustration, fear, tension and concern that this violent spiral of events could unravel in the coming weeks into a very conflictive situation at a National level. Presently, most of the violence is centered in Managua and the National Police has been doing a good job at protecting both sides of the population and preventing further violence.
So once again, in Nicaragua, you could say in a historical sense we are in “Biblical times”. However, I believe, that when in communion with our Catholic Tradition and other mainline Christians, we really can learn from Scripture about how History tends to repeat itself and discover we need to do in any current situation.
One thing is for sure, here in Nicaragua, we definitely need courage, faith and action on behalf of peace. I feel, more than ever, in today’s world we need to practice our faith and learn from the non-violent wisdom of Jesus in the Gospels. With each passing year I am coming to understand that it matters little what side of the dividing line you have been placed on by circumstance or class. There are times in history when “our world” is challenged, shaken and questioned to the core. We loose faith in God and at that moment appears a very real temptation to see the world and others as a dangerous battle ground.
We forget, as a people of God, who we are and to protect “our world” we quickly forget that the axis of Evil runs through the center of my own heart. Almost imperceptibly we begin to believe that the Evil one is “out there”. Precisely at that moment, the Devil has won his first battle. Issues tend to become confused. Complex reality gets over-simplified, the entire world gets separated into the “us versus them”, “evil capitalist vs. evil socialist”, “black vs. white” and “the good people vs. the evil people”. We are no longer the one human family God sees with loving eyes, but enemies to one another.
One thing I can tell you, from over 16 years in Latin America, is that much of the senseless death and massive brutal violence that happened (while we were partying back in High school and College) was perpetuated and justified in Central America by this same perverse and evil logic (over 50,000 people in Nicaragua, over 75,000 in El Salvador and 100,000 in Guatemala were killed in period of a little more than a decade). Other solutions could have been developed to resolve the underlying causes, which were related to the huge social inequalities. Sadly, these same social inequalities have changed very little for the majority of the populations of Central America.
As a Christian, I believe, we can only take one side: the side that seeks to reconcile divisions, the side that listens and brings clarity, the side that stands for Life and works to stop the tide of hatred and violence, whose only fruits are more death and violence.
Firstly, I must do this in my own heart, but we cannot stop there. We are called to re-create this world according to the vision of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. For me, this is what Jesus in the Gospels is calling us to today. It is the way of the Prophets standing on the side of the “widows and orphans”, taking on the Empires of their day and finding light, strength and clarity by being rooted in and directed by the Spirit of the God of Life.
In times like ours today, here in Nicaragua, or in the USA, I believe as Christians, we are called to be on the side of life from the womb to the tomb. We must strive to proclaim the “humble truth” revealed in life of Christ by our testimony. When we do that we can make a difference in whatever situation we find ourselves, but only in our fidelity to following in the non-violent foot prints of Jesus!
On a personal level, after I let some of the fears flow through me over these past few days, I eventually became more convinced of the urgent need for the work we are doing here: sharing the Good News with the poor. You cannot do that, if you don’t have a Bible in your hands and some one to help you understand some of its infinite treasures. I thank God for the work he is allowing me, through your help, to dedicate my life.
Yes, we can indeed take comfort in the Word of God, we can indeed find inspiration and the general direction to follow in any set of circumstance, if we open, pray with, and listen from the heart to the Word of the God of Life. And that is some thing we STAND upon!
To conclude, once again, I thank you all for your support, friendship and know that we are indeed on a Mission together.
May God bless you all and Gods speed on your great work!
Patrick T. Duffy, Jr.
October 03, 2008
September 29, 2008
PARTNERS IN MISSION NICARAGUA UPDATE
JUST KEEP ON SMILING
Peace and greetings to all!
I hope this message reaches every one doing well in the midst of all the financial crisis news, painful political campaigning, and other world events which can cause us fear and uncertainty.
This picture is during a story telling session with some neighbor kids we do occasionally, along with Birthday celebrations and other after school activities. One thing I have learned from kids and the poor is to JUST KEEP ON SMILING! So, I hope you can too.
Our life and work here in Nicaragua is moving forward, little by little. This past weekend Damarys, Chris and I, along with a small group, visited the orphanage and organized activities for about 50 of the 250 kids and teenagers. We plan to organize and work in small groups to teach Music, start a Children's Missionary Movement, work with pre-adolescents and implement the 2009 Catholic Youth Bible Mission. All in all, we had a great Weekend and Christopher did well also. He is a pretty popular baby.
Little by little we are also forming a Team, made up of a small group who go with us to the Island and who also help me in the Retreats, Workshops, Talks and other activities I am doing to inspire the youth of Nicaragua in Managua.
Last week I completed a Confirmation Course with 40 youth and accompanied them during their Confirmation, it was a beautiful moment and renewed my own faith in the power of the Spirit to assist me in overcoming all the obstacles to becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ and to build up the Kingdom of God. Our faith truly is our greatest treasure. Some times we just are not aware of it or it may need a tune up.
Two weeks ago I spent two days in the Mountains following up on the Water Project and evaluating with a Parish, an organization that specializes in water and a local government, in order to find the best way to invest the money raised for the Water Project. (If you want to read more about the Water Issue see the article I will put at the end of this Update. We have much to do and teach people about water conservation and what the Church teaches in her Catholic Social Doctrine about the right to clean drinking water.)
The Courses in the High Schools with the Teachers are going well and their is great interest in our work here. It all seems to point to the message of: keeping on with the MISSION! God always sends what is needed, if we have the faith to walk on....to walk on water.
Here in Nicaragua, there are allot of tensions and difficulties in the social and political arena. The constantly rising prices of basic food supplies make life very difficult for the vast majority. While the small elites of the Country show little interest in making any real change. There is little dialogue amongst the differing Political and interest groups. All of this combined with the heat...the rainy season ....can some times make it all appear that we are on the road to impending doom. And that is precisely the point where I believe we need to BE AWARE!
What is needed in these times is not more people who STOP ACTING, but rather people who fill their minds with FAITH and START ACTING.....GOD WILL SHOW US THE WAY.....THRU THE DESERT AND TO THE PLACE WHERE HE IS LEADING, but is only by ACTING that we will overcome the huge fears of our times.
So, let's not let fear run our minds and control our lives.....let's us stand up and ACT on FAITH! Become part of the solution.
Yours truly, in Heart of The Lord of all LIFE!
P.S. To see the article on water go to:
August 09, 2008
On this presentation we want to share with you the story of one family. It represents the story of a large majority of Nicaraguan families, who strive to better their lives, often against great odds.
Dona Mercedes and her family have lived in the houses of rich and wealthy of Managua most of their lives. They have worked as maids, gardeners, night watchmen, and servants most of their lives as live in servants. They were forced to emigrate to Managua to find work when they lost their land in the Northern areas of Nicaragua many years ago.
On a meager salary, and with the help of others, they have been able to educate some of their younger girls. Their life is one of daily survival, one day at a time. Her life represents the majority of the poor of Nicaragua.
Back in April, Dona Mercedes decided to leave her life "as a live in maid", because the chauffeur of that family tried to rape her 15 year old daughter. The daughter escaped by a miracle. Trusting in God, she decided to quit her job, find new work and seek a decent place to live.
August 07, 2008
Peace and greetings to all!
I hope this picture reaches you all well.
One of the incredible things about Nicaragua is the capacity of the people to smile against all the odds. Just take a look at the faces of these people. All of them have allot of reasons not to smile, but most of them smile easily. We have so much to learn from the poor.
If you could only know some of the stories behind the smiles you too would be impressed. Stories that the poor the world over experience: inter-family violence, abuse, kids abandoned by the parents, youth with no hope, drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment, etc.
The Nazareth where we live is in a barrio called Espinoza Martinez and is a mixture of smiles and poverty. This neighborhood is located on the outskirts of Managua and consists of two dead end streets, made up of mostly poor - working class families (mostly unemployed). It is in this neighborhood where we try to share the Gospel, not by running any great projects in the area, buy by simply trying practice the spirituality of brother Charles de Foucauld, which consists of being with the poor, sharing their daily lives, labors and worries. Above all, by seeking to be a real presence (the presence of Jesus) and a friend and by staying there.
We have just completed one year in our new Nazareth. We have been tested, questioned and now accepted by most of the families in the area. They are happy to have us with them. But is not easy, we see things that are not very good, difficulties that we can do nothing about. In our Nazareth there are undernourished kids, abused kids, there are scores neighborhood "drunks" who hang out on the street corners (they are "members of the community", who always greet me warmly and offer to share a drink). Actually, they prevent other gangs from coming in the neighborhood.
We see the elderly with no possibility of decent health care and youth with little perspective of a future different that the poverty in which they live. We see the frustrated unemployed men and women, desperate for any sort of job (At least once a week people come to me asking for work or a contact of any sort). Often the turn in their frustrations to the bottle for some relief and the kids end up paying the price.
As each month goes by, we also see and feel the weight the basic food basket rising, along with energy, gas, transportation and water services (in the places where they exist). How the vast majority of the poor of this country survive is nothing short of a miracle, yet is caused by "the Sin of the world". There is nothing good about romanticizing poverty, poverty is a sin! It is a disgrace to the dignity of Gods people and an offense against God.
For me, I am learning, often from my wife, how to do the little things with more love and attention. How to share a meal with the kids who show up at dinner time, right at the time when I get home from a long day of frustrating waiting and working very hard to make the smallest bit of "progress". My wife, and the poor, teach me how to open the door of my house and the door of my heart to those around us; how to share a word of encouragement to the kids and how to smile and look with hope at the teenagers who approach us.
In order to survive, in a survival reality like the one of Nicaragua, I am learning to stay focused on my small part in making this world a better and more human place to live.
Once again, I want to thank you for being a part of that "small part". I would not be here without your help.
Love, Pat, Damarys and Chris!
August 05, 2008
Tears and the price of rice and beans
Two nights later, Damarys and I went to do our bi-weekly grocery shopping in one of the poorer neighborhoods on the North side of
The little boy (around 9 or 10 yrs.) looked us in the eye, and in tears began to tell us of how he had been robbed by some older street kid of all the money he earned from selling his little bags of fruit on the street that day. He told us, in a sobbing voice, that if he went home without the money his Mom and Dad were going to beat him badly, please help.
Damarys went over and sat down next to the boy and put her arm around him. I remained standing, analyzing the situation. Over my years of work on the streets, I have learned how to respond to these situations and the first thing I try to do is see what’s the real story. Some times they are invented schemes, which is part of a street kids survival repertoire. But this one felt different.
So, after Damarys comforted him a bit, I sat down on the other side of his sister, looked him in the eyes and asked him: “So, tell me how many years have you worked on the streets? He looked back at me and said, “About 5 years”. So, I said to him, “hey my little buddy, if you have been working on the streets for that long then you should know by now that you need to get your little butt home before it gets dark! What’s the deal, why are you not at home at this time of night?
He then went on to tell us, that they “were on their way home, but the robbery happened on the way to the grocery store where they were going to buy some rice and beans with the money they earned for their family.”
After assessing the story and looking at the boy, who appeared from his style and dress to be telling us, at least some version of the truth, I said to Damarys, “hey, why don’t we help them by buying them some rice and beans to take home?” She looked at me and agreed. I told them to wait for us.
When we got back to the car they were still , waiting for us. We gave them their “rice and beans”. We offered them a ride home, but they did not want a ride. So we negotiated an agreement that if we gave them the rice and beans they had to go straight home. They agreed, gratefully took the rice and beans walked off in the night, stopping occasionally, and looking back at us… with frightened eyes.
Rice and beans, the food of the poor, which continues to be more costly as the months go by. At least for those who are not making millions of dollars in profits from the “world food crisis”.
4 bullet holes and 12 steps
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I arrived to “the corner house” in the Monsignor barrio to pick up “John” (his anonymous name) for my weekly meeting with the Our Little Brothers and Sister Orphanage Youth Group. He was scheduled to give his testimony – talk to the group. We are in the midst of a debate about “social drinking” vs. the "evil" of alcohol.
John’s house is located on one of the main “drug corners” of this neighborhood. It is located a block and a half away from where I lived for about two years.
When I got out of my car I was immediately greeted by his wife, who was standing on the side walk in front of the house. I asked if “John was around” and she said, “yes, let me call him”. As she walked towards the door she casually pointed to the front wall of their block house and said, “hey take a look at the 4 bullet holes on the wall from last nights gun shots”. Then she walked in the door and called for John.
During my year and a half, living around the corner, I heard gun fire shots in the night,probably, about a dozen times. For those who live there, it just becomes part of the scene. Like most of the inner cities I have known in
When we arrived to the group, I introduced “John” to the teenagers and he began to share his story, which was one of a very long journey to recovery. As he talked, the group sat there mesmerized with his stories. They listened to him with wide open eyes. A good number of the kids had that “I can identify with that story" expression on their faces. Made me remember some of my own stories too.
At one point, John shared how he was expelled from the Seminary for his “social drinking” when they discovered in an chimney exhaust pipe about a years worth of Rum bottles. He confessed how badly that episode devastated his life and his dream. But that it was not enough to STOP his “social drinking” adventures.
He carried on with his finely knitted narrative of how he lost almost everything that was really worth anything in his life due to his “social drinking”. All of us followed the roller coaster story of his near death and disaster stories with amazement. He left us all impressed at the fact that he was still alive.
I think the story which impressed us the most was the time he was caught drinking with a “great looking young chick in a miniskirt”. This woman’s husband arrived on the scene, saw them together, and sat down a few tables away from them. Then the infuriated and jealous husband called out to them, as they were both hugging each other and the same bottle of booze. He then shouted out to John: “Hey you, son of a …… I have something for you!” At which point the enraged man pulled out a hand gun, pointed right toward his face and fired a shot. John said that “I felt the bullet pass right by past my cheek and hit the wall behind me. It was a miracle that it did not hit me right in the face.”
He then went on to tell us, while incredible as it was, that episode was not enough to STOP his “social drinking”. However, it did make him stop for a few months. With the help of his “best friends” he was able to forgot about the episode, as they convinced him that what he really needed to do was to “celebrate his life" with a few drinks. He said, the argument was so logical that he could not but agree; after all he was still alive! "Let's go party!" Then he carried with a series of other incredible stories.
The biggest laugh he caused, was the time he stopped dead face, and said, “No, it is not all that bad. One of the things I got as a result of my drinking is... then he flashed his glimmering smile…and said: “is my smile!”
He then went on to tell us that because of his drinking he had most of his front teeth knocked out in fist fights, and as a result he got these new fake teeth, which he showed with a smile. They were a gift from his Mom, who bought them for him with her sparse life savings.
We all ended listening to his story laughing, as he had found the way to recovery and sanity. To finish he answered our questions and then thanked us for listening to him. He offered to be available to any one in the group who needed or some one to talk to. All they needed to do was call him, and off he went home to be with his wife and kids, who were the pride and meaning of his new life.
Through his entire testimony, he kept us laughing, thinking, reflecting and questioning our own struggles to live a “clean” life.
July 16, 2008
Once again, I want to thank you all for your being a part of this adventure in Mission.
Over the past few days, I have been busy. Organizing, visiting and planning our work here.
The first recipient of the Catholic Spanish Youth Bible in the Orphanage is Brenda. She is 15 and has a serious kidney condition, with about a 9 % functioning rate. I went to visit her the other day with Jose Luis, the Director of Our Little Brothers Orphanage here in Managua. As we prayed with her, he said to her: "Some times our Cross is an invisible one. You, Brenda, are carrying that cross with such faith and strength... you are a witness to us. Thank you!"
I was very moved and a sad, after our visit. Such a young life... God has His plans for her.
Last night we had a good debate on Social drinking versus Alcoholism with the Youth of this organization who also live in Managua. We then reflected on a few passages from Scripture that reveals Gods plan for our future... full of hope and life!
In one word, our God continues to be a God of Life who walks with his people and in a very special way with the poor and little ones of this world.
God Bless you all,
July 08, 2008
Dear Family and Friends,
I would like to thank those who prayed for us during these past few days and those whose support make this Ministry possible.
The experience of the Retreat that I shared with some of the Directors and key personal of the Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage over the past few days was a blessed time.
We prayed, reflected and tried to penetrate and discover in depth the dream of Fr. Wasson. What a truly amazing man and Priest! He started in Mexico in the early 1950´s with 12 abandoned children and soon found himself taking on 600 kids.
Soon afterwards there was another request for to care for another large group of kids, who were orphanged as a result of a natural disaster. His response to one of the adult helpers in the program who informed him that it was ¨impossible to feed any more kids¨, was that first before deciding we ¨must consult¨with the kids and see what they think!
The childrens repley was ¨we will share ¨the little that we have with them, let them come¨!
The amazing discovery was, as we studied the Sermon on the mountain and listened to stories of the directors and participants in the Retreat (many of whom were raised by Father Wasson) was that it was the poor who taught the Master, as much as the Teacher who gave lessons to the children. Blessed indeed are the humble and simple of this earth.
Since the beginning of this groups existence, Fr. Wasson said to his kids, time and time again: ¨I am your Father. You are my son. We are a family¨. And that is how they got their names as little brothers and sisters.
This is a family of the little ones of this earth, of the poor, the children of the poor. The kids in this place have not only been given the hope of a new future, but also the hope of a new family where the practice of Jesus message of the Sermon on the Mountain is the heart of the Mission.
My work is to try to teach this in Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos. Thank you for being a part of it.
And for us, how can we make these words, the core meaning of life as disciples of Jesus, take on a new meaning in our life?
" Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."
July 03, 2008
Right now I am preparing for a Retreat with the organization who cares for over 350 kids and teenagers. Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (Our Little Brothers and Sisters).
The orphanage here and the organizatioin was founded by a Priest named Fr. Bill Wasson over 50 years ago. They are an impressive group and most of the directors come for the Orphange and are in charge of carrying on the Mission of Fr. Wasson. They have orphanages in many different countries of Latin America.
They have asked me to assist them in the area of Faith Formation and Scripture and this has brought me great joy, and allot of work. It is a small world and an amazing connection for me, because it touches at the heart of what my vocational journey led me into since my first days in Sao Paulo Brazil: the world of abandoned children, working kids, street kids and orphans. I have always felt that these kids were as if they were my own. My family is growing! Christopher and Damarys have visited this Organization with me several times. It is now part of our family mission to visit them once a month. During the week I am visiting and organizing Scripture Study in few of their half-way houses here in Managua.
It is an honor for me to be part of this group and to share with them some of my experience and reflections after my 15 years of working in the area of children at risk in four different countries. I feel blessed to be assisting them on an upcoming Retreat this week. We are going to reflect on the life and mission of Fr. Wasson and take some time to stop, reflect and pray with the Sermon on the Mountain. Please keep us in your prayers this coming weekend.
To conclude, in a few words, in spite of the tremendous poverty here in Nicaragua and the very difficult economic situation there exists in this world good human beings, followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who desire to strive, work and to give their lives to share the Good News and make this world a little more human place to live and where it is easier to love one another.
You, my friends and family, who are a part of this Partners in Mission Nicaragua effort should feel good, because you too have become a part of the work of building up the Kingdom of Go and serving the poor.
May God Bless you this day,
Peace and all the best,
Pat Duffy, Jr.