By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Friday, August 3, 2018, Punta Gorda, Belize
On Sunday, July 29th, I celebrated my last Sunday Masses at St. Martin’s. After the 7 p.m. Mass the parish hosted a little farewell in Swift Hall for me and for Fr. Quang who left St. Martin’s the day after I did. At the same party the parish welcomed Fr. Brian Christopher as “the new sheriff in town.” It was all very warm and kind and loving. It was for me a perfect farewell.
On July 31st the Jesuits of Belize gathered at St. John’s College. It became a celebration of St. Ignatius and our Society, but we celebrated as well the numerous transitions all of which officially took place on August 1st. Fr. Quang cooked up a great batch of delicious gumbo; Willy John Snyders baked my favorite and his, pumpkin pie, and the “new sheriff”, BC, took care of the salad. Me? I brought the bourbon.
Miracle of miracles: On Ignatius Day I became a legal Resident of Belize. I have been pursuing this for three years. My newly-issued US passport now has a beautiful red seal on a stamp that declares me a “Permanent Resident” of Belize. No more trips to the Labour Department for temporary work permits, no more visits to Immigration for temporary visa stamps—nada. Home free!!! Yeeeeeee-Hawwwwww.
On August 1st I arrived at St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District, Belize. I have been settling into my room and office, both of which face the Carribbean sea at Amatique Bay in the Gulf of Honduras. In Belize City one simply hopes and prays for a cooling rain during the summer. In PG we get lots of nighttime showers with lightning and with thunder that can knock a person out of bed. I love it. When it doesn’t rain, I can hear the waves on the seashore. Beautiful. I woke my first morning with the temperature in my bedroom below 80 degrees for the first to me this summer.
At St. Peter Claver Parish the Jesuit Community consists of me, Fr. Sam Wilson, and Fr. Penn Dawson. Under the administrations of St. Peter Claver Parish there are 34 village churches and 30 village schools. The roads to most of these villages are dirt washboards, demanding travel in first and second gears. Geographically Toledo is coastal, mountainous, and jungle forested. The dominant cultures of Toledo District are Garifuna, Maya, and East Indian, with significant populations of Spanish, Creole, and Chinese. Also under our administrations is what is often called “the best verandah in the province.” Our verandah overlooks the sea, perhaps 50 yards away, with unobstructed view and breeze.