Lorenzo began writing this newsletter on April 18th 2007 and Finished on July 9th 2007 – if you would like to send him an email his address is firstname.lastname@example.org — Mary Lou Pedersen
I sit at my desk in my small room here in Guatemala City on Thursday, the day of the week I stay home and try to re-group heart and soul. My body most frequently seems to be less frazzled and deteriorated than my poor mind. But that’s okay. I have much to be thankful for.
Writing out my memoirs which were recently published has been most rewarding in the long run. It has brought me into contact with so many friends of the past and present. Email has bought me responses of a positive nature to my memoirs I hadn’t dreamt possible from distinguished friends as Dan Berrigan, Bishop Matthiassen of Amarillo . Texas and so many others.
Some commented on the fact that I wrote my heartfelt feelings for my mom, dad and brother Phil. Others would not believe the extent of my travels by bike and on foot across Latin America . And the last chapter where I revealed a bit concerning my sexuality; a few felt that chapter could have been left out and others remarked how grateful they were that I delved into that part of my journey through life.
It was fellow Oblates especially who expressed their thanks that I talked frankly about aspects of my sexuality, since they felt this was an under-the-table subject kept to ourselves too long and so perhaps why so many of us religious have struggled alone and confused for most of our lives because we hadn’t had anyone to share our feelings concerning our sexuality.
And so, where am I today, body and soul? As this year rolled around, I realized that it would be 44 years since I was ordained a priest with five other Oblate classmates in Pass Christian, Mississippi, not to mention that in May the 72nd anniversary of my birth allowed me to celebrate with great joy the blessings and grace-filled adventures of my entire life.
Virginia Tech explodes into the news media these last few days. We sit stunned that such a tragedy could occur. Every critical analyses is presented to us about the person of Cho Seung Hui—23 years old—of South Korea , a student of Virginia Tech University .
I wish such a critical, in depth analysis of our ‘enlightened leaders’ who lead our nation into Iraq and put that people and nation into the horrendous blood- letting war that presently has no end in sight, would also be made.
If Cho Seung Hui had been found to have psychological problems and now responsible for the deaths of 33 persons, what must be the past and present mental state of those of our present administration who lead us into this blood shed tragedy beyond perhaps all historical tragedies.
But pointing the finger helps little to allow any peace and love to flow from my heart to the world.
What I have always thought most striking about the Catholic Worker philosophy is that one cannot be possessed alone with the fatal make up of our society and saying “no” to the varied existing injustices thru civil disobedience, if we do not have at the same time our other foot planted firmly among those suffering physical and mental abuse.
I have learned so much in my weekly visits to the AIDS hospice “Casa San Jose”, where a sense of community and commitment exists among the doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and all others serving there. What we learn and receive from those suffering from AIDS far outweighs the little effort it takes on my part in arriving there during the week to be present and open to sharing in whatever way my newly acquired friends feel in need of.
The desire to just be there in itself is enough to illicit a response of gratitude and sharing beyond anything I might have dreamed of.
Gerson, 17 years old, with cancer was sent to Casa San Jose from the Cancer hospital here in the Capital. The hospice, specifically for those with AIDS has gained the reputation also of taking in patients with cancer, tuberculosis, and other illnesses who need a place to recuperate and to receive daily care without cost or remuneration of any kind.
Gerson, with his mom, Lidia, were at Casa nearly a month with the care there given so generously and lovingly that Gerson appeared to be one of the daily visitors or volunteers rather than a cancer patient in a severely grave condition.
Gerson continues to receive chemo from the cancer hospital in the capital and then is admitted to Casa San Jose where the very atmosphere alone enforces his hopes of recovery.
It’s apparent to me that Gerson comes from a most loving and caring family. His mom has been staying with him at Casa San Jose the entire month, cleaning the infectious wound on his upper hip, encouraging him to eat and to drink tons of water. Gerson and his mom read the daily scriptures together, pray the rosary and when I come Gerson receives communion and the sacrament of the sick. Gerson also has shown me some of his sketches which he loves to work on when he feels strong enough to do so. The three of us try to keep our conversation on the lighter side, knowing quite well that there is no certainty of his being cured.
And then there is Claudia, 32, who I also met about 2 ½ months ago at Casa San Jose. I am not sure how Claudia got to Casa. I imagine she was admitted out of her dire financial needs. Claudia has tuberculosis. She stayed for two or three weeks at Casa to build up her system and then was transferred to San Vicente, the TB hospital here in the capital. I decided to continue to visit her in San Vicente and found her condition not much improved. A constant cough day and night has kept her from wanting to eat much, thus keeping her weight less than 90 pounds with little energy to walk or get around as she would hope to.
Claudia, because of her illness was forced to admit her two young children—6 and 3 years old—into an orphanage, a husband who abused her and the children early on in their marriage, has all weighed too on her fragile condition.
In the midst of all this, Claudia’s personality captivates. She is sharp, witty and catches me off guard with her sense of humor…meaning we joke and laugh a lot while having seriously shared our lives and where our faith has kept us both going from day to day.
I may have mentioned in the last newsletter some time ago, the family of Luis Fernando with his wife Aura. Luis and Aura both receive monthly treatments at Casa San Jose. When I first met the family, Casa San Jose was in its former location, before recently moving to its’ beautiful new location with ample space, scenic view and all the latest in technical equipment to serve the patients of the AIDS epidemic. Luis and Aura were accompanied by their two young daughters, Alma 6 and Wendy 3 years old. Of the two young girls, Wendy was unfortunately born HIV positive but showed no outward signs of having the virus, playing normally with Alma her sister and the other children of Casa San Jose.
I didn’t see the family for over two months and when they finally arrived at the newly constructed hospice, Wendy was not with them. Their sad story was shared filled with tears and sorrow/
Wendy appeared one day with a high fever. Their home being four hours by bus to the capital, they decided to see how her health progressed. Wendy became worse until they finally boarded a bus to bring Wendy to the San Juan de Dios hospital here in the capital. There in the hospital just two days, Wendy went into a coma never to recover.
The shock was overwhelming to the entire family. On further visits to Casa San Jose they were advised not to have more children due to the risk of having another child born with HIV positive.
And as the story goes; some months later on seeing Luis and Aura on their visit to Casa San Jose for their scheduled check-up Aura affirmed that she was again with child.
It was only yesterday, June 6th that Aura and Luis arrived at the hospice almost the same time as I. Aura appeared very pregnant. They explained that Aura was scheduled to be in the hospital San Juan de Dios in this coming Friday for a caesarian operation, to be followed by an operation of tying Aura’s tubes to prevent another pregnancy.
Luis health has been fairly stabilized for some time allowing him to work planting his corn, beans and some rice, though the family has had scarcely enough to get by on. So they pray and wait and hope that their new baby will be born free of the AIDS virus.
Now, almost two weeks ago Aura and Luis arrived at San Juan de Dios Hospital and the day following Aura gave birth to a baby boy. It was on a Sunday morning, the day after the baby was born that Luis and I were admitted in t see and visit with Aura and a bit later taken to another area where the newborns, whose mothers were unable to breast feed, were being cared for.
Luis and Aura were overjoyed with the arrival of their new baby boy while the future health and well being of their baby and their entire family need be left in God’s hands in faith and hope and much prayer.
The depiction of these realities that take up a good part of my life help me to keep alive the larger realities that face us here on Planet Earth.
I sit outside under the tin roof of our small patio looking at our newly planted rose bushes, one with pink roses, and the other with orange roses, and another with white and still another with red roses. This beauty sparks a certain coming to life here in the midst of what often appears dismal, dark and gloomy.
The suicides of the perpetrators be it in the University of W. Virginia, Columbine, the Amish Community, in Iraq and surfacing in places the world over speaks of an insanity that leaves us numb.
It seems that if the world refuses to accept all persons, regardless of race, color, religion or creed as sisters and brothers united on the same train seeking in the end a common destination of peace and unity, our fate is certain to be the destruction of all that is possible, loving and infinitely Good!
P.S. Yesterday I received the news that Gerson Rolando Camey Ramirez 17, died on July 9th 2007 in Solola, Guatemala–this news hit me hard, to say the least.