Parish Assigned to Mission: Basilica of St. Mary, Alexandria, VA
Reverend Gary Wiesmann
PO Box 11062
Fort Lauderdale, FL 3339-1062
I am Father Gary, a priest of the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica. My diocese was chosen the make the annual mission appeal assigned by the mission office in your diocese. Because of Covid-19 we are unable to make personal appeals this year, but thankfully, have been given the opportunity to outline for you some of our ministries and needs, asking, if possible, that you help us. We too have been hard-hit by this terrible virus. We realize that because of the pandemic, you might not be in the position to help and we understand-you are in our prayers! Please remember us in yours.
When we think of Jamaica, we think of sandy beaches, beautiful resorts, Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, Bob Marley, and Blue Mountain Coffee.
The Diocese of Mandeville is very different from this perception. It is the poorest diocese in Jamaica and Jamaica is among the poorest countries in our hemisphere after Haiti. 68% of the people have no running water; there is an alarming number of destitute elderly and an unbelievable number of abandoned/ neglected/abused children; 25% of teenagers are functionally illiterate and the average wage earner makes $29.00 a week!
My friends, I believe God has empowered us in this first world country to be part of changing the face of poverty, neglect and devastation and BE PART of what brings dignity to God's poor. For example:
- Two sisters who were emotionally, physically and sexually abused by their stepfather before they came to live at one of the two orphanages. When they arrived, they didn't know what a toilet is used for and asked what "that switch" (a light switch) is for. These sisters were given a home, fed, loved and educated; one is now in college and the other is a nurse. These young women have a chance in life because donors provided a "home." Youth are cared for at our home 365 days a year!
- Destitute elderly, 75 of them, come to our home some with Alzheimer's, other can't walk or hear; many are sick. But, they are loved and fed and hear the word of God because our donors provide a home where the destitute can live since they have been abandoned by their own
- Many families live in far worse conditions than our domestic pets-our dogs and cats. We bring dignity-dignity as children of God-when we provide them with a small house with a roof that doesn't leak and a floor to walk on.
- And, when we help the poor, the poor help each other. A pastor told me that 3 children came to him one day saying their mom was going to kill herself. The priest went immediately to the woman who was crying uncontrollably and said she "wants to die because she can't even provide food for her children. The priest went back to the parish and brought back beans and rice to feed the family for a week. The mother, knowing another single mom with kids, took half the food to the other family-she shared and sacrificed what little she had! She reminded me of the widow in the scripture story of the "widow's "
Giving for you and me is not so much a financial decision; it's a HOLY/SACRED decision. Jesus said: "whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, that we do for the Lord." When we give to the poor, when we make a "sacrificial" offering for the poor, we have made a sacred and holy decision.
Think of it, $10.00 buys enough food for a family to eat for 1 week-that's like going out to McDonalds for a couple value meals when we have plenty to eat at home. $100.00 buys medicines for the sick, the elderly and children. You and I
can spend a hundred dollars on a meal for two at a nice restaurant. Think about sacrificing an evening out and sharing with the poor. $500.00 will help to provide a classroom and books and food for children to get an education that is so needed in Jamaica. We go to Costco and look at TVs, stereos and computers, hoping to buy a new one while we have TVs, stereos and computers at home that work just fine. In the US, we have WANTS, in Jamaica, kids NEED an education. Think about sacrificing something you WANT so the kids can get the education they NEED. If your parish were to collect $3000.00, we could build a "house", a "home" for a family without a roof over their heads.
God has given us the ability in this first world country to bring dignity to the lives of HIS sheep who are lost or forgotten. I invite you the make a SACRIFICE -not just the "leftovers"-- and share with the poorest of the poor some of what God has given to you. In light of the pandemic we are experiencing, please take care of your and your family's needs first; if it is possible after caring for your family, please consider making a sacrifice for the poor and forgotten.
In the name of the poor and the women and men who minister in the Diocese of Mandeville, THANK YOU!