April 2010 Trip

April 2010 Group
Watching Over Me  


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Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras
'Changing Lives'
2010 Journey

Celebrating the 11th straight high school mission team into Honduras, Gehlen Catholic Schools hosted a send-off ceremony for 29 high school students and adults on Thursday, March 25th 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, ‘Watching Over Me…’ became the central focus of the entire ceremony. After a brief introduction to the program by Richard Seivert, director of Mission Honduras, Sara Roder, an 8th grade Gehlen student, sang a beautiful rendition of ‘O God, You Search Me,’ accompanied by Bev Evans.                                                                                                                           

Our theme 'Watching Over Me' in Spanish

Sara Roder sings as Bev Evans accompanies

A very special part of this year’s ceremony involved the recognition of Sister Joan Polak and Linda Reichle for all their work and effort in the mission program of Gehlen. They were presented with ‘The Cross of Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras.’ This was only the fourth  time in the history of the program that someone had been recognized with this honor.                                                                                                                                  

Sr. Juanita Polak receives the GCMH cross during the Send-Off Ceremony

Linda Reichle receives a hug after being given her GCMH cross

This year’s program featured another special presentation from Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras to our local Le Mars Rotary Club. Our local club, coupled with other Rotary clubs in the Midwest, joined with International Rotary in funding the water project that this team would work on in the village of La Florida. Father Kevin Richter and Carolyn Bickford presented the Rotary members who were present with a plaque of recognition.

For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Do all the good you can,
 To all the people you can,
In all the ways you can,
As long as ever you can.

Rotary members are recognized for their generous donation for multiple water projects in Honduras

After watching a shortened version of last year's PowerPoint production of the mission journey, Fr. Jerome Cosgrove from Bishop Heelan Schools spoke to the entire assembly about the importance of this year’s theme, ‘Watching Over Me...’ Fr. Cosgrove was on the mission team of 2009 and spoke from experience when he shared with everyone ‘that God does watch over all of us.’                                                                                                           

Fr. Cosgrove speaks during Send-Off Ceremony

Watching over us was such a meaningful theme for our trip.
As we celebrated the liturgy,
we lived the message in all that
we did during the time
we were there.

~ Fr. Jerome Cosgrove
Chaperone from Heelan

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. As the 28 team members formed a large circle in the center of the gym, six kindergarten students carried in the wooden cross and placed it in the middle of the circle, followed by senior and junior classmates who brought in the rest of the bags of donated items. At one point all team members ceremoniously carried bags to the cross in the center of the gym while the theme song ‘Watching Over Me…’ played in the background – Fr. Kevin Richter, President of Gehlen, then blessed all missioners and bags with Holy Water. The mission team overnighted in Omaha, Nebraska, on Thursday night March 26th and flew out early the next morning for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the start of this wonderful journey of ‘Watching Over Me.’

Kindergarten students carry cross

Missioners, family, & friends surround cross and bags during Send-Off

This year's mission team arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, right on schedule, Friday, March 26th. 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 65th trip into Honduras and the 55th representing Gehlen’s program. The team arrived without 10 of the 56 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 29 team members, 20 high school students and 9 adult chaperones, represented 4 different school systems and came from 3 different states. The chaperones were: Francis Seivert, Elkton, SD; Carolyn Bickford, Bruce Kellen, Tim DeLarm, and Elizabeth Rogers,  Le Mars, IA;  Fr. Jerome Cosgrove, Sioux City, IA; Sister Joan Polak, Omaha, NE; Linda Reichle, Alton, IA; and Pat Jones, Orange City, IA. The 20 high school students were: Cassie DeLarm, LeMars Community Schools; Kayla Frey, Sarah Liewer, Tony Tran, Emily Weber, and Miguel Lopez-Campos from Bishop Heelan Schools, Sioux City, IA; Katy Freidel and Liam Duffy from St. Thomas More Schools in Rapid City, SD; and Jordan Sitzmann, Cole Heissel, Drew Kellen, Rachel Koopman, Shaun Ryan, Sarah Jentz, Samantha Woerdehoff, Tera Langel, Leah Ruhland, Aaron Schlesser, Paige Ellensohn, and Sara Mayer, from Gehlen Catholic Schools,   Le Mars, IA.  

Missioners pose on church steps in Esquias, Honduras

Each missioner on all Gehlen Catholic mission trips is responsible for all their own costs within the program. To date the Gehlen program has placed 538 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. Three other mission programs have been created from this program - the Briar Cliff University program in Sioux City, IA, the Sisters of St. Francis, from Dubuque, IA, and the high school mission team from Springfield Catholic High in Springfield, MO, which is making their first trip into Honduras this spring. The Gehlen program, along with the Briar Cliff,  the Sister Water Project, Mission Honduras LeMars, and Rotary For Life Water Project, have completed 28 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 web site for the January medical trips. For more information on Kids Against Hunger please visit the Gehlen website at www.gehlencatholic.com and find the Kids Against Hunger program under ‘Ministries.’

Francis Seivert discusses the progress of the water tank

The people of Honduras taught me so much about the importance of having gratitude and appreciation for all that I have been blessed with in my life – and to never take anything for granted.

~ Leah Ruhland
Gehlen Senior

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 six 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 2009 when Francis Seivert, Carolyn Bickford, and Richard Seivert, traveled to Honduras to lay some initial groundwork.

Group passes bricks up the mountain

It was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go.

~ Sara Mayer
Gehlen Senior

This was an absolutely life changing experience. After returning from Honduras, I now appreciate what I have in my life much more. I hope to go back some day. If anyone ever has a chance to go on a mission trip anywhere in the world, I suggest you take it.

~ Liam Duffy
St. Thomas More Junior

Group digs trenches for water pipes

This year’s work project became a new water system in La Florida, high in the mountains, 1 hour and 30 minutes from Esquias. La Florida has always had surface water for all their needs. This project, when completed, would bring clean drinkable water to this small village of 39 families and 166 people. This sprawling project involved building a huge reservoir to capture water from a natural water source, constructing a brick and cement 5,000 gallon water tank 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 filling the tank with water. Once at the tank all water projects are chlorinated to provide clean drinkable water for all the people of the village. On different days throughout their 11 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 Saturday, the team celebrated with the people of La Florida. 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 La Florida. 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.

You make everything beautiful,
You make me complete.
Everything in my world
I lay at your feet...

~ lyrics from this year's theme song
'A Bird without Wings' by Celtic Thunder

Children of Esquias perform Stations of the Cross on Good Friday

Missioners ride the bus on a typical road to Esquias

Missioners presented gift bags of people of La Florida on last day

Along with the work project in La Florida this mission team got to experience many of the other facets of Gehlen Mission Honduras, Kids Against Hunger, and Mission Honduras LeMars. 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 healthcare for thousands of people in this area of Francisco Morazon was almost nonexistent. 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 and see poverty up close – a very emotional experience for all of them. While in Sulaco at the malnutrition center the student team voted to purchase new high chairs for the center using donated money right from the students. The students at Bishop Heelan in Sioux City had raised $325.00 to be carried by this team and used wherever it was most needed. Before the team even left the United States, the total monies for this project had risen to over $1100.00. The team also made a major decision to purchase immediate food aid for the Tolupan people of Montana de la Flor who are suffering terribly in an 8 month drought and have nothing to eat. That decision and money led to more than 2,500.00 other dollars being spent in emergency food aid to help the Tolupan – which came from a Kids Against Hunger LeMars food packing event in Churdan, IA. The high chairs for the malnutrition center and the emergency food aid for Montana de la Flor arrived at their destinations on April 7th.  Gehlen Kids Against Hunger coupled with Kids Against Hunger LeMars, sends food to the malnutrition center and Montana de la Flor each spring, but the 8 month drought has made the situation desperate for the people of that region. The infusion of basic food at this time will have a great impact on saving the lives of many.

Missioners visit the Malnutrition Center in Sulaco

Missioners hold children from the Malnutrition Center in Sulaco

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 again this year was Fr. Jerome Cosgrove, Bishop Heelan High School, Sioux City, IA. Fr. Cosgrove was making his third mission 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 La Florida 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 Tuesday of Holy Week, Fr. Cosgrove and the team celebrated Mass with the wonderful people of La Florida – Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Team members say it was a very special Mass.

Missioners & villagers celebrate outdoor mass in La Florida

Even in their poverty the Hondurans are always so generous
with all they have – and they give it so joyfully that
I sometimes feel selfish for having all the things that I do.
I have never met a more giving people.

~ Carolyn Bickford
Gehlen Chaperone

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 La Florida, to soccer matches and religious celebrations, our student team got a taste of what it is like to live with very little. From handwashing their own clothes and doing daily chores, to one-minute cold showers and sometimes bucketing water for toilets, to working in the daily heat of over 100 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.

Missioners and villagers of La Florida celebrate on the final day

Student missioners and La Florida children pose on final day

The Gehlen mission team returned home late Easter Sunday 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, ‘Watching Over Me…,’ was experienced each and every day the young people saw, worked, and interacted with the people of Honduras. Each missioner, touched by their 11 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 La Florida – 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 God is ‘Watching Over All of Us.’ God Bless Honduras. God Bless The Poor Of The World.

Missioners pose with La Florida villagers

This was a life changing event. It was a blessing for the students and chaperones to be able to participate in this mission. It certainly opened a few eyes on the difference between needs and wants. I think it would be great if all seniors were required to participate in a trip like this prior to graduation. We gained many new friends from the States and Honduras. I was very proud of everyone. I was fortunate to be able to share this with my daughter Cassie, something I know I will never forget.

~ Tim DeLarm
Chaperone, Le Mars

Two days after the Gehlen team returned to the United States a group of 14 high school students and adults left Fayetteville, Arkansas, airport, Tuesday, April 6th, destined for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to continue the water project in La Florida. The group from Springfield Catholic High School, in Springfield, Missouri, has been planning this trip along with the directors of the Gehlen program since early summer 2009. Staying in Honduras to help this new team carry out their mission were Francis Seivert, Sister Joan Polak, and Linda Reichle. Leading the team from Missouri is Merica Clinkenbeard, Spanish teacher at Springfield Catholic – who had been with the Gehlen group in 2009. On arriving in Esquias late afternoon Tuesday, April 6th, the Springfield girls found a letter in their dorm left by all the girls from the Gehlen program – welcoming them to Esquias, mission work, and general advice. According to their director, the letter had an immediate and profound impact on the girls from Springfield Catholic. May their journey bring them as much fulfillment as the Gehlen program did for our students.

Click above to browse the April 2010 Trip Photo Album...

 Click the hyperlink to watch a Flash Movie of this year's trip.


Each icon below will allow you to view a brief video.

Children at malnutrition center are excited about new shoes. A missioner helps a child at the malnutrition center try some new shoes. Missioners and villagers work together
Missioners and villagers dig trenches for water pipes. Hondurans mix cement at the water collection site. The men of La Florida work on the construction of the water tank.

                        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