Friday, May 3, 2013

Que vayan con Dios

Cari Serafin and Marilyn Randolph, after over thirty years of coordinating the programs of the Mission of Friendship with enthusiasm, wisdom, and love, officially retired and departed Merida on March 27. 

The mission team with Marilyn and Cari

 The months leading up to this date were filled with many, many heartfelt goodbyes from those whose lives have been touched by Marilyn and Cari:  friends, members of the mission team, former Nueva Vida girls and Amiguitos children who now have their own children, people from the villages once served by the mission programs, former volunteers, priests from Sister Parishes, Benedictine oblates... 

Lunch with Finita at doña Humberta's house in Xcucul
Marilyn and Cari with the Benedictine Oblates

Lucero, one of the original "Amiguitos", and her family saying goodbye to Cari and Marilyn

Marilyn with Pat and Richard Marshall, Silvia Gonzalez Garcia and Carmen Morales
 celebrating on the patio of the Casa Blanca

Tricia Pipkin with Marilyn
Silvia presenting Cari with a plaque of recognition for the years of service to the mission.

Marilyn and Cari with their plaques

On April 20, one last retirement party, organized by Pat Marshall, director of the Mission of Friendship was held at St. Mark’s Center in Erie, so that Cari and Marilyn’s friends on the Pennsylvania side of the mission would also have the opportunity to honor the long-time leaders.

All wanted to express their gratitude and affection toward to these two women who have given their lives to make the lives of others less difficult.  

Marilyn and Cari, thank you for your vision, dedication, faith and friendship which have given life to the Mission of Friendship and the people it serves both in the diocese of Erie and in the archdiocese of Yucatan for over three decades.  May you enter your retirement knowing that you have blessed innumerable lives through your work.  Listen for God's whisper, "Well done, good and faithful friends."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rest in peace, Padre Juanito

Fr. John carrying the cross in the Good Friday
 service in San José Tecoh parish.

The Reverend John Robert Burke, age 85, died early Tuesday morning, February 5, 2013 at his residence at The Highlands at Brighton, Rochester, New York.  He was ordained a priest on May 27, 1954 at Saint Peter Cathedral, Erie, by the Most Reverend Edward P. McManaman.  He had many assignments in parishes in the Erie Diocese as well as teaching assignments in various local colleges. He served the poor as part of the Mission of Friendship  in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico in the 1980’s and 90’s. His primary concern was to provide comfort and consolation to the sick in the hospitals of Mérida where he regularly visited.  In this ministry, he worked in conjunction with the Sisters of Charity in their hospice for the sick next to the hospital.  He also assisted several pastors in parishes in the poorest neighborhoods of Mérida.  His kindness, simplicity and solidarity with the poor will be remembered by many in the Erie Diocese as well as  in Yucatan.

Rest in peace, Padre Juanito.

Fr. John celebrating Palm Sunday liturgy in Mexico.

Father John with Mission of Friendship staff and guests in1994.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wrapping Up 2012

Mayan God of Time, "Cargador del Tiempo"

For all our good intentions to share Mission news as it happens, it seems that time always runs away from us.  The ancient Maya depicted the God of Time as a person bent over under the burden of time. Undoubtedly, we often find ourselves in similar posture. But the recent celebration on December 21, 2012 in  the Maya Long Count calendar as the end of another period of 5,125 years (called a baktun) and the beginning of a new one, gives occasion to reflect on the enormously profound gift that time is. The end of the year review has become a popular exercise in remembering,  giving thanks and planning and dreaming for the future.

In previous blogs from this year,  highlights of Mission history for 2012 have been noted. What we would like to do today is add a few more to wrap up the year.

Our last post was to congratulate Bishop Persico as he took office as tenth Bishop of Erie on Oct. 1.

Five days later, on Oct. 6th, the Erie Mission Office ran its second Road Rally, similar to TV”s Amazing Race, a fund raiser for the Misión de Amistad. It was actually back by popular demand. The first Road Rally generated such fun and enthusiasm, that everyone was looking forward to the next one.The theme for the 2012 rally was The Hunt for History and clues reflected Erie’s historical spots.  Participation was very good and the proceeds did exceed last year’s. Thanks to all who organized it and participated in it among them KimLytle and Sharon Davenport pictured above.

First place winners of the "Hunt for History", 2012 Road Rally,
from left to right, Lisa Rice, Emmie Keller,
Fran Skellie, Fran Rectenwald

New volunteer arrives

On Sept 30, Ron van Dyken joined the Mission staff for a six month volunteer position. Ever since he arrived, he has been busy scraping, sanding, painting, fixing, cleaning and doing a variety of other chores around the Mission house and the Nueva Vida girls' shelter. He has organized a number of work days with the help of the Merida Men's Club and has been an all around handy man. Thanks to them all, the Mission properties are looking bright and new.

On Sept 30, Ron van Dyken joined the Mission staff for a six month volunteer position. Ever since he arrived, he has been busy scraping, sanding, painting, fixing, cleaning and doing a variety of other chores around the Mission house and the Nueva Vida girls' shelter. He has organized a number of work days with the help of the Merida Men's Club and has been an all around handy man. Thanks to them all, especially Ron, the Mission properties are looking bright and new.

Hanal Pixan and Halloween at Nueva Vida

Mildred, one of the NV teachers, 
 making Alfa look like a phantom.

As the end of October appears on the calendar , the girls at the Nueva Vida look forward to the fun and games of the Halloween celebration. Bobbing for apples, getting into costume to parade around the block, eating hot dog "mummies" and Halloween cake are all part of the fun. 

The local celebration of Hanal Pixan, Mayan words which mean food for the souls, is not to be forgotten as altars for the Day of Dead are prepared in homes and schools and businesses. With the guidance of the staff, the girls at the shelter also prepared an altar of the dead to remember  family members and friends who  passed away. 

 Missionaries for ten days.

From left to right, Fran, Mike, Chris,
Sr. Claire, Cindy, Dean and Becky.
On October 30, 2012, just in time for the Day of the Dead activities, a group from Franklin, PA arrived for a period of service at the Mission. Under the leadership of Sr. Claire Hudert, OSB, Amigos sponsors, Mike and Chris Collers, Cindy and Dean Collins came to  spend some time with their sponsored families.  Becky Witherup came to get acquainted with Alfa, the girl at Nueva Vida whom she sponsors.   She also met her family.   Sr. Cindy Hoover, a long time sponsor, visited her Yucatecan friends and Frances Braughm represented the St. Julia, Erie, PA  sister parish. While they were here, they painted at the girls' shelter and at the homes of their sponsored families, brought tons of clothing that was distributed at the Day Care Center and among various families, played picture bingo at a nursing home, held a clothing drive in Dzibikak, one of the villages close to Merida, put on a birthday party for the sponsored families. Never was there a better time to say: "A good time was had by all."

Becky with her sponsored child, Alfa.

Sr. Cindy with the Gonzalez Garcia family.

Mike with the children from the Day Care Center

Birthday party for the Amigos families.

Fran, giving Fr. Juan Ismael Domenzain, pastor of Sta. Ines, Dzitas, Yucatan
 the banner sent by the parish of St. Julia, Erie PA

To all our families, friends and benefactors, a blessed 2013. We look forward to sharing stories of friendship and love in the 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The Misión de Amistad family in Mérida, Yucatán, México rejoiced with the entire Diocese of Erie upon the appointment of Msgr. Lawrence T. Persico as tenth Bishop of Erie. Msgr.  Persico was ordained and installed as Bishop on October 1, 2012 at St. Peter's Cathedral in Erie, PA.  We ask God's blessings on him as he shepherds all  of us with faith being the guiding principle. In his own words when he was announced Bishop-elect, "I come with only one agenda, and that is to share with you my faith in Jesus Christ."

We hope that, in the near future, Bishop Persico's  schedule will allow him to visit Misión de Amistad and enjoy Yucatecan hospitality while getting to know the Mission programs that the Erie Diocese has supported for the last 41 years.

¡Bienvenido, Obispo Persico!

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Beginnings at the New Life Shelter (Hogar Nueva Vida)

The new school year started on August  27, 2012 in Mérida, Yucatán where the Erie Diocese of Pennsylvania has nurtured a mission outreach  program for the last 41 years called Misión de Amistad.  The Mission’s shelter for girls, Hogar Nueva Vida, will not only begin a new school year but also welcomes a new director, Patricia Pipkin. Tricia comes from Colorado, where she taught elementary school children in ESL, dual-language and all-English programs, and also is a former volunteer of the Mission of Friendship.  She will replace Marilyn Randolph who started the shelter 16 years ago.

From left to right, back row:  Dolores,  Rosario, Cristi and Fatima. Front row:  Abi and Tricia.
  Missing:  Mary, Mildred, Finita.

Tricia is excited about joining the former team members as, together,  they look to the future and explore new possibilities for growth and learning at the Nueva Vida!

Classes have started in earnest from day one. Homework time is a very important part of the girls’ schedule.  The girls and their tutors faithfully focus on homework and other academic support two hours per day.  There are also  enrichment classes which include:  values, art and music, computer, “magic Wednesdays” (crafts), and sports and games. 

Community building has been the main focus for the girls and staff for the first couple of weeks.   A  community mosaic with each member of the shelter was created. This and other activities have helped the girls  appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and also the need to work together as a group.

The Nueva Vida girls enjoying a  “mango” break
 between chores and homework time.