Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 12, 2003
Parish decides to build ecumenical centre in Belize
By BYRON PRICE
Special to the WCR
The sign as you enter the foyer of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calgary reads: "St. Michael's Life Teen is challenging you to pray 2003 hours."
The note refers to a mission to Belize to build an ecumenical education centre. Thirteen teens and nine adults of St. Michael's Parish are undertaking this mission after Father Len Hagel, St. Michael's parish priest, was asked by Samaritan's Purse, a Baptist organization, to travel with them to Belize to assess mission work and the possibility of helping the poor in that country.
"I was the first Catholic priest to travel with them," said Hagel. "I met a couple there who were doing mission work. We just hit it off. Our task is to build an ecumenical education centre. This has the full blessing of Bishop Henry and will be named after our parish."
Belize is situated on the Caribbean coast of Central America bounded on the north and part of the west by Mexico, and on the south and the remainder of the west by Guatemala.
St. Michael's youth minister Donna Makeiff explains, "This project is a good fit for St. Michael's as the official language of Belize is English and 62 per cent of the churches are Catholic. We will be the first all-Catholic group to go down there, according to the priest in the village."
Arnie Bushulak, a parent of two of the teens going to Belize and an adult volunteer, said 16 teens and nine adults took part in the mission experience for two weeks in April. A second trip will take place in July.
The adults bring a variety of skills from the areas of teaching, electricity, plumbing, carpentry, dental hygiene and general construction.
The logistics are quite an undertaking. Bushulak describes: "We will all be carrying two bags, one for our personal belongings, and the other for materials that we will require in building the centre. Members of the parish bring these materials each Sunday to help with the mission.
"We started preparing for leadership among the teens two years ago. At that time, we started watching for leadership skills and serving hearts within our teen groups. A number of them were involved in programs with the poor.
"We have been preparing a spiritual process for the teens and adults so they will be ready as a faith community to love and take care of each other in the Third World. The youth are presently being trained to teach reading to Belize children from Grades 1 to 6. This is very important because if the children's English is not adequate up to Grade 6, they cannot go on with their education.
"The teens will also be teaching Bible stories, arts and crafts and how to brush your teeth. This process will not be just for the very few as the whole village is invited in prayer and fellowship."
The commitment of the teens is evident. Said Dawn Bushulak, a Grade 12 high school student, "It has always been my ambition to do this type of work. I think my spiritual life will grow and I will become more aware of all that I should be thankful for in Calgary. All my friends think it is great.
"This mission could not take place if the whole parish were not behind it. The faith dimension in St. Michael's is strongly focused on a relationship with Jesus Christ and learning to see Jesus in everyone.
"The parish has truly given of its time, talent and treasure. Every Sunday we have an old tin bucket up by the altar and little kids run up and put a coin in the bucket. You even see moms with a baby in their arms helping the baby drop the coin. That old bucket has raised over $18,000.
"The teens work at a cappuccino bar after Sunday Masses to pay for the airfare. And the generosity goes on. An anonymous family has donated $40,000 for building the education centre in Belize."
Bushulak points to the aforementioned foyer sign, saying, "Under the sign is a poster of a map of Belize. Tiny squares cover the map. Parishioners put their initials in each square and indicate how many hours they will devote to prayer for the mission in Belize.
"We are taking that poster to Belize to show the people of Belize all the people back in Calgary who are praying for them and the success of the project."