At the heart of any mission trip is the love of Christ. So, in 2013, St. Joseph and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary began sending missionaries to our sister parish in El Salvador. In the ten years since, there have been seven mission trips.
Nativity parishioner Carol Zellmer has been on all seven missions and was there in March with fellow parishioner Christine Gentile and four others from St. Joseph. Carol notes that while each mission has a unique practical goal, the universal mission of sharing Christ’s love with others remains.
“This year the mission was to provide shoes for the student,” she says. “Our sister parish, Sts. Peter and Paul, has a growing school with many students who are in need. We measured the feet of the students and hired a local shoemaker to make custom shoes for each child in the school system.
“Another aspect of our trip was taking baby supplies to 50 single mothers with newborns who were in need and being supported by the local crisis pregnancy center,” she adds. “The people we serve don’t know what they don’t have and appreciate what they do have.”
As a result of these seven mission trips and other acts of support, our parishes have built the bell tower of the local church, built and expanded the school to a two-story building that can serve hundreds of students, and raised enough money to build over 100 simple homes for the villagers of Teotepeque, El Salvador.
These projects were funded by the generosity of the St. Joseph and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parishes, and many were completed by the helping hands of the villagers and missionaries.
Each mission trip lasts a week and only costs the missionary about $1,000 to go due to the low airfare costs and modest living expenses of the area. Being a missionary is a true act of stewardship.
“It is not about the money,” Carol says. “It is about the time to become close to others and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is hard to describe, but I truly receive so much more than I give. Each trip I have been on has renewed my faith.”
The hope is to continue the missions and build the Church in El Salvador. The mission teams are purposefully kept small and include only eight to 12 people. However, since the pandemic, there has been a decrease in interested parishioners willing to go. But there is still much to do in the village of Teotepeque.
“Many people ask me, why go to El Salvador to help others when there are so many people in need here at home?” Carol says. “My answer is that there is no support system there, they have no one else to turn to.”
With no social services that can help our faith family in El Salvador, “our assistance provides hope,” Carol notes.
All are encouraged to support the El Salvador missions. The generosity shared through donations is a great blessing that allows for the necessary infrastructure to be built and supplies to be provided. By becoming a missionary, you are further able to share your heart with God’s people in Teotepeque.
For more information, please contact the parish office at 440-988-2848.