Robotics Rules at St. Martin’s!

The Clavius Project at St. Louis University High School came to Belize this month and made history. On Friday morning, July 6, a team of students from St. John’s College High School and St. Martin’s Grade School built the first robot ever created in Belize. The students were participants in a summer robotics camp sponsored by the Clavius Project and held at St. Martin’s. This video captures all the fun!

The Clavius Project @ SLUH began in 2014 as a collaboration among students, faculty and staff to bring education in STEM to St. Louis urban middle schools. Named after Christopher Clavius—a German Jesuit mathematician and astronomer responsible for the Gregorian Calendar as well as the first to confirm his former student Galileo's Heliocentric Theory of the universe—the program has achieved considerable success and momentum in just a short period of time. The Clavius Project offers FLL robotics, EV3 Lego Mindstorm click & drag and Robot C program language; and math & science tutoring. Platforms in development include rocketry, coding, advanced robotics and quad copters. Click here to learn more.

Thanks to program moderator Jeff Pitts and his team of fantastic volunteers for inspiring a new crop of future engineers and scientists in Belize!

Belize 2020 Sponsors SLU Speaker Events: Join the Discussion on Critical Issues Affecting Our Global Community

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In collaboration with Saint Louis University, Belize 2020 is sponsoring three speaker events during the university's Atlas week, April 6-14. The Belize 2020 events will be held in various venues on SLU's North Campus, located at 1 North Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103. Click here for a campus map. Participation is free and advance registration is not required.

The Atlas Week Program at Saint Louis University increases awareness of the global issues that confront us today in an effort not only to promote discussion but also to inspire and inform action.  Through a week of programs, discussions, and speakers, the focus is on what we as global citizens can do to contribute to a better life for all people now and in the future.

SLU and Belize 2020: Reflections on a Growing Partnership
Monday, April 9
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Center for Global Citizenship Auditorium

Sponsored by: Office for Mission & Identity, Office of the Provost, School of Education, School of Professional Studies, SLU Madrid Campus, Office of Diversity & Community Engagement, and Belize 2020

SLU has a long-standing partnership with various institutions in Belize, and plans to grow those partnerships in breadth and depth in the coming years. This semester SLU faculty and administrators visited our partners in Belize to deepen relationships and dream about what we could accomplish together. The panel will reflect on that experience from the SLU perspective and share ideas about where we might go from here. Chris Collins, S.J., Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity, will moderate the discussion with SLU Provost Nancy Brickhouse; Dean Molly Schaller, School of Education; Dean Tracy Chapman, School of Professional Studies; Dean Paul Vita, SLU Madrid Campus; and Vice President Jonathan Smith, Office of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Belize 2020: Seeking Input, Advancing Ideas
Tuesday, April 10
2:00 - 3:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Busch Student Center 251AB
Sponsored by: Center for Service and Community Engagement, Belize 2020, Office of International Services

This roundtable will be an opportunity to provide updates on the work of Belize 2020 and to solicit student feedback on ways to advance our work in Belize.

Improving Education through Scholarships: The Saint Louis University and Belize Partnership
Thursday, April 12
4:00 - 5:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Busch Student Center 253B
Sponsored by: School of Education, Belize 2020

During this event we will highlight the educational aspect of the Belize 2020 Project and Saint Louis University educational partnership.

Belize 2020 Project is a partnership between Belize City, Belize and Saint Louis University. This relationship seeks to bridge the learning gap in our schools. The partnership empowers and enables the Belizean teachers and students to become leaders in their community. The Belizean teachers are the strongest link between the students and the surrounding community. The teachers are equipped with the knowledge to build a better future for the students through this partnership.

This partnership has grown through the training of teachers in Special Education: Learning Disability. Presently two teachers are attending Saint Louis University in the School of Education in the graduate program. Rose Mes recently completed her master’s in special education with the emphasis of learning disabilities. She is currently a learning consultant in at Our Lady of Guadalupe and working with her students in Belize.

For more information on 2018 Atlas Week programming, click here.

Growing Pains—Tragedy—Tragedy #2—His Honor—Have Holy Water, Will Travel—Something to Sink Your Teeth Into—A Little Sunshine

By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/February 28, 2018/Belize City, Belize

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The congregation at St. Martin’s has been growing ever so steadily. That is the good news. The bad news is some people leave in a huff because there are no seats available. That really distresses me. We definitely need a bigger church. Drier, too, as yet a new leak appeared recently. But in the meantime I have my ace maintenance man Esidoro building benches to go along the walls. We also have room for a few more pews.

Statistically speaking it was bound to happen despite the most earnest of hopes and the most fervent of prayers. A 12 year-old boy in one of our HEAL programs was murdered in Pregnant Alley on the South Side. He was the intended victim. An adult was also killed, apparently in an effort to shield the child. So many of our boys know the older they get the greater the likelihood becomes of them being killed. I wish I could say they were being melodramatic, but they aren’t. Death hounds our boys.

Last Saturday in a house directly across from our pre-school playground a husband murdered his wife as she slept, then took his own life. The bodies were discovered and the gawkers gathered as HEAL held a BINGO fundraiser in SWIFT HALL. This ghastly event has sent a chill through the neighborhood. And this tragedy is just one more bloody moment that colors the horizon of our children. Horizons of hope can be hard to come by on the South Side. Her funeral repast was held in SWIFT HALL.

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On Thursday St. Martin’s hosted a Mass of Thanksgiving for outgoing Mayor Darrell Bradley. It has been the Mayor’s habit in his two three-year terms to have Masses for his Civic Employees at St. Martin’s. In his remarks at the end of Mass he credited his Jesuit Education at St. John’s and at St. Louis University for making him all that he is as a man of service. He told the crowd his parents could not afford post-St. John’s education but that he had been awarded a Jesuit scholarship to SLU. Frankly, in my view, he was a darn good mayor, and I am gratified that he publicly lauds his Jesuit training.

On Friday night I blessed a train. That’s right, a train. The new train at Old Belize. I also blessed all the Belize Tour Guides present who are the face of Belize to thousands of tourists who visit this beautiful country.

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St. Apollonia. Do you know who she is? She is the Patron Saint of Dentists. And through her intercession, I regularly receive my oddest donation. My dear old friend Dr. Bob Butler, DDS, whose marriage to the lovely Ms. Tina I happily presided at years ago in St. Louis, keeps the gold he extracts from the mouths of his patients, with their permission of course, and when his drawer is full, he sells the gold and sends St. Martin’s the check. Splendid fellow. A bit macabre, but I’ll take it!

Yes, life on the South Side can be rough, but not unremittingly so. God sends us sunshine to keep us hopeful. Last week that sunshine arrived in the form of beautiful little bundle Madison Arthurs born into this world February 19th, the child of HEAL employee Pheona Staine and Michael Arthurs of our Parish Council. Mother and child are happy, healthy, and home. Congrats Pheona and Michael.

A Province Retreat—Late Night Visitors—Desks from Springfield—A Red Blue Moon

By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/February 7, 2018/Belize City, Belize

Last week Angie and I were at the Central and Southern Province Pastoral meeting in Dallas, Texas, with all 18 parish pastors and associates. The theme was Reconciliation, not the Confession-type, but reconciliation amongst persons and groups of persons, a very poignant theme given the nefarious divisions in the world today and the horrible pain and death caused by them.  Perhaps the primary impulse coming out of this meeting was the dire need to train parishioners as Jesuit Colleagues, an enterprise suffering great, if benign, neglect in any parishes, St. Martin’s topping the list.

On Wednesday night under the cover of darkness, rain, and belief that nobody was in the rectory, four young men tried to break in. They jimmied three locks at two different doors, then kicked and kicked, but deadbolts, barricades, and barking dogs prevented the gentlemen from gaining entrance. Nonetheless, after such events we always evaluate our security measures and make necessary fixes.

The Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese has sent St. Martin’s 125 much-needed desks and chairs. Our students are very hard on the furniture and the wooden Mennonite-crafted desks that normally fill so many of the country’s primary classrooms are of degraded quality these days.  I only wish I could afford the shipping costs of lots and lots of desks as there are plenty of Catholic school desks in storage in the USA.

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And January 31st was a beautiful blue moon. Belize City was cloudy and rainy, but I was in Dallas and saw the gorgeous red spectacle rising over Lewisville Lake. Lunar events in January have been very auspicious and bode well for 2018!

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Meet SLU Jesuit Christopher Collins, S.J.

The following originally appeared as part of SLU's occasional series Get to Know the Jesuits of Saint Louis University. Fr. Collins serves on the Belize 2020 U.S. Core Team.

He's often found in DuBourg Hall or leading the campus community in prayer. Christopher Collins, S.J., assistant to the president of mission and identity grew up intimately familiar with the Jesuits, but never expected to become one himself.

After growing up in Phoenix, he moved to Dallas during high school. He attended Jesuit schools in both areas, but moving states during his junior year of high school left him lonely, which gave way to lots of time spent thinking about the bigger meaning of life.

 Christopher Collins, S.J.

Christopher Collins, S.J.

After taking part in a service trip in El Salvador before his freshman year of college, Collins discovered a love for service, for community and for faith. He fostered that desire by taking philosophy and theology classes, understanding for the first time the intellectual elements of the Catholic faith. Though still not considering himself very spiritual, Collins was slowly laying the path for his journey to the priesthood.

One day, Collins noticed faculty and students entering the church on campus on a Tuesday. Because it was not a Sunday, Collins’s curiosity was piqued. Following them into the chapel, he discovered weekly Mass - a way to bridge the spiritual and intellectual elements of his faith with service, praying in quiet in a way that was previously unfamiliar.

Still not expecting to become a Jesuit, Collins said, “I didn’t think anybody did this anymore.”

In fact, Collins didn’t even consider that a young person like himself could be a priest until his cousin came to visit. While spending time together at a bowling alley, Collins’ cousin suggested, “Why don’t you become a Jesuit? You like those guys, and you want to do what they do.” Though not the first  time Collins had heard a similar suggestion, this one hit him hard.

Collins remembered his initial reaction to the suggestion: “Oh, no, I have to do this now.”

After a brief stint panicking and discerning, Collins entered the novitiate. He studied at Bellarmine House in the 1990s and has worked in a variety of capacities in a variety of situations - from being pastor of a reservation to teaching theology.

Recognizing the shared history of the Native Americans and Jesuits in the United States, particularly at Saint Louis University, Collins recalled his time on a Native American reservation in South Dakota.

"Right after I was ordained, I worked in Pine Ridge, South Dakota as the pastor of a reservation down there with the Lakota people. Whenever we did a funeral, the Lakota people would have a giveaway at the end . The priest would usually get a blanket, typically a star quilt. They took pride in making different designs of their star quilts. I brought one back with me - it hit me as important because Jesuits originally came to the U.S. to minister to Native Americans, and we built SLU along the way. I tell this to new employees when I give talks we talk - about our mission all the time, and this is a part of our mission and who we are."

Story and photo by Molly Daily for University Marketing and Communications

© 1818 – 2018 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY

A Supermoon—A New Year, And Yet—A Catholic Tradition—ZZZZZZZZZ

By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/January 3, 2018/ Belize City, Belize

Happy 2018 to one and all. I spent the evening of New Year's Day with two friends on a verandah enjoying a dinner of lobster meat, cheese, crackers, and grapes with a glass of 16-year-old Lagavulin while watching the only supermoon of 2018 rise up big and beautiful out of the Caribbean. I am unaware of ever having a more delightful New Year's Day evening. Now it is on with the New Year.

 Photo Credit: Sebastian Ulbrich

Photo Credit: Sebastian Ulbrich

Our first funeral of the year has been scheduled for this Saturday. Statistically it is no surprise, but it is nonetheless disheartening to have the first funeral of the year be for a murder victim. Epiphany means Chalking the Doors. Likely you have seen front doors of homes with cryptic writing above. That is an Epiphany Tradition. Here's what it looks like: 20+C+M+B+18

And here is what it means. The 20 and the 18 are the year. CMB are the initials for the traditional names of the Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar. CMB also stands for the Latin, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, meaning “May Christ Bless this House.” And the crosses are just that, crosses. So go ahead, chalk your doors and as you do so simply pray, “Lord, bless this home and all within. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Once again, the recent bitter cold in the U.S. has descended on Belize as nighttime temperatures dip into the 60s. And, yes, it makes for luxuriant sleeping, quite necessary in recovering from the busy, bustling holidays and in preparing for the opening of school next week.

A Prelude—A Visit—A Party—City Workers at Prayer—Another Party—A Party Animal—Serving the Coast Guard—Mass at Sea

By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday/December 20, 2017/Belize City

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A recent uncommon cold front served as a prelude to the Christmas Season. We had several days requiring a blanket in the night and a jacket in the morning as temperatures dropped into the upper 60s.  For Belize, that is a cold front.

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Last week I drove four hours to the south of the country where I visited the Jesuit Volunteers of Punta Gorda. It is our habit when I visit my beloved JV’s to do pizza and beer on their rooftop as the sun goes down. Anna, Hannah and Matthew are very thoughtful, dedicated volunteers, but *alas* visiting them is too infrequent a pleasure. I also visited Jesuits Fr. Derek Vo, pastor of St. Peter Claver, and his associate pastor, Fr. Sam Wilson. These two are have almost incomprehensible responsibilities. You see, St. Peter Claver Parish has 30 mission stations in the southern villages, stations accessible by unpaved and often deeply rutted roads. This presents an array of logistical problems for these two good Jesuits. Their efforts are heroic, and I mean that.

Yesterday our St. Vincent DePaul Society hosted a Christmas party for our senior citizens in Swift Hall. Santa showed up, a nice meal was served, and there was plenty of music and Christmas carols. On Thursday, the 21st, we give out “Giving Bags.” These are bags full of food to make sure everybody in our neighborhood has a meal for Christmas. There are lots and lots of families with children who would have little to eat and no gifts on Christmas were it not for St. Martin’s. We not only give out Giving Bags, on Christmas morning we give out heaps and heaps and heaps of presents donated by our parishioners and the local business community. I have long been genuinely edified by the generosity of our parishioners at this time of year.

The Mayor, City Council, and all the Belize City Workers celebrated their Christmas at St Martin’s with a Mass on December 19th. This is a tradition between Martin’s and the City. We are proud that they find St. Martin’s a comfortable place to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and we are proud to serve those who serve us so well. Mayor Darrell Bradley is Jesuit educated, St. John’s in Belize City and St. Louis U, and his service honors the Jesuit Tradition as he has been, in my view, a very good mayor.

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The Jesuits enjoyed their Community Christmas on December 18th, first with a noon meal honoring our workers, then in the evening with just ourselves, though we were happy to have a visiting Ana Casey, the Nurse for our Province, join us. Santa appeared, gifts given and all believed the evening splendid. It was the first time we ever had spring rolls, compliments of Quang Tran, as a Christmas treat.

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The Jesuits weren’t the only ones gorging themselves. An 11-foot boa constrictor joined in the fun by killing and eating a large mammal, cat?, dog?, raccoon?, in our front yard, then lazing about afterwards like a snoozy old Jesuit taking a siesta.

In the past year I have become a Chaplain for the Belize Coast Guard. On the 21st I will join the Officers in serving the enlisted men and women a Christmas dinner. The Coast Guard reaches out to the youth of our neighborhood with various programs. After the dinner, I will then return home then to undertake yet another Christmas responsibility. You see, when cruise ships come to Belize during Christmastime, many of those cruising want a Mass. So, who does the cruise line call?  Me. I put together my Mass kit, drive to Tourist Village, jump on a tender and get ferried out to the ship where I will celebrate Mass for a bunch of grateful, cruising Catholics.

So as you can see, St. Martin’s is a very busy place at Christmas. We do lots of good, but of course ain’t nuthin’ free. If you would like to send a little Christmas donation, that would be delightful. You can do it with a couple of touches up to the top of this page. In the meantime, you all have a holy and blessed Christmas and a joy-filled and gracious New Year.