By Matthew D. Ruhl, SJ
Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Punta Gorda, Belize
On Sunday, August 5th I drove about 40 minutes into the lushly forested jungle mountains to preside at my first village mass as Pastor of St. Peter's. (Recall that St. Peter's has administrative responsibility for 34 villages, each with a church while 30 villages have grade schools. Under my care are 5,265 students with 242 teachers. Please pray for me.) As the Maya village Crique Jute (creeky HOO-tay) is made up only of farming families, the church is named after the Patron Saint of Farmers, St. Isidore. About thirty villagers of two hundred were in attendance. The rest have been siphoned off by evangelical churches, a topic to which we shall return at another time. I truly enjoyed St. Isidore's, the good people and the beautiful mountains.
Billikens for Clean Water visited Punta Gorda last week. Their goal was to test water in the villages and offer solutions. In one village they asked about gastro-intestinal issues. The mothers all reported stomach complaints especially with their children. Some village members guided the Billikens to the village water source, a spring pond in a cave. Upon testing they discovered large presence of bat guano. The Billikens are investigating alternative water sources after giving a boil water recommendation.
The new Jesuit Volunteers have arrived in Belize. As they toured the country they visited us here at Peter Claver where three JV's will be working. Of course we introduced them immediately to the verandah and all enjoyed pizza, beer, and view.
On Sunday August 12, I drove to Big Falls to say Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe. A mix of Mopan and Ketchi Maya, this is one of the few villages that can be reached by paved road. Halfway through Mass, I beheld on the clean, whitewashed wall of the church a lovely and sizable tarantula. Fortunately the hairy and long legged beast did not move throughout the Mass. I did not offer hug or handshake at the Sign of Peace, and... I am not sure... but...was that a tarantula tear that fell to the floor? Listen, we all need to be more accepting of each other...even if we are tarantulas.
It is that time of year again when I return to the States for a little R&R. There will be a Ruhl Family Reunion at Truman Lake. Before that I will be fishing in Alaska with my good friend Mark LaBarge. I shall return to PG on September 21st, a date that has threefold significance: It is Belize Independence Day; it is the Patronal Feast of my namesake, St. Matthew; it will mark my one year anniversary of having a cancer excised from my lip. So with all that....see you in September.