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Interesting tidbits

I started writing this a few days ago but didn't have time to finish it until now.

Here at the convent, the table is always set for guests as well as the sisters. Above is a picture of the table as it looks all the time.

There are settings for each sister, there's settings for those who may come join us, expected or not. Always ready for guests.

Below is the setting where I sit. The plates and cups are turned upside down to prevent possible insects from flying in. The utensils are folded in a cloth napkin.

Here's a video of how they fold the utensils into the napkin. Thank you Sister for letting me video tape you. 👍🏼😊 She had just said something funny but I was not fast enough to catch her. Then she got serious on me until the end. These sisters are super fun to be with. I will miss them dearly.

There is a rhythm to the day when living in a convent. Where there are larger congregations, it seems to be more structured and less flexible. It makes sense, in order to prevent confusion and keep things running smoothly.

For example: the day starts with prayer. It's usually early. Most convents I have visited, Morning Prayer is at 6:30 a.m. followed by Mass. Sometimes Mass is not as available or accessible as others, depending on location and availability of priests.

Here at Nazareth, morning prayer is generally at 5:45 a.m.

Below is a clip from Morning Prayer singing.

After Morning Prayer, we drive into Punta Gorda for 6:30 a.m. daily Mass

It's a public Mass and there have been approximately 20 to 30 people in daily attendance. That's pretty good for daily mass and being so early. Back home at our local parish it's much less, unfortunately, because going to daily mass is amazing. Sunday Mass is amazing too when you understand what is going on, it comes to life. As Scott Hahn teaches, "It's Heaven on earth".

St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda.

After mass there are chores. Depending on the convent, that can vary. At some convents the sisters rotate responsibilities.

At this convent there are 3 sisters. Generally, Sr Gabriella starts breakfast while the other sisters tend to other chores. Depending on the day, the chores vary.

On weekdays there are workers that take care of the chicken coop duties in the morning. On weekends Sr Ester and Sr Catarina do the chicken coop chores.

Sr Ester and Sr Catarina do the dog chores. There are 5 dogs to tend to. They move the dogs to different places where they are tied. They have a routine. At night some of the dogs are let loose. If anyone steps on the grounds, be ware! The most aggressive dogs had to be tied before I could leave the Novitiate.

After morning chores, we have breakfast. After breakfast, more things to do. We all wash our own plates, cups, etc. and place them back on our seating spot.

During the week Amalia who works in the kitchen, cooks lunch, and takes care of washing all the pots and pans. During the weekend we all pitch in most of the time.

We sweep and mop the church, etc. There are several buildings to maintain. Cleaning of the convent (upstairs where 2 of the sisters live), the dining area, the kitchen, Novitiate, where one sister and guests like me stay, and laundry room, is done mostly on Saturdays. That can change depending on other things going on.

Note: Not all guests stay in the Novitiate. Most guests stay in the Retreat Center. There are pictures of that facility in previous blogs.

The activities for the day vary. There are a few things that are set, like Sr Gabriella's Wednesday, 2 p.m. women's group. These women are mostly widows and home-bound. The women who come do not have transportation so the other two sisters take turns picking them up and bringing them. Usually it takes 2 trips. Then they take them home after the sessions. Who does it, depends on what other things they are doing at the time.

Besides daily chores there's, visiting the home-bound, (in villages and Punta Gorda), running errands into Punta Gorda, for example buying food for the convent or as needed for the Retreat Center guests.

There are many other things the Sisters do in the community and here at the convent. They also have food they give to those who come to ask. I see people coming and going most days. They usually come on bicycles, or small dirt bikes, sometimes walking.

The dogs are great watch dogs. We know as soon as someone comes onto the grounds, from when they are at the entrance and as they come up the long driveway. The dogs are tied during the day with the exception of the one who is friendly. He has a mean bark when he is tied. He is usually tied right outside my window. He's my guard dog, my hero. (Info in previous blog of how he protected me.)

The sisters are very good at managing all the things they need to do. Sometimes it's a juggling act, especially when unexpected things show up. I pitch in and help wherever I can. They have been wonderful about including me in some of the many things they do, like visiting home-bound, women's group, daily chores, and other activities.

Sometimes they catch themselves calling me "Sister" too. 😊 We all get a chuckle out of that one.

We all do our own laundry and clean our rooms, floors, etc. The building I am in is called the Novitiate. It's where the new sisters coming in, stay and study. There's a little library for training and learning.

There is also daily Evening Prayer, usually right before dinner. By then the workers are gone for the day.

Sisters take turns preparing a light dinner, or we all help. We all help clean up the kitchen.

After dinner, there's tending to the chickens and the dogs.

Novitiate building at Nazareth.

It takes an average of 10 years to go through all the steps and training to become a fully Professed Sister. It's almost as long to become a priest.

On average it takes 7 to 8 years of training to become a priest. And both are life long commitments.

Maybe the sacrament of marriage could use a little more training, you think?

There are priests that join religious orders and there are priests that are Diocesan Priests. I think the only Religious Order where they are all priests are the Jesuits. With a few exceptions. There are a couple of "brothers" who live with the Jesuits. These are men who are part of the Jesuit Order but are not ordained priests. But I'm not the expert. There's probably lots more than I am aware of.

Back to Belize...

The Pallottine sisters first settled in Nazareth in 1931. Here's a link to some interesting history of the buildings

The grounds are beautiful and well kept. There are two men who work on the grounds during the weekdays. I've mentioned Miguel, the other one is Victor. There are fruit trees, many different kinds, there are vegetables, lot's of flowers, many different kinds of trees.

Driveway to the convent grounds.

Most of the property is forest/bush or undeveloped. It seems that they are always working at developing more and more. The bush is thick so it takes a lot of work to clear out the brush. Coconut trees seem to grow wild. They are all over random places on the property.

There are several kinds of palm trees. I never knew there were so many varieties.

Fruit trees grow wild too. Many Mango trees, Star Apple, plums, many fruits I've never seen before.


Sister eating a juicy Star Apple from the tree. They are very juicy.

As in many places, getting new vocations is a struggle. I think part of the problem is that the life of being a sister in a convent is not very well known. Most people have no idea what it's like to live in a convent. It's not like I used to think it was.

I am no expert, but I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit several different convents, and live for a short period in three of them, in three different countries.

I was blessed with the opportunity to visit convents in 13 states in the United States in 1999. Some of them I stayed 3 days, some 2 weeks.

The sisters that are committed to doing God's work are the happiest people I know.

These sisters in Nazareth, Belize, are hard workers and love what they do. The people really get excited to see them and they all greet them and most know them.

We stopped by to visit a man, probably in his 30's, who had suffered a stroke recently. We stopped unexpectedly. Sr Ester had heard that he was back home so we stopped on our way back from giving Communion to home-bound people.

When we were walking towards the house, they called for him in a small building next door. He came out on a wheel chair. He was smiling and so excited to see Sr Ester. He couldn't talk or walk. He can't move one arm and leg. Sister encouraged him to get therapy to try to regain his speech and possibly walk. He tried saying something but no one could understand what he was trying to say.

It was very evident that he was very elated that Sister had stopped by to see him. We prayed with him and I gave him one of the blessed Miraculous metals that I brought with me. He was very happy and Sister told him she would be back to check on him.

That's just one example. We also stopped to visit a man who's leg had been amputated because of blood clots. He says that he thinks it's because of the covid vaccines they were made to take.

I didn't take pictures. Out of respect. I imagine if I was here longer and got to know them better I might ask them if it would be OK to take a picture. But... it didn't seem right at the time.

More on the convent...

Here's a short video from the porch surrounding the Novitiate.

Below is a short video of the view from the back of the church, from the church main doors, facing south.

The sounds of the birds is constant around here. Even though we are so close to the forest, I didn't see any wild animals. Not sure if they stay away because of the dogs or if they just have no need to come out of the forest.


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