March 2008 Trip

Fr. Kevin Richter holds child from Sulaco Malnutrition Center
In Grace and Gratitude  


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Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras

Changing Lives


Student Journey


Following a wonderful afternoon send-off ceremony in the Gehlen gymnasium on Wednesday, March 12th, 31 high school students and 6 adult chaperones headed to Omaha, Nebraska, for a short overnight stay before heading to Honduras. After a short night and very early morning the team was on their way to Esquias, Honduras, by 5:30 A.M., Thursday, March 13th. Joining them in Honduras, and making final preparations for the team's arrival, was Francis Seivert, team leader, who had been in Honduras for the previous week. The team arrived in Honduras as scheduled but missing 23 of the 62 flight bags packed with personal and donated items. Those team members missing their personal belongings found ways to adjust to being without – the whole team pulled together in sharing all necessary items – the bags finally arrived two and a half days later. On going into Honduras each team member is allowed only one half of one flight bag for all their personal belongings. They are encouraged to live simply and humbly while in Honduras.

student team at send-off  

The strength of a person is to find out the way God is going, and going that way.

~ Henry Ward Beecher

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

          ~ Henry David Thoreau


bags in the sign of the cross at send-off service

The theme of this year's mission ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ became a reality for the team as soon as they landed on Honduran soil.  On their airport arrival in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the entire team had the pleasure of meeting Illich Yermian Vasquez Rivera, his parents, and other family members from Tegucigalpa. Illich is a two-year-old boy suffering from Trichothiodystrophy (TTD), a rare genetic disorder.  Illich had been at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, last fall for diagnosis and treatment. Illich had been sponsored by Mission Honduras LeMars and when in the United States was not able to come to Le Mars for a visit. This was a special moment for the Gehlen team because all these students were fully aware of this little boy and all the things he had gone through and the great effort to save his life. 

A person's world   is only as big as their heart.

                   ~ Tanya A. Moore


students pose with Illich at the airport

the team digs through the coffee fields on the mountains  

Remember that the faith that moves mountains always carries a pick.

This was the ‘ninth’ straight high school trip into the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, and overall the 22nd mission trip sponsored by Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras. To date the program has placed 444 missioners into Honduras. Each year the program assists the Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa, team and their mission program. The Gehlen program takes a medical brigade in January of each year to bring health care to some of the most remote places in Honduras, and the high school team each year during the Easter Season. The Gehlen program was founded following the great destruction in Honduras caused by hurricane Mitch in late October and early November, 1998. Richard Seivert, director of the program stated, “Our high school team is the flagship of our entire program. It became the source of all the other things we do in Honduras. It is wonderful to see so many young people so involved in helping those less fortunate.” 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.

view of poverty in La Cañada


God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

                           ~ St Augustine

One must care about a world one will never see.

              ~ Bertrand Russell


women wash clothes in old water source

This year's team was led by Francis Seivert, Elkton, SD; Carolyn Bickford, Father Kevin Richter, Mary Hartman, Mike Jaminet, all from Le Mars, IA; Linda Reichle, Alton, IA; and Sister Joan Polak, a Notre Dame Sister from Omaha, Nebraska. The 25 high school students represented four high schools from northwest Iowa. They were Caitlin Ascherl and Jessica Fischer from Spalding Catholic High in Granville, IA, Morgan Rolfes from Le Mars Community High, Stephanie Kollasch from Bishop Garrigan High in Algona, and the remaining 21 from Gehlen. They were Cayla Price, Shahryar Naqvi, Kelsi Crawford, Erin Augustine, Tiffany Sitzmann, Kelsey Sitzmann, Adrienne Loutsch, Amanda Jaminet, Kevin Puhl, Craig Schlesser, Austin Langel, Robert Swalve, Ellen Sitzmann, Ashley Langel, Katie Freking, Sarah Gengler, Kevin Shea, Jeremy Rhodes, Kelsi Kellen, Chad Macek, and Victoria Vaske. This year's team of 25 students were all seniors at their respective schools and had been in preparation for this journey since late August 2007. Each missioner on all Gehlen mission trips is responsible for all the program costs.


2008 Team poses on the church steps


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 four 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 2007 when the program director Richard Seivert, and team leader Francis Seivert, traveled to Honduras to lay some initial groundwork.


This year's work project became a water project in La Cañada, high in the mountains 30 minutes from Esquias. La Canada has always had surface water for all their needs. This project, when completed, would bring clean drinkable water to this small village of 16 homes and 105 people. The project involved digging a well, placing two 600 gallon tanks atop a hillside, the purchase of a new gas-powered pump, digging trenches from the well to the tank and from the tank 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 pump to the well, 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 Saturday, the team celebrated with the people of La Cañada. 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 Cañada. It was an amazing and emotional experience for the high school students to say farewell to the people of this village.

carrying pipes to connect the well to the water tanks


The best use of life    is to spend it for something that  outlasts life.

             ~ William James

A person's life is limited, but serving people is limitless.

            ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Students try the water spigot at school

Along with the work project in La Cañada 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. David Castro, clinic administrator, gave the team a full tour of the clinic. 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.

If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.

                           ~ Mahatma Gandhi

  Sr. Juanita holds child in the Sulaco Malnutrition Center
Clinic in El Guante  

Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself.

              ~ Jean Anouilh

 This mission team also fulfilled another of the program goals through all 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. Kevin Richter, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Le Mars, IA. Fr. Kevin was making his first 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 La Cañada and said Mass on their return each night. Fr. Kevin and all team members participated in all the Holy Week celebrations; Holy Thursday,  the Good Friday ‘Way of the Cross’ through the village as well as the procession of ‘the sorrowful women’ Friday night,  the Easter Vigil Mass, and culminating in the 5 a.m. Easter sunrise procession and Mass in the parish church of Esquias. On some occasions he concelebrated with Fr. Inez Bonilla, pastor of the Church of Esquipulas in Esquias.

Stations of the Cross on Good Friday

Faith is like electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light.

Prayer is ... listening to God in the depths of our hearts.

                            ~ Mother Teresa

Easter Vigil Mass in Esquias

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 Cañada, 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, 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 don't know who we are until we see what we can do.

                  ~ Martha Grimes

  Students distribute gifts to the villagers of La Cañada
Typical Honduran way to travel  

Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.

                 ~ Greg Anderson

The Gehlen mission team returned home late Easter Monday night. The theme of this year's journey, ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ 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. At their send-off ceremony the day before leaving for Honduras, Richard Seivert, defined the theme ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ as “the influence or spirit of God operating in men and women, and the thankfulness experienced by all of those who are given such a wonderful opportunity.” Each missioner was sad to leave the wonderful people of Honduras – we will never forget you and we will pray for you. We hope we came into your lives ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ – you certainly did into ours. God Bless Honduras. God Bless The Poor Of The World.

Thank You for life.

Thank You for everything!

Click above to browse the March 2008 Trip Photo Album...


Click here to watch a Flash Movie of the March 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