Anthony Dina Reflects on Mission Trip to St. Lucia –
Four weeks ago, on a cool Friday morning, as you were all in bed getting some much needed beauty sleep, a rag-tag group of missionaries gathered in a Naples WalMart parking lot, not quite sure what to expect — but ready and willing to do the Lord’s work serving the poor. There was myself; my brother Jonathan; our new Director of Youth Ministry, Bill Maguire; our beloved Pastor, Fr. John; our fiery mission coordinator, Elma; and a group of youth missionaries from other parishes.
Our mission began in a rundown airport in St. Lucia with feelings of excitement and an overwhelming sense of nervousness. From there, we enjoyed a beautiful drive through the mountains to the seminary where we stayed. During the time we spent on mission, we engaged in the corporal works of mercy: painting, visiting the elderly, playing with children, and bringing the Blessed Sacrament to the homebound. But it wasn’t all work; we enjoyed a couple days on the beautiful St. Lucian beaches. Through all this, I believe it was what we received from these people, and not what we gave, that made the mission trip a great success.
Take a second and imagine the most intense poverty you can; now multiply this by ten and you will have the level of poverty that we experienced. The children we met talked about murders, stabbings and rapes they saw in their own neighborhoods. Women talked about the destruction of families caused by drug addictions. The level of poverty and fear that these wonderful people live in shocked me beyond belief, but what truly baffled me is how they kept such an intense faith in God through all these hardships. It is very easy to love God when everything is going our way, but it is much harder to keep such faith through hardships. The St. Lucian people taught me that through everything that comes our way, God will always be there for us. It brings to mind Matthew 6: 25-34: The people we encountered truly live according to this scripture, leaving everything in the hands of God.
Perhaps the best experience I had was during a home visit with an elderly lady. Father John, two sisters, a couple missionaries and I were bringing her communion. The Sisters brought her communion regularly, but when she opened the door she had a knowing look on her face. When we asked her about this, she began to tell us how she had seen us coming to her in a dream and that she was expecting us. This vision and the joy she had because of our simple act of bringing the Eucharist to her stirred in me an emotion I had yet to feel during the entire trip. I am convinced that what we experienced with her was the true presence of God among us. Our mission trip to St. Lucia was one of great spiritual growth for all involved, and I believe that no one left the island unchanged. It is a trip I hope all will embark on at least once in their lifetime.