The 2018 Navajo Mission is now one for the books. Everyone got home safely. The tool van with Dianna and Cindy rolled in Saturday evening. Only things left to do are tool pick on Monday, re-entry on Thursday, and of course paperwork.
By this reading people have (should have) washed the much-accumulated sand out of their clothes (and noses) and dusted off their suitcases and backpacks. But there are somethings, memories and reflections and people met, that you cannot wash out.
We owe great thanks to the people of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Chinle, AZ, especially Fr. P Jey (
Florecito Pabatao Jr. O.F.M), Sr. Theresa Chato S.B.S, and Mariline in the office. Sr. Theresa and Maryline are Navajo. Fr. P Jey, who is from the Philippines, informed us that, because of the remoteness, Franciscans are having problems getting Franciscans to accept assignments in Chinle. The nearest Franciscan Friary is in St. Michaels, AZ is an hour drive away. Fr. P Jey is also responsible for two additional mission churches in Pinon & Many Farms.
During our stay we met old friends – to name just a few Ruthie, Bobby, Seymore (turned 50), Maryann, Judy, Agathe, Edward, and Tillie and made new ones Isabelle and Cecilia. The parishioners responded to our return by treating us to dinner on the last Wednesday. The only thing missing was Blue Corn Mush. The day before Rydell Curley, his mom, and friends invited us over for brats and burgers.
Besides the usual minor cuts and scrapes, only two people needed a day of rest due to the heat (or strawberry ice cream). The most serious incident was during the drive to Chinle when the group experienced a three-semi accident with our lead vehicle being pelted with debris and cantaloupes. None of us were injured, but one driver died. Please keep the drivers and first responders in your prayers. It makes you appreciate how milliseconds matter in an accident.
Just a few stats: This was the 17
Navajo Mission with Dianna and Larry marking their 16
mission, Jim and Cindy marking their 10
mission, and Tami her first mission. All together the team has made 111 Navajo missions. Some members were on other Diocesan missions. While on mission Larry & Janet celebrated their 51
wedding anniversary and Ron celebrating his 84
birthday (by painting).
Before we get there, Sr. Theresa always provides us with a list of parish and community requests. Some get done, others did not due to people not home, lack of time, lack of materials, lack of miracles. The projects ranged from helping at the Thursday Food Pantry, hanging bulletin boards in the Food Pantry, reinstalling security lights, disassembling a Hogan (Navajo version of Barnwood Builders), replacing sinks at the Desert House of Prayer, and the ever-popular the revitalization of the parish’s eight swamp coolers. The parish staff had to endure the heat until we got the swamp coolers functional. We purchased our usual share of needed nuts and bolts (the local ACE is happy when we visit) and even a hydraulic gear puller needed for one of the hall’s large swamp coolers.
There was one roll roofing project. Ten years ago, I had to convince Jim on his first mission that Navajo roofs were NOT Illinois roofs. They have wind, we have rain - place tar under the overlap and nail every inch. Now he and Frank passed that knowledge down to Tami (she got on the roof).
We bring a variety of tools, because we never know what we are going to encounter. We bring roofing shovels, but they were used to remove the cement coating from the walls of a Hogan. This year the hammer drill with carbide bits was used to drill into concrete. In the past, it was used as a jackhammer to soften the hard pack sandy soil.
As you can tell, the Navajo Mission needs creative members, who can think outside the box, yet take time out to listen to those they meet and work with. The people tell us their stories and family experiences and speak of the Navajo culture and outlook on life.
The mission has many dedicated members, but what the mission needs are younger bodies, even younger than 50, maybe even 60, to carry on the outreach. The information nights for the 2019 Navajo mission will be in January and the mission is two weeks in early June.