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