Thursday, December 30, 2010

Burden Center

Here are some pictures of the grounds around the Burden Center, site for the "Miles for Moz" benefit run. I was probably around 12 years old the last time I was there. It's a beautiful place and will be a great site for the race Jan. 29th. Please come out and encourage others as well.

LSU Rural Life Center

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Message from Brasil - Feliz Natal

We send you our most loving and sincere greetings in these days of preparation for Christmas and the hope of a new day with the new born Christ. The African proverb, "A tree is known by its fruit", is evident this Christmas season as we can be certain of God's presence among us through his child, our savior and true example of Love.

After two months of Portuguese classes, we have been relaxing for a few days in Lins after a great tour of Southern Brasil for Brothers Angel and Chris. The Brothers in Brasil treated them to a trip to the amazing Iguaçu Falls as well as visits to the communities in Paraguacu, Campanha, Sao Paulo and Bauru. They were treated to the best Churrasco in all Brasil from our own Brother Chefs, and "Brothers of the Sacred Heart" style hospitality everywhere.

While here in Lins, Brothers Lucas, Angel and Chris met to discuss a few items about our new community life once we arrive in Amatongas, Mozambique. Specifically, we talked about our prayer life together, spiritual items for the chapel from our home communities, and our travel plans. We all now have our plane tickets and will meet again February 2 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together again, we will then fly on to Beira, Mozambique.

We join the Brothers of the Sacred Heart throughout the world as we pray this Christmas season for our new mission in Mozambique. May our new work produce much fruit because of God's loving presence, courage, and faith in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In His Heart
Brothers Lucas, Angel and Chris (for Br. Fabian)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laptops for Moz

Getting a new laptop for Christmas? Well, consider donating your old laptop to the students in Amatongas. Don't let that old laptop gather dust in the corner! Your donation is tax deductible and will go to a great cause.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Google Earth Pic

Yes, this is the school and parish on Google Earth. If you don't have Google Earth already, go to the website and download. Then, type in the coordinates, 19° 06’ 10.66" S  33° 48’ 35.93" E, and explore the world of Amatongas, Mozambique, pretty exciting and pretty remote.

The thumbtack in the photo above is just touching the church and the school is just to the left. The building in front of the church and school is the workshop, and the four houses just in front of the workshop are the parish houses. We will be living in one of the guest houses temporarily until our residence is refurbished next to the school, not sure which one.

We have finished our formal classes and will spend the next few weeks traveling the province. It's actually been good to talk a little more with brothers and get away from the classroom. More pictures coming soon from Brazil.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Prayer (Ação de Graças)

I offer thanks to God for constantly challenging me to be better than I think I'm capable, for giving me the strength and courage to say yes again and again. The result has been an awesome life. 

I offer thanks to my family for putting up with my absences, for always giving me that "coming home" love we can only get from our family. I am missing you all today. 

I offer thanks to my fellow Brothers of the Sacred Heart, for my local community whose prayers I feel strengthened by each day, and for the Institute of Brothers throughout the world who strive to live the Sacred Heart each day. This year I especially give thanks for the Brothers here in Brasil who have shown the true spirit of brotherhood through hospitality.

I offer thanks to my friends who support me in so many ways, for their dedication to their own families and the example they are to me.

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.
Matt. 11-25

Note: I made a sweet potato pie for the brothers. Had to make evaporated milk from scratch, none in Brasil. We'll see how it comes out, but that awesome smell filled the house.  Oh, and I can smell the Cajun Fried Turkey from here. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Feast of Christ the King (risking all)

Sunday, Nov. 21 the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. Now, I have never felt comfortable with the image of Christ as "King". However, recent developments in the political world and in our society in general have given me the opportunity to reflect more on this image.

               In an article titled 'Wandering minds' make people unhappy, the study concluded people are most unhappy when they think of things other than what is happening in the present, when their minds wander. How, you say, does this relate to the opening paragraph? Well, I think the greatest characteristic of a real leader is to live in the present moment. Certainly, we all have to plan for the future, but Christ was able to lead by risking, knowing and doing what was right "in the now". We all have that capacity, to risk, to know, to do what is right "right now". Why don't we? Jesus shares with us the true lesson of leadership, the "truth" as some would say, when he says it all in this one simple statement, "only those who are prepared to "lose" their life will save it." It's time for all of us, political leaders and citizens, to live in the present moment, to lose our life and live for others. Then, we will be truly happy.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing, have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

Author unknown

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"While I have this Chance"

This video sums it up for me. Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Miles for Moz" Benefit Run

           My younger brother Craig, the tall skinny one, will be hosting a benefit run to be held January 29, 2011 in Baton Rouge. It should be a great experience. We hope many people will come out and support the mission, have fun and exercise as well. Please go to the website to register online, donate or volunteer.

           The day of the run we will also be collecting pens, pencils, erasers and pencil sharpeners which we will bring directly to these needy students. We are still looking for sponsors, so please consider  advertising your business with us for a good cause. Contact us at:

           Also, join our "Miles for Moz" on Facebook. Help get the word out!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Info. on Desks

           Yes, you read this correctly. I have new information on desks. I can't think of too many needs greater in a new school than desks, talk about something I would normally take for granted. However, I began to think about the need for desks when I learned that some students don't have desks or the desks they have are falling apart. So, I began my search for information on purchasing or building desks in or near Amatongas.

          After a few weeks I was ready to give up until I received an e-mail from a fellow blogger and missionary in the same area. Check out the pictures above and below from his blog LOVEMOZ. Each desk cost about $25, is solidly built and sits two maybe three students. He thinks we might be able to get them cheaper if ordering in bulk. Better yet, the desks came from Chimoio, a city less than an hour from Amatongas. It would be great to get these ordered ahead of our arrival so the students could have desks for the beginning of next school year. What a dream!!!???

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Amatongas Bound visits Cristo Rei

We had a great visit today with the students, teachers and administrators at Cristo Rei, a school in Marilia with about 1600 students ranging from 6 to 19 years of age. We talked to them about our new mission school in Amatongas, Mozambique. It was a great visit and we felt such love and support from everyone we met today. We look forward to a great relationship with this beautiful and huge Brothers of the Sacred Heart school.

I felt so guilty after my last blog post I have to include some of the better pictures of Marlia. It is a beautiful city with a tropical feel to it, palm trees and parrots everywhere. On my walk to school everyday I come across some incredible flowering trees pictured below.

Finally for today, I leave you with an image I found on the internet. Just in case you were wondering if Amatongas was a bit remote. I'm not sure how often the train runs, but I'll tell you in less than three months.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Tanto Faz"(Whatever)- You know, a variety

                                        Thanks to the efforts of a friend of mine, Nurmi, I have a new graphic for the blog. He's also a writer so you should check out his books at his website. Anyway, he was able to incorporate the colors of the Mozambique flag, map of Africa and also the most important part of the flag, the book (certainly not the AK-47). The Mozambique Government has been emphasizing education so it's important to have the book as the focus. Of course, the cross with the heart, a symbol of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and our motto "Ametur Cor Jesu", Love be the Heart of Jesus, are also included.

Br. Nicholas Geisenberg, SC

                   At the age of 98, Br. Nick died on Friday, October 29. A true brother, he entered our community in 1932 and spent 54 years working at our schools in New Orleans. Though small in stature, Br. Nick was always the center of attention anytime he entered a room and was indeed loved by many. Please refer to the Brother Martin High School website for more details and arrangements. RIP

            Click here for the blog of the Misioneros de Guadalupe. (The blog is in Spanish, so you may need a translator. But, they do have some nice pictures and videos) These dedicated priests serve the parish and school in Amatongas. We will be working closely with these men.
            The picture on the left, taken from their blog, is the front view of the church, the best I've seen so far. The school is located just to the right of the church. Looks pretty nice.

                Finalmente (see everyone can speak a little Portuguese), I thought I would share just a few pictures from around Marilia, some unique things a little at a time. As I've said before, I walk to school everyday, so one day I took some pictures of my journey. It just seemed strange to me that there was trash all over, even hanging from the trees. Eventually, I would see the trash men coming around in their bright orange suits to pick the bags up. Just seemed strange to this stupid Americano. 
Bags to be picked up, see bags on the next tree as well.

In front of many houses there is a metal trash holder

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tower of Babel in Brasil

Brothers Angel, Lucas and Chris at 1st meeting in Lins, Brasil
First, I now have almost 30 subscribers. Thanks everyone for subscribing to this blog, the pressure is on now.

Let me see if I can set the seen for you. Br. Angel, far left, speaks Spanish, a little English and gets along pretty well in Portuguese. Br. Lucas, middle, speaks French and Portuguese, a little English and Spanish. Myself, far right, well, I think I speak English and a little Portguese. So, you can imagine what it was like at our 2nd meeting today in Marilia, Brasil.

I am starting to understand a little more each day reading and listening, but I'm having trouble speaking. As some of you may know, I am a bit quiet by nature, so I almost have to force myself to talk. It will only improve through practice.

Our meeting was difficult without interpreters this time. However, we were able to talk a little about a few details. We decided we will try and arrive in Johannesburg on Feb. 2nd or 3rd, no mom not before Feb., and then try and fly into Beira together. It looks like there's only one flight into Beira each day, at least on SAA, South Africa Airlines. Also, we decided to write a letter to the fourth member of our group, Br. Fabian, who is finishing studies in Kenya right now. We wish he could be here with us, but school comes first.

Incidentally, I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine on facebook. She commented about all of the political ads on TV and the millions of dollars being spent. BTW, it's the same here in Brasil, and possibly worse. Anyway, It seems like the ultimate waste of money, especially when you realize the people in Amatongas, where were going, feed their families on a dollar a day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First meeting & new pictures from Amatongas

Three of the four brothers going to Amatongas, Br. Lucas, Br. Angel and myself, met for the first time together Friday in Lins, Brasil at the Brothers community. Br. Fabian, from Zimbabwe, who is the fourth member of the group is finishing his degree work in Kenya and obviously could not be at the meeting.  Together with two of our General Councilors from Rome, Br. Gaston and Br. Denis, and Br. Jose Roberto, Provincial of Brasil, we talked about the recent visit in Amatongas by Br. Lucas and our Superior General, Br. Jose Ignatio. Some of the things we talked about were practical like what we need to do to get our visas, while others were more specific, like where we are going to live. We also found out at this meeting that the school presently operating on campus has 800 students attending classes in three sessions each day. Some classes have as many as 70 students, an interesting little piece of information. Also, some work has already begun repairing the students dorm. We will be meeting again on Tuesday here in Marilia. Below, please check out the new pictures Br. Lucas shared with us at the meeting.

New Amatongas Pictures

Thursday, October 21, 2010

World Mission Sunday 2010

This weekend we are traveling about an hour from here to meet with Br. Lucas, the brother who will be the director of the school in Amatongas, Mozambique. We will meet to discuss further details about our new work, little things like a date for arrival, visas and such. It will be good for me because there is a brother there who can translate. Hey, it's only been 3 weeks, give me a break.

Br. Lucas just returned from visiting Amatongas for two weeks with the Superior General of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Br. Jose Ignacio Carmona. So, the information he will share will be the latest and greatest from Amatongas.

It is interesting that we will be meeting on the weekend of World Mission Sunday 2010. Please read the message from Pope Benedict XVI here, but I especially like this sentence below.

"In a multiethnic society that is experiencing increasingly disturbing forms of loneliness and indifference, Christians must learn to offer signs of hope and to become universal brethren, cultivating the great ideals that transform history and, without false illusions or useless fears, must strive to make the planet a home for all peoples."

Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States

One Day's Wages (Great Video)

I couldn't say it better myself. Just think what a group could do.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A few pictures and side note on "Pai Nosso"

Just thought I would post a few pictures since I promised earlier. I have increased my hours of classes, so I will begin by showing you a picture of my school in Marilia.

The picture on the left below is of the school, FISK. It is really a beautiful and modern building and is usually filled with young students from around the city taking English classes. There are probably a dozen or so schools like this in the area. I have learned that students take about an hour a week of English lessons in the elementary grades and two hours a week in high school. Some students and parents choose to specialize and can get more hours at these schools. The picture at right is obviously my teacher, Aline. (pronouned ah-leen-ee) She didn't want me to take this and put it online, but oh well, sorry Aline. Aline spent two years in Chicago as an Au Pair. She is a great teacher.

Below, are obviously pictures from my room. I believe this was an old school, so one floor was modified into a residence with about a dozen bed rooms. This bedroom may be the biggest I have ever had in my life, and with its own bathroom as well. The little stickers on my desk are verbs I need to learn and conjugate. Oh yes, my favorite thing about the Portuguese language, conjugating verbs and the gender thing. Just outside my window is the school playground which is usually filled with children playing from morning till night.

Finally, for now, the streets of Marilia: I have spent hours on these somewhat hilly streets and have grown in appreciation for the beautiful city. Our walk to the language school is about 15 minutes. Like most European cities, houses are closed in behind walls and gates. Sometimes you can see inside the walls and most families keep their property in perfect condition and manicured behind the walls. However, not so much on the street side, obviously quite different from what I am accustomed.

Oh yea, one side note - I thought it would be a good idea to try and memorize the "Our Father" in Portugues. I had an interesting time because I really had not spent much time repeating one phrase of the prayer over and over again. Here is what the first few lines look like in Portuguese. "Pai nosso, que estais no céu; santificado seja o vosso nome;" How often, really, do I make holy the name of God in my daily life? Pretty cool, I thought.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Our Lady of Aparecida)

Tuesday, October 12, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida. I thought I would include this in my blog because it is such a huge feast day and national holiday in Brasil.
Our Lady of Aparecida is the patron saint of Brazil. She is represented by a short, dark, wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, currently housed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, in the town of Aparecida, São Paulo. Her feast day has been observed as a public holiday since Pope John Paul II consecrated the Basilica in 1980. The Basilica is the fourth most popular Marian shrine in the world, being able to hold up to 45,000 worshippers.

This day is also called "Childrens Day". Children receive presents from their parents and close relatives. Also, some projects are made for helping poor and homeless children around the country.

Click on the link to get the full history of the Nossa Senhora Apareceida. It's quite interesting. Here is the common prayer used for Our Lady Aparecida.

Lady Aparecida, a son of yours who belongs to you unreservedly–totus tuus–called by the mysterious plan of Providence to be the Vicar of your Son on earth, wishes to address you at this moment. He recalls with emotion, because of the brown color of this image of yours, another image of yours, the Black Virgin of Jasna Gora.
Mother of God and our Mother, protect the Church, the Pope, the bishops, the priests and all the faithful people; welcome under your protecting mantle men and women religious, families, children, young people, and their educations.
Health of the sick and Consoler of the afflicted, comfort those who are suffering in body and soul; be the light of those who are seeking Christ, the Redeemer of all; show all people that you are the Mother of our confidence.
Queen of Peace and Mirror of Justice, obtain peace for the world, ensure that Brazil and all countries may have lasting peace, that we will always live together as brothers and sisters and as children of God. Our Lady Aparecida, bless all your sons and daughters who pray and sing to you here and elsewhere.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

ecos das crianças (Echoes of the Children)

It has been one week since my arrival in Brasil and I'm sorry it has taken so long to post something. However, I will start posting more often. My wi-fi internet conncection is not the greatest, but I can come down to the brothers computer room where it's much better.

It has been a whirlwind of activity since my arrival in this beautiful country. I'll share some pictures later, but I wanted to begin with a reflection of my overall experience. First, the brothers have been incredibly hospitable. I live with 9 other brothers in a formation house with 4 postulants getting ready for the novitiate. I would be considered one of the old guys, now that's different. The house is located on the grounds of an education center for poor children. I titled the post "Echoes of the Children" because of what I hear each day outside my window. We have all experienced times when we hear large groups of children playing. The only way I can describe it is by recalling to mind that high pitched "echo" as you hear bits and pieces of conversation intermingled with screaming, laughing and balls bouncing. It seems to be even more pronounced when there are trees and walls to echo the sounds. Brasil seems to be filled with these echoes not only from children but from the sounds of the city. Certainly it comes with the territory when you have your windows open all the time. Though these echoes are distracting while trying to study and learn a new language, I am learning to soak it in, like soaking in life. Is this something we Americans have lost, because of AC, TV, and the PC?

Stay tuned for pictures coming soon. até logo

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CHS '84 Benefit Lunch for Amatongas

The Catholic High class of 1984 gathered at DeAngelo's on Lee Drive in Baton Rouge for a benefit lunch to support our new project in Amatongas, Mozambique. It was great to see some men I haven't seen since graduation. The support is incredible and I am truly humbled by the response from my classmates. Thanks to all who came and to those who could not make it today, but offered support anyway. It looks like this will not be the last time we get together. Stay tuned for our next lunch. God Bless

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who's Going?

Many people have asked me about the other brothers going to Amatongas. I have included below the announcement message from our Superior General.

At its meeting of June 10, 2010, the superior general in council, after having received the approbation of their respective superiors, named four Brothers to the first missionary team that will go to Amatongas, Mozambique. Those selected are Brothers Luc Favreau (Pictured above on Left) of the province of Brazil; Ángel Monge Ormaechea (next picture), Spain-Peru;
Fabian Jongwe (next picture), Eastern and Southern Africa;and Chris Sweeney (Above Right), New Orleans. These Brothers will establish a general secondary school and a technical school, which will include a residency department.

If all goes according to plan, Brothers Luc, Ángel, and Chris will arrive in Amatongas at the start of February 2011. Brother Fabian, who will pronounce his perpetual vows this summer and who will complete his degree program at Tangaza College in Nairobi next May, will join the others in Amatongas in May or June 2011.

We congratulate these Brothers on having been selected. We will accompany them in prayer so that their ministry among the young people of Mozambique will be fruitful.

The superior general in council thanks the twenty-two Brothers who volunteered to be part of this first team and hopes that every Brother in the Institute, with enthusiasm and fervor, will keep this endeavor in Amatongas in their prayers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rosetta, Smokies, and Brazil

It is a week before I travel to Brazil to take classes in Portuguese. I will be staying with our Brothers in Marilia until the middle of December. Thanks to all who have offered support through prayers and resources. Though I don't know exactly the specific needs in Amatongas just yet, you can be sure they will be great. From day one we will be putting up a new roof, repairing electrical and plumbing infrastructure and such, as well as preparing the school with desks, beds and many other needs. I have included at the bottom of this blog where to send donations for those who would like to help, just make sure to include "Amatongas Mission" in the notes section.

I have been using Rosetta Stone for a little over a month. Many people have seen the advertisements all over the place and have asked me about my experience. As you may know Rosetta Stone is very expensive, but is worth the cost. It's as close to immersion as you can get. However, I think you need to spend 2-3 hours a day for it to be effective and some days I have spent the time, but many others I have not. Also, there is no translation at all in the program, so I went out and bought a good dictionary. It was just so frustrating at times not picking up the word. I think I at least have a good head start.

Finally, last week I went camping and hiking in the Smoky Mountains with Br. Frank Fleming. We went to Cataloochee Valley, a rather remote area of the park where many people don't go. The temperatures were cool and the beauty of the place was awesome. The highlight though was the experience of seeing many Elk which were reintroduced to the park in 2001. The time in the valley reminded me of the beauty and grandness of God's creation, something I often take for granted. Please enjoy the picture of the buck below, and yes we got this close.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How long will you be there?

If there is one question I get asked at least once a day it's this one, "How long are you going to be there?" It's a natural question I suppose, but as I think about it, why is everyone so fixated on this?

What's really strange is I keep thinking back to my experiences in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. I have been making short mission trips to St. Anne's Mission in Klagetoh, Arizona for the past 10 years or so. Br. John Hotstream has been out there for the past 15 years doing some really great work in the parish. Anyway, I guess the Navajo have seen missionaries come and go over the years and one of their first questions is "So, are you going to stay?" Of course, this question tugs at your heart because my answer is always, "I wish I could?"

Now you can see why I get a strange feeling when I try and answer the question, How long? So, my answer has typically been 3 years, 5 years maybe forever. Who really knows other than God right? I put it in Gods hands. There are quite literally hundreds of things that could happen. I go there not thinking about the end result only today. God in the present moment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blog Begins

After a little hassle I received my visa for Brazil a few days ago. I had been thinking of creating a blog in order to keep family and friends updated on my new experience and thought this would be a good time to begin, so here goes.
I’ll be leaving for Brazil October 1 and living with our Brothers while taking language classes in Portuguese. Now, I know what you’re saying, “Portuguese, he’s going to learn Portuguese. He can’t even speak English.” Which, of course is true, but I can't let that stop me. Once I return for Brazil, I'll be home for about a month before departing for Amatongas in early February.
It is a humbling feeling knowing I'll be one of the first Brothers in a new country. However, I think God has lead me to this point as a religious and if it is going to work it will be because God wants it to work. Upon learning I would be one of four Brothers from around the world joining in this new mission, prayer has come so easy. There is literally so much to pray about. I keep think of the story of the rich man in the gospels. No matter where we are in our lives, God continues to call us to be better, to do more, to go beyond what you think you can do alone. God continues to remind us that it's not about us. It's about serving others with God's Love.
I hope I can keep this blog updated with my experiences, to be sure there will be many. And knowing there are people back home supporting me is just as humbling.