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


Celebrating 50 years of mission
Support for Spokane Diocese’s Guatemala mission takes many forms – from computers to cows, and everything in between

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the March 19, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Pascuala Elena Tambriz is pictured with five of her six children. Pascuala’s husband was killed in a landslide. She has received help from the McCabe family in Clarkston, Wash., to take training classes in embroidery, poultry and fir tree production. If arrangements can be worked out, Pascuala will receive a cow in the next few months. (IR photo courtesy of the Spokane Diocese Guatemala Commission)

Xepiacul is one of the more impoverished villages in the Spokane Mission area of Northern Guatemala. Pablo and Pascuala Balux, along with their six children, were one of the most needy families in the mountainside village. Pablo had less than one half-acre to raise their food, and their two-room dwelling lacked an adequate stove. They had no electricity and everyone slept on the dirt floor.

Then, a few years ago, things took a turn for the worse. Pablo had taken his children to a hillside to dig white sand so he could sell it to help support the family. A landslide occurred, and Pablo was killed. This left an illiterate Pascuala with few means with which to care for their six children.

Before reviewing just how Pascuala has been helped, consider some of the unique ways that support has been channeled to the poor in Guatemala since the Spokane mission was begun 50 years ago.

Some of the initial help was in the form of equipment, beginning with the seagoing transport of a bulldozer in the early days of the mission. In 1991, Deacon Chuck Fosmire, with a group of 20 others from the diocese, drove a school bus and an ambulance from Spokane, through Mexico, to the mission area in Guatemala.

Five years later, Jerry and Rita Reisenauer, farmers in Uniontown, donated a 4,000 bushel grain silo they no longer needed. It was dismantled, and shipped to Guatemala to be used for corn storage.

When Mike Doohan, of K&L Manufacturing no longer needed 1 8 industrial sewing machines in Post Falls, he offered them to the Guatemala mission. Spokane Diocese parishioners chipped in to crate them, and the U.S. Air Force cooperated to fly them to Guatemala for use in the mission.

Many donations from Spokane have been in the form of medical supplies and equipment. The first cataract surgery team from Spokane (1994) took 24 large bags of equipment and supplies needed to perform the sight-saving surgeries in the village of Novillero. Nearly every year since then, nurse Maureen O’Keefe of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane, has helped select and acquire medicine which has been taken to the four mission area clinics by visitors from the Spokane Diocese.

Other donations include computers, clothing, musical instruments and school supplies. Some items, such as children’s coats and shoes, are purchased in Spokane. Visitors to Guatemala transport the items by tucking them away in their extra baggage space. Other goods, such as a keyboard and drum set donated by Spokane’s Our Lady of Fatima Parish to Santa Catarina Parish in Ixtahuacán, are acquired locally.

Not all the donations are inanimate. In 1998, Mary Ann Sinclair and her daughter Rebecca accompanied 60-some rabbits from Spokane to Guatemala to begin a food and fir project. Approximately 60,000 live fish eggs from the Little Spokane hatchery are delivered each year to trout projects in Ixtahuacán.

Returning to Pascuala’s story:

When Bernard and Carolyn McCabe got word of an opportunity to help her via a Spokane mission program, they did not hesitate to do so. The Clarkston, Wash., couple had already assisted six other Guatemalan families through the Family-to-Family (FTF) program. Pascuala was in dire need of better housing, a stove, bed, laundry tub, and other essentials. More importantly, she was anxious to learn some weaving and agricultural skills to support her children.

During the past three years, the single mother has taken full advantage of the $30 per month support she has received. In addition to the much-needed corn, furniture, and housing supplies, Pascuala (along with one of her daughters) has completed an embroidery course. More recently, she has finished the training for raising chickens, and has begun growing fir trees for sale at Christmas time.

Upon receipt of their latest progress report, the McCabes sent additional funds so Pascuala “could have a cow to share the milk with her family and neighbors.” They added, “Here is some extra, so Pascuala can have a little celebration with her neighbors in thanksgiving to God for the gift of the cow.” (She doesn’t have the cow yet, but it will be acquired locally.)

The Spokane Diocese support for the Mayan Indians in the Diocese of Sololá has taken many forms. Over the 50 years of Sister Diocese relationship, the support has adapted to the changing needs of the people. A relationship that was once one of dependency is changing to one of personal and cooperative involvement.

(Editor’s note: Pilgrim Pathways is conducting a 50th anniversary tour of the Spokane Mission during Nov. 6-15, 2009. Persons interested in learning more about it may call Sylvia Howes at (509) 466-7775.)

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


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