St. Mary’s Costa Rica Mission Trip
A typical indigenous, Cabecar house
In May a group of 18 students and 2 campus ministers, Clotilde Pichon and Madeline Hill, went for 10 days in Costa Rica to serve with St. Bryce Missions in Grano de Oro, a small village in the Chirripo Mountain range in the Central Valley. During the mission trip the students witnessed and shared their faith through home visits and activities.
Grano de Oro is located at the edge of the biggest indigenous reserve for the Cabecars in Costa Rica, and has a small Catholic church with two missionary priests recently stationed there. Their missionary territory is the whole reserve, a vast territory of mountains covered by rain forest without road to cross it, and where the most common way of transportation is on foot or horse back through paths in the forest. The Cabecars speak their own language (although some know Spanish), have their own customs and culture, and practice their own religion. Most indigenous have never heard about Christ and those who are Christians have a very basic knowledge of the faith. It was really eye-opening to learn about a culture that has remained the same for hundreds of years.
The St. Mary’s mission team helped the priests in their mission work. We ministered to the people of Grano de Oro and an indigenous community, El Quetzal. In small groups we visited their homes, sharing the Gospel with them, hearing their stories, and praying with and for them. We also put on a program at the local church where we provided a meal, activities for children with games and songs, played dramas based on the Gospels, shared testimonies and talked about the importance of prayer and community.One of the most powerful experiences of the trip was the visit of an indigenous community (consisting of two houses!) that we reached after a hike of more than 2 hours through muddy paths in the mountainous rainforest led by the two priests. The hike was intense, we all struggled and fell several times and by the end, were caked in mud. The paths are used by the indigenous, some carrying heavy loads to Grano de Oro, sometimes pregnant women with small children. It really allowed us to enter into solidarity with the Cabecars and pray deeply for them as we experienced more of their day to day life, and also with the missionary priests, who have 42 such “communities” to visit every month or two, as the rain permits it. Talk about going to the fringes of society as Pope Francis has challenged all baptized Catholics!
This was really a life changing experience for most students, putting them out of their comfort zone and challenging them to grow deeper in their faith. It is amazing to see the change from the first preparation meeting to 6 months later at the end of the mission. Their world view has also expanded as well as their desire to serve.
Students singing songs at the program for the people of Grano de Oro
A Student Testimony by Thomas
“I know this sounds cliché, but I really do understand solidarity more. I feel a desire to bring Jesus to my Cabecar brothers and sisters, but to respect their current life and culture at the same time. I gained a deep respect for the difficulties of missionary work, the sacrifice it requires, but also the internal drive and Holy Spirit fueled fire that comes with it. I feel more connected to the earth and humanity by seeing such a beautiful environment and different culture. This has been by far my most eye opening experience ever. I am excited to tell my friends and family, but I know I will miss the people I have met. Even though I met them for a short time I feel a strong desire in me to know them more. They will be in my prayers for as long as I can help it.”
Sunday mass at the local church in Grano de Oro