Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Walla Walla parishes join in providing educational and pastoral support for Guatemala Mission

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the May 22, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Youngsters join the teacher in clapping and singing at Our Lady of the Highway Preschool near Novillero, Guatemala. Sister Marie Tolle of the Sisters of Charity of New York, who manages pastoral and educational activities there on behalf of the Diocese of Spokane, helps guide the activities of the school. Three Walla Walla parishes have joined forces to help support the school over the coming year. (IR photo from the Guatemala Commission)

The youngsters at Our Lady of the Highway Preschool will soon have another reason to clap their hands and dance. Beginning with the fiscal year starting July 1, 2008, the Guatemalan “stimulation” school will be getting some much-appreciated school supplies (and maybe even a breakfast morsel) thanks in part to three long-time contributing parishes in Walla Walla.

St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parishes have supported the Guatemala Mission for many of the 48 years since the Sister Diocese Program was founded. St. Patrick began assisting the medical clinic in Novillero in 1969, and Assumption and St. Francis have added their vital support for the Sisters of Charity who manage some of the medical and educational activities of the mission.

Awareness of the needs of the poor begins at an early age in the Walla Walla community. Parishioners like Beth Call, a teacher at Assumption Elementary School, make sure that happens. Each year, her students donate their own spending money to Guatemala, to help their peers in the less well-off Catholic (Colegio) in Nahualá. According to Call, the sacrificial giving benefits both those Walla Walla students who give as well as and those Guatemalan students who receive.

Over the past few months, representatives of the three Walla Walla parishes have joined together in a way that will enable them to broaden their support. Working through the Spokane Diocese, the parishes will provide Sister Marie Tolle with $150 per month for her preschool training activities. In addition, the parishes hope to assist with Sister Marie’s ongoing pastoral programs.

The Guatemalan Highlands are home to some of the poorest families in Central America. Many Mayan Indian parents cannot read, and have had no opportunity for an education. Their children do not attend school. Instead, the children help out by working in the fields or assisting with other activities such as collecting firewood.

Early-age stimulation programs give preschoolers a classroom, teacher, and supplies in a positive educational setting. This enhances the value of literacy and fosters an incentive to continue one’s education.

The immediate impact of the help from the Walla Walla parishes may be in the form of classroom materials, or even food snacks. However, the longer-range impact is sure to be more profound as the preschoolers go on to use their learning to improve the standard of living in their communities.

(Jerry Monks is a member of the diocese’s Guatemala Commission.)

Pictured is the Diocesan Guatemala Commission at a recent meeting. Members are, top row, left to right: Jerry Monks, Maureen O’Keefe, Clara Monks, Harry Bright, and Jack Driscoll. Bottom row: Donna Connell, Father John Birk, and Deacon Gary Franz. Members not pictured are Mike Lemberger, Marge and Mike Brewer, Judey Dacquisto, Father Bob Turner, Tony Longs-worth, and Ron Connell. Thank you to Gary Franz for his past years of leadership for this committee. For more information about the Guatemala Commission, call chairperson Donna Connell at 509 924 1346 or email rdconnell@ (IR photo from the Guatemala Commission)

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