By Matthew D. Ruhl, S.J.
Thursday, July 10, 2019, Punta Gorda, Belize
Grade schools across the country were dismissed for their two-month summer vacation last week. It is a much quieter campus, as you might suspect. I can actually hear the sea surf rather than than the peals of children. Now that school is out, we have a great many repairs and no shortage of deferred maintenance. With all the schools and churches St. Peter Claver serves, we have 107 buildings to maintain. Every building without question has rats, bats, ants, termites, and geckos while suffering the water damage of God knows how many rainy seasons. Only the gecko does not create a health hazard. I am very fond of vermin-eating geckos.
Summer maintenance will commence at our Grade School in the village of Indian Creek. Tampa Jesuit held a fundraiser for us and sent a check for $13,000.00 (Thank you Tampa Jesuit). The money will be used for a new roof after all the bat guano is cleaned out. One room could not be used all year due to all the guano dropping from the ceiling. Raining down with the guano was the dust from termite eaten ceilings. We are also replacing the roof at Peter Claver School due to extensive termite damage.
Fr. Penn Dawson, S.J. has completed the “Pastoral Year” that many freshly-minted Jesuit priests undertake. He has been assigned to Loyola New Orleans where he will teach law next Fall. Penn is already missed here. His verandah chair sits alone and empty for me and Sam to lament. But now the full sacramental complement of 36 churches and 30 schools falls on me and faithful colleague and friend, Fr. Sam Wilson, S.J. Thank God St. Peter Claver has a great staff of Lay Persons whose love and dedication keep all these churches and schools going, not least of which are our 232 grade school teachers and our 113 Village Catechists.
Finally, dear friend Willie John Snyders, S.J. will be saying farewell to his beloved Belize after 30 years and more of service. He taught, advised, and did Campus Ministry at St. John’s College High School; sang in the Belize Chorale Society; and found very fulfilling work at Belize Central Prison. Many tears have been shed with this farewell. He will be continuing ministerial service in Grand Couteau, Louisiana. Recently dedicated Snyders Hall now serves the freshman of St. John’s High School as a reminder of this remarkably generous man.