April 2009 Trip

young child in El Junco


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Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras
‘Changing Lives’
2009 Journey


Celebrating the 10th straight high school mission team into Honduras, Gehlen Catholic Schools hosted a send-off ceremony on Friday, March 27th in the school gymnasium. This ceremony has become a wonderful expression of faith and tradition for the entire school and community. This year’s theme, ‘What Belongs To You’ became the central focus of the entire ceremony. After a brief introduction to the program the high school choir performed a beautiful rendition of ‘Ubi Caritas.’ A very special part of this year’s ceremony involved the recognition of Fr. James John Tigges, pastor at St. James Catholic Church in Le Mars. For all his work and effort in the mission program of Gehlen he was given ‘The Cross of Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras.’ This was only the third time in the history of the program that someone had been recognized with this honor. After watching a shortened version of last year’s PowerPoint production of the mission journey, Fr. Kevin Richter, pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Le Mars, spoke to the entire assembly about the importance of this year’s theme, ‘What Belongs To You.’ Fr. Richter was on the mission team of 2008, and spoke from experience when he shared with everyone ‘that all things belong to God.’ An emotional and very special part of the ceremony unfolded when all missioners were introduced and presented with their t-shirts, crosses, passion readings, and junta booklets by family members. Together all team members ceremoniously carried bags to the cross on one end of the gym while the theme song ‘What Belongs To You’ played in the background – Fr. Dan Greving then blessed all missioners and bags with Holy Water. The ceremony ended with a special memorial presentation in honor of Mary Ellen Frances Kellen from Adrian, Minnesota. She had been killed in a tragic car accident on January 9th. All memorial money donated in her name went directly to pay for the water project in El Junco, the small rural village this team worked in during this mission trip. The mission team overnighted in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sunday night March 29th and flew out early the next morning for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the start of this wonderful journey of ‘What Belongs To You.’


The classroom of faith takes on many spaces and sizes, many sounds and voices, a variety of faces, when you experience in action with the young and the old working together to make the message of Christ real and personal.
                    ~ Fr. Jerome Cosgrove

team receives blessing at send-off ceremony

Click photo to access more photos of the El Junco Dedication

In early June 2009, Richard Seivert, Carolyn Bickford, and Francis Seivert traveled to Honduras to oversee the construction and installation of the memorial cross, for Mary Ellen Kellen, in the village of El Junco. Click on the photo to the left for a look at the dedication ceremony.


This year’s mission team arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, right on schedule, Monday, March 30th. They were met at the airport by Francis Seivert, one of the team leaders, who had spent the previous week in Honduras making final preparations for this mission. This was his 60th trip into Honduras and the 54th representing Gehlen’s program. The team arrived without 14 of the 62 flight bags. It would be another two days before the team had all the supplies and personal belongs in those late to arrive bags. Team members are encouraged to live simply and humbly while in Honduras so the absence of a few bags made little difference.


These 32 team members, 22 high school students and 10 adult chaperones, represented 8 different school systems and came from 5 different states. They were: Francis Seivert, Elkton, SD; Carolyn Bickford and Carol Kessenich, Le Mars, IA;  Fr. Jerome Cosgrove, Sioux City, IA; Lynnette Cronk and Courtney Cronk, Royal, IA; Dave Klein and Keith Klein, Hospers, IA; Sister Joan Polak, Omaha, NE; Linda Reichle, Alton, IA; Mark Koedam, Hartley, IA; Merica Clinkenbeard, Springfield, MO; Mary Loosbrock, Lismore, MN; Melissa Kellen, Michael Henrich, Linden Shoup, Travis Sitzmann, Emily Tentinger, Emily Hutchins, Nicole Schmitz, Christie Duckwitz, Megan Hoffman, Amanda Roder, Austin Sitzmann, Jacquie Kessenich, and Jordan Sitzmann, Le Mars, IA; Danielle Rahm, Beth Kollasch, and Meghan Mayer, Algona, IA; Heidi Chronowski, Monticello, IA; and Nathan Ruhland and Christopher Loutsch, Remsen, IA.


Mission Team poses for a group photo near the end of their mission trip

Two weeks in Honduras is not long enough to fully understand the daily burden the people carry, but it is long enough to find my passion of helping make their extremely laborious lives a bit easier. However, it is their simple needs and wants that make me reflect on my own life's priorities and of God's amazing creation.
                                                         ~ Linda Reichle


Each missioner on all Gehlen Catholic mission trips is responsible for all his/her own costs within the program. To date the Gehlen program, in part or full, has placed 493 missioners on the ground in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Gehlen sponsors two trips each year; a medical team in January and a student team during the Easter season. Two other mission programs have been created from this program - the Briar Cliff University program in Sioux City, Iowa, and the Sister Water Project, the Sisters of St. Francis, from Dubuque, Iowa. The Gehlen program, along with the Briar Cliff,  the Sister Water Project, Mission Honduras LeMars, and Rotary For Life Water Project, have completed 26 water projects to date. Clean drinkable water, Kids Against Hunger food, and professional medical care, remain the major goals of the Gehlen Catholic program. For more information on the medical program please visit this same website for the January medical trips. For more information on Kids Against Hunger please visit the Gehlen website at www.gehlencatholic.com or www.kidsagainsthungerlemars.com


team digs trenches for water pipes

The view was breathtaking. It really made me look at life in a whole new perspective. I never knew how important life is until I went on this trip.
        ~ Nathan Ruhland


After being met at the airport in Tegucigalpa, the team made a three and a half hour bus ride to the small village of Esquias, Honduras. Esquias is a small colonial village straight north of Tegucigalpa just inside the district of Comayagua. The previous five mission teams into Honduras have called Esquias their home while in the country; prior to Esquias the teams had stayed in El Guante. Planning for this mission journey began in earnest in early summer 2008 when Francis Seivert and Paul Gengler, traveled to Honduras to lay some initial groundwork.


This year’s work project became a water project in El Junco, high in the mountains, 1 hour and 30 minutes from Esquias. El Junco has always had surface water for all their needs. This project, when completed, would bring clean drinkable water to this small village of 58 homes and 425 people. The project involved building a huge reservoir to capture water from a natural water source, placing two 1200 gallon tanks atop a hillside, the purchase of new gas powered pumps, digging trenches from the tanks to each home in the village, burying the pipes throughout the village, running a water line with a shut off valve to each home, hooking up the pumps to the tanks, and the attempt to fill the tank with water. Once at the tank all water projects are chlorinated to provide clean drinkable water for the village. On different days throughout their 12 day mission journey to Honduras this team of high school students went about the task of this water system. On their last day in the village, Holy Thursday, the team celebrated with the people of El Junco. Team members and village representatives spoke about the effort and how important it was to the people. The Gehlen team then passed out a number of the items donated from the States and carried to Honduras. From toothpaste to shoes they handed gifts of friendship to the people of El Junco. Collectively they also dedicated the new water system to the memory of Mary Ellen Frances Kellen. The village presented a beautiful plaque to Gehlen Catholic School to commemorate the construction. It was an amazing and emotional experience for the high school students to say farewell to the people of this village. The Gehlen program has three main goals for each mission journey into Honduras: to do a work project in a poor rural village, to immerse themselves in Easter Week religious celebrations, and to experience the poverty that grips so much of Honduras and the world.


building new water collection dam

The mission trip was way more than I could have ever hoped for. It really made me think about all the things that I took for granted, and I know that I will never be the same ever again. The people of Honduras opened my eyes and touched my heart forever.
                                           ~ Amanda Roder


Mission Team members & Hondurans carry rocks for the dam


Along with the work project in El Junco this mission team got to experience many of the other facets of the Gehlen and Mission Honduras LeMars program. One morning the team got a chance to stop in El Guante, Honduras, the site of Clinica Asistencial La Caridad. La Caridad is a medical clinic constructed by donations through the Gehlen program and Mission Honduras LeMars, and both programs continue to support the clinic in various ways. Prior to this clinic, health care for thousands of people in this area of Francisco Morazon was almost nonexistent. While in El Guante, the team also visited the Riecken Foundation Library that both the Gehlen and Mission Honduras LeMars programs had a small hand in finishing. On another day the Gehlen mission team had the opportunity to travel to Sulaco, Honduras, just inside the Yoro District. In Sulaco the team got the opportunity to visit the malnutrition center, the sewing school for girls, and the wood carving school for boys. All three have been supported in various ways throughout the years by the Gehlen and Mission Honduras LeMars programs. Gehlen Kids Against Hunger even sends food to the malnutrition center each spring.  Sister Joan Polak, team member, gave the students the full tour of the three centers. Sister Joan had spent 11 years in Honduras as a missionary and worked closely with all three – it was like going home for Sister Joan.


The poor are no longer invisible.
I have seen it,
I have felt it,
I have lived with it,
I will NEVER forget it.

~ Jordan Sitzmann

holding the children at the malnutrition center

El Junco villagers & team members attend Holy Thursday liturgy



This mission team also fulfilled another of the program goals through the religious celebrations held during this very holy time in the Catholic Church. To experience Easter in the Spanish speaking culture of Honduras is very special.  A wonderful addition to the mission team this year was Fr. Jerome Cosgrove, Bishop Heelan High School, Sioux City, Iowa. Fr. Cosgrove was making his second visit to Honduras and immediately jumped headlong into all the activities of the student trip.  He worked on the water project, side by side with the students in the village of El Junco and said Mass on their return some nights. Fr. Cosgrove and all team members participated in all the Holy Week celebrations while in Honduras. On some occasions he concelebrated with Fr. Inez Bonilla, pastor of the Church of Esquipulas in Esquias. A couple of highlights for Fr. Cosgrove and the entire team were those times when he celebrated Mass in the courtyard of the compound where the team stays. On Holy Thursday, their last day in El Junco, Fr. Cosgrove and the team celebrated Mass with the wonderful people of El Junco – Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Team members say it was a very special Mass.


women of El Junco do their daily laundry at the water source area

The poor can teach you many things, but the most important is how to love.
                              ~ Michael Henrich

  young children watch water project progress


While in Honduras our high school students were encouraged to immerse themselves in the culture and to interact with students their age.  From working daily in El Junco, to soccer matches and religious celebrations, our student team got a taste of what it is like to live with very little. From hand washing their own clothes and doing daily chores, to one-minute cold showers and sometimes bucketing water for toilets, to working in the daily heat over 90 degrees, to long rough rides through the mountains each day, our students and chaperones experienced the normal life of a person in Honduras. The team worked hard at using Spanish, and many of the students said they improved greatly. This team made many new friends during their twelve day mission trip. Many did not want to leave. The Gehlen student program over the years has developed a custom of returning home with only the clothes on their back. Each year the individual team members begin sorting through all their personal items and on the last day stacking everything in their living quarters. These items will be taken by the ladies and men of the village, washed, and distributed among the most needy.


We, the peoples of two different nations, were working together, laughing together, and praying together. Even though we didn't speak the same native tongue, we were able to speak of our concern and friendship through our actions.
                                                       ~ Lynn Cronk

Angel, water project coordinator, reads the thank you plaque for the El Junco water project

The Gehlen mission team returned home late Good Friday night, tired but full of the energy of the wonderful Honduran people they met, worked with, and lived with. The theme of this year’s journey, ‘What Belongs To You,’ was experienced each and every day the young people saw, worked, and interacted with the people of Honduras. Each missioner, touched by their 12 days in Honduras was changed – many forever. Each missioner encourages others around the world to get involved in helping those less fortunate. To a person, each member of this year’s team was sad to leave the wonderful people of Honduras, the wonderful people of El Junco – we will never forget you and we will pray for you. We hope we came into your lives – you certainly did into ours, never forgetting that everything we are, everything we did, every person we met, ‘Belongs To God.’ God Bless Honduras. God Bless the Poor of the World.

Click above to browse the April 2009 Trip Photo Album...


Click this link to watch a movie of the April 2009 trip.



                        Gehlen Catholic School          Phone: 712-546-4181 or 712-540-3062
709 Plymouth St. NE           Fax: 712-546-9384    
                                                              Le Mars, IA 51031             E-mail:  or