Wednesday was, for me, a snap-shot into an aspect of Father Vicente Pena’s ministry. In addition to being the priest at Iglesia de San Juan Bautista and seven other mission satellites, he is the Bishop’s liaison between the Diocese and the Government of the Dominican Republic. This requires him to regularly make a 90 minute to 2-hour trip (depending on traffic) to Santo Domingo. It is because of this position that the Bishop has decided to move him from Bonao to Santo Domingo, effective August 1, 2013.
Having invited me, the previous day, to go with him on this journey, we left for Santo Domingo at 6:00 a.m. Having to leave this early meant that I could not celebrate the Eucharist, leaving the team to engage in prayers and devotions. The journey on the way was a rather interesting one, particularly as we drew near to downtown Santo Domingo – there were cars with 7 persons “kind of” seated in them, vehicles traveling with doors open, 3-lane roads turned into 4 and in some cases 5-lane roads. It was a sight to below and I then understood why it was important to Father Vicente that I say a prayer and blessing before leaving Bonao.
During my visit to Santo Domingo, we visited the Immigration Department, where we met Father Bruno and his family. Father Vicente was following up on the immigration documents for one of the Diocesan clergy. I also saw the Senate Building, the Supreme Court, the City Hall, and the War Memorial. I also visited the Treasury Department. Most of the government buildings are located in the same general area.
Next, it was off to the Seaboard, to collect documents on behalf of the Diocese. Three buses were shipped for the benefit of the Diocese. Father Vicente is responsible for processing and clearing these buses from the port. We then visited the Diocesan Center where I met the Diocesan Bishop, Julio Holguin, and the Assistant Bishop, Luis Fernando Ruiz. I also met the Bishop’s Secretary and the staff.
Next, we visited the Cathedral Church of the Epiphany and the Diocesan Theological Seminary, the latter is situated on the Cathedral campus. The Cathedral and Seminary are about a block or two away from the Diocesan Center.
Father Vicente then took me to see the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, the area to which Christopher Columbus came. The buildings are of Spanish architecture and between 450 and 500 years old. We particularly visited the Roman Catholic Cathedral (the Cathedral Church of Santa Maria la Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas). The cathedral was built between 1521 and 1540.
On our return to Bonao, Father Vicente and I learned that things went smoothly with the clinic, situated in a parishioner’s home in Huma. This was a complete turnaround from the previous day, plagued with many challenges. At the team meeting, the members expressed how the illnesses and diseases of children are not as severe as they have been in previous years. They believe this goes well for the community. Our two young missionaries are enjoying working in the medical clinics and assisting in this rather important ministry. The team, in general, is a closely-knitted community. Prior to dinner, I spent the evening having an interesting and refreshing conversation with two of the missionaries – Carol Bhim and Mary Reed.
After dinner, a team meeting, and Compline, I retired to my room.