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Fourth Update from Cuba

Service and Study Update 23 de Mayo

Grace and peace be with you in the Risen Christ!   Feliz Pascua!

Greetings from Havana!  It’s Monday as I begin my last week in Cuba!

18 de Mayo – El Miercoles

I got up early…4:45 A.M. to run this morning…and got down to the courtyard…and waited…and waited…with the house dog named Suki…for 45 minutes then I went back to my room.  I went down for breakfast and discovered the night watchman had not shown up the evening before and because water is distributed during the night…Gilberto had to get up in the middle of the night to turn on the pump to fill the cisterns on the property.  While Wednesday is usually a free day for the priests here at La Merced…it was a work day for me.  I was going to the Episcopal Cathedral in the afternoon to visit a House Church Community for a Worship Service in the afternoon.

After Breakfast, Gilberto asked if I was interested in visiting a Hospital for Lepers operated by the Daughters of Charity, an order founded by Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac in 1633.  In Spanish, they are known as Las Hijas de la Caridad.  Throughout their history as a religious community, the particular charism has to take on the works of charity which no one else wants.  They have operated for the government of Cuba, in its various forms, this Hospice for Lepers for 158 years.  It is in a small village about 30 kilometers south of Habana called Le Rincon.  So we headed out of Habana for Le Rincon.  There were promises of rain in the air.  May is usually the beginning of the raining season in Cuba but it has not rained in Cuba for a while…and Cuba needs rain!  There is a templo…a church dedicated to San Lazaro…Lazarus…in English at Le Rincon dedicated to the patronage of San Lazaro..  As you may recall, there are two persons called Lazarus in the gospels, one in the Gospel of Luke…chapter 16 found in a parable told by Jesus and the other in the Gospel of John, Chapters 11 & 12…who is the brother of Martha and Mary whom Jesus raises from the dead.  The building has a main altar, dedicated to Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, dressed in what looks like Bishop’s vestments.  However, off to the left of the main altar is another altar…dedicated to Lazarus of the parable complete with dogs…that lick his wounds in life.  His feast is on the 17th of December and pilgrims come annually on that with prayers and petitions for healing.  The work of the Daughters of Charity is so important.  There are about 130 patients in the hospital.  Just a few have Hanson’s disease but others are hospitalized with various kinds of skin diseases and ulcers.  The facility is divided into various buildings housing male and female patients in large ward like rooms…20 – 30 beds in a ward.  What a work of charity!

In the afternoon, I headed to the Episcopal Cathedral about 1 30.  I was going with the Dean, Jose Angel, to a House Church organized by a woman named Veronica.  They meet weekly in her home and once a month, the dean comes and celebrates a Service of Holy Communion with them.  I visited with Luise…the Dean’s youngest son, who will celebrate his 19th birthday tomorrow, 19 de Mayo.  He just finished High School and is preparing for mandatory military service.  Cuba requires every male to give two years of service just after high school.  You can shorten that period to one year by taking an exam for university.  If you pass the exam, then you are able to begin your university studies…but the area of study is often suggested by the state to the student.

We left for Veronica’s apartment about 3 p.m.  We headed west of the City of Habana about 20 minutes.  It was hot and sticky and humid.  About 10 people gathered for the service which began about 4 p.m.  There were four elderly women, an elderly couple, a young woman with her son, Veronica’s daughter, the Dean, the Cathedral Sacristan and me.  There was a kind of conversation on the gospel text and then communion.  We had café, macaroni salad and punch.  Then we made our back to the cathedral.  We arrived about 6:30 pm.  The Dean and I had some good conversation about the challenges and opportunities for relationships between dioceses and congregations.  We gathered for dinner about 7 p.m.  I planned on taking La guagua back to La Merced and it was getting late.  So the Dean walked me to the bus stop.  The ride to La Merced was a bit longer from Vedado and it was the first time I had been on the bus at night time…with the lights on.  I got back to La Merced about 8:45 p.m.  I went to my room and got ready for bed because we were running at 5 a.m.

19 de Mayo – El Jueves

The 19th of May is an important date in Cuban History.  Jose Marti, known as the Apostle of Independence in Cuba, was killed in battle on this day in 1895.  A poet, a patriot, an important thinker and figure who articulated the need for Cuban independence from Spain, has become an icon for most Cubans.  He holds a place of esteem in Cuban hearts just as Washington and Lincoln hold a place of esteem in our hearts!

I got up early…and ran.  It was somewhat breezy today but still hot and humid.  I spent the morning getting ready for class.  That afternoon, Idania’ grandson, Juan Carlos, was at the apartment.  We spent a lot of time discussing life in Cuba and in the United States.  He is completing a degree…a license in Engineering.  He hopes to work in the food industry in Cuba.  He asked about music…The Beatles, Grand Funk, Leonard Skynner.  After our conversation, I spent the afternoon working on Spanish Prepositions…this is NOT an easy task because there are fewer prepositions in Spanish than in English and they can mean a number of things depending upon the rest of the sentence.  AY!  Esta muy dificil!  Very difficult!

I got back to La Merced…showered, had dinner and watched a bit of television.  Gilberto is leaving on Monday to give an 8 day retreat.  I wanted to find an evening when we could go out for a nice dinner.  Thursday was it.  He had a Lector Training Workshop until 8 p.m.  We went to a restaurant made famous by a movie entitled Fresca y Chocolate…a Cuban film that won some awards.  It is a wonderful place in Centro Habana.  I had pork stuffed with plums and Gilbert had grilled tuna.  Got back to La Merced about 10 p.m. and went to my room to read and go to sleep!

20 de Mayo – El Viernes

The 20th of May is also an important day in the history of Cuba.  In 1902, on this day, Cuba was established as a Republic with the support and assistance of the United States.  So for some Cubans, this is also an important anniversary.   After breakfast and Morning Prayer, I headed to my room to work on my tarea…more prepositions.  About 9:30, Gilberto asked if I wanted to go to the New Diocesan Seminary.  There is a community of American Sisters who staff the seminary.  So, we made our way to the seminary…built in the country about 15 kilometers from Habana.  What a beautiful facility!  I visited with the sisters for some time and a seminarian gave me a tour.  WOW!  Que Bonita!  We made our way back to La Merced.  I worked on homework before lunch.  Class went well…more work on verbs tenses…prepositions…sentences.  I got back to Habana Vieja and thought I would walk to the Edificio of the Artisans to see if I could buy some short sleeved t-shirts.  I have found that it is easier to fit in on La quaqua when I dress more casually.  I walked into the Mercado only to be told it was closed…and would open on Sabado at 10 a.m.  It was hot, I was hot.  I got ready for dinner…went to dinner and then watched a bit of T.V.  Then I went to my room, and thought I would read for a while.  I was so tired, I fell asleep reading and woke up at some point…turned off the light and went back to sleep!

21 de Mayo – El Sabado

Got up before 6 a.m. and ran with Gilbert.  After Morning Prayer and breakfast, we left La Merced to go shopping for lunch.  As a sign of gratitude, I offered to cook lunch for the community today…my signature dish…Fettucine Alfredo con Pollo…with chicken.  However, finding all the usual ingredients will be a challenge here so I may need to improvise.  We have eggs, butter…but no parmesan cheese, no fettucine…no whipping cream or half and half to speak of…just powdered milk.  So after some stops at various markets, Gilbert dropped me back at La Merced to begin lunch.  One of the cooks, Mercedes was going to help me around the kitchen.  She is a kind woman…and so gracious.  She helped me around the challenges of the kitchen and by 12:45…lunch was ready…complete with some white wine believe it or not!

After lunch and clean up, I went looking for some short sleeved t-shirts and with the help of Ricardo, one of the seminarians, I was able to find some.  I wanted to buy some new guitar strings for the Dean’s guitar at the cathedral but after stopping in several music stores, I could not find any guitar strings.  On one of my walks back to La Merced, I passed an amphitheatre that advertised the musical “CATS”, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber.  So, I thought it might be nice to find out what the specifics were so we walked there.  The musical is at 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday evenings only.  Tickets for tourists like me are $ 5 pesos.  I purchased two tickets and was told they were good for either performance.  We got back to La Merced, I did some more reading and took a nap.  Dinner was at 7 p.m. and Gilberto got back from the Saturday evening mass at La Inmaculada about 7:15.  I told him about CATS and we decided to go that night.  We left La Merced about 8:30 p.m.  The musical began at 9 p.m.  It was wonderful!  The music and singing was digitalized…but the dancing and choreography were wonderful.  CATS in Cuba for the first time!  It was over about 10:20 p.m. and we made our way back to La Merced.

22 de Mayo – El Domingo

Today is my last Sunday at the Cathedral.  It has been quite interesting to experience the use of the Book of Common Prayer in another culture.  Today, there was an adult to be baptized.  So, I assisted the Dean and former Dean in the service.  The community is pretty constant…but it was wonderful to be present for the baptism of an adult into the Life of Faith at the Catedral!  The Cathedral Chapter met after the service so I made my way to the Dean’s residence and visited with Lucretia and Luise.  I watched a bit of Cuban Television as well.  We ate a simple lunch about 1 p.m. then Jose Angel, Jairo and Pepito arrived after the Chapter Meeting.  We visited around the table as they ate.  I took a bit of a siesta after some engaging conversation.  We left for Bacuranao at about 4 p.m.  There were signs and sounds of rain in the air as we drove.  There was a baptism at the Service as well…a young boy.  I proclaimed the Gospel, assisted with the baptism and celebrated the Eucharist.  I was able to take a picture of the family and the entire community at San Juan Evangelista.  I hope to post the pictures when I return to the states.  I got back to La Merced about 6:40 p.m.  I cleaned up…had a bit of dinner then went with Gilberto to watch Palmas y Canas…at Jesus and Miralys’ home.  Gilbert leaves tomorrow for retreat and that is going to be a sad day for me. I am also missing Dana, our children, the people of St. Luke’s…my comunidad…

I remain grateful for this opportunity…for this time.  Know that you remain in my prayer.

Easter blessings,

Doug

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Robin
    May 28, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Thank you for your vigilance in blogging for us. We anxiously await your return!

  2. Pete Wirth
    May 26, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Doug,
    Great blog entries.
    Sounds as if you are being kept busy and in shape.
    Everybody is looking forward to your return.
    Enjoyed Christina’s vist (Jace’s also).
    Dad

  3. Julia Phyliky
    May 26, 2011 at 1:24 am

    We miss you too, Doug and are looking forward to your safe return. I think that you are probably going to be given alot of short sleeve shirts in the future so you’ll be prepared for your next trip.
    All kidding aside you truely have been blessed to have met the people you have and to have been able to share the faith. We are all looking forward to hearing more of your stories.

    With my prayers,

    Julie

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