2010 December

*Joseph is in the middle (and muddle) of having his imported car registered here in Bosnia and Hercegovina.

An owner pays import duties based somewhat on the horsepower; if Joseph can get away with this picture submission then bless him.

Dec. 3: the stream in the Medjugorje village gully is really rushing. Our favorite shopping spot in Croatia (Metkovic) may be flooded. That main street has two feet of water flowing into the stores. They are trying to sandbag.

We are meeting with Maja from Siroki Brjeg this morning. Deanna (our friend from Canada, pilgrimages to Medjugorje for around 5 months each year) has sent an envelope to buy holiday food for 3 specific families (Deanna helped these families last year also). We will shop and make deliveries.

Hey, we do not want to forget this fellow, another member of the family. He came in late because of school times.

And this family with 14 children also benefited.

The families like for us to take the pictures because we try to have the good ones printed out and bring them on our next visit (six kids still in school).

Our last stop of the day. Hard working family; the father had lost his livelihood for a bit because his taxi motor blew out. Now he is back in business but business is just not there. When we receive a donation for food, we apply it above and beyond what we would normally deliver. We understand that the donation is not to benefit us but the families we assist.
The Croatian city of Metkovic (Dubrovnik-Neretva County) has been under water for several days after the river Neretva flooded. A large tidal wave increased the water levels to over four meters, the highest the river has been in the last 50 years. Various parts of the city were flooded, including the main street that is usually immune to level increases. Firemen and citizens have been working together, pumping the water out of numerous buildings and filling bags with sand in order to prevent further flooding. None of the stores opened today..

Maja is visiting from Siroki Brijeg and bringing good wishes and gifts for needy families.

On coming out from the Chapel one day this past week, one of the day workers was waiting to see us; “my wife has been taken to the hospital, I want to go home to Zenica to see but I have no work and no money for the bus”; he asked for 30 KM. We thought that to be OK but asked him about the daughter; we have been interacting with him about a doctor’s giving him a prescription for inserts for his daughter’s shoes. We have a copy of the prescription but we realize that the daughter has to go ‘someplace’ to have them fitted. We asked again about this & he tells us that the inserts cost 80 KM in Sarajevo. So we decide to pass on 100 KM.


While Bob is counting out the funds, along comes a policeman friend out of Mostar who oversees this district. He scolds the day worker for begging, for begging outside the church and scolds us for giving to the ‘beggar’. It is illegal on both ends which we are aware of; our worker does not know what to do because he sees the funds coming at him so he hates to leave. We pass it and he goes. We promise to do better to the officer.

He had been on leave for a year or so while he had chemotherapy and an operation for a chest tumor; we talk about that and compliment on how well he is looking now. The officer has brought us a letter from the leukemia org here and tells us that there are 80 policeman who have had similar problems with this cancer. They have a club and would welcome guest speakers if we have any sources anytime. In the meantime he offers us a letter stating where and how to send donations!
We thank him (he is a good guy) and have wired a contribution to help with the meds for those who cannot afford them.
images/2010_4_QUARTER/OFFICER VIKTOR_480.jpg

On Saturdays (used to be on Thursdays) the radio station, Medugorje Mir, broadcasts interviews it has conducted with English speaking pilgrims. It was such a pleasant surprise to hear Miki talking to Gary and Bev Appleberry about their pilgrimages here.

Across the street from our condo building is the Pelegrino Pansion. The owner and widower, Perkan, is an enjoyable fellow and has 3 children.

We enjoy time spent with him now that the pilgrim traffic has slowed down. This has been their best year ever; most probably due to the heavy Italian influx. We get to do a walk through the Pelegrino building and admire the workmanship of the construction.

Lots of amenities including great furnishings in the rooms, an exercise room and a wine cellar. The old oak cask are not seen very much except in the videos; stainless steel tanks are now the norm. Here a couple are dedicated to the red wine, a couple to the white wine and one to the ‘rakija’ (moonshine).

We get to take samples home!

John and Gerri have returned for a short bit to Medjugorje. We always are so glad to see John and this time he is joined by his wife, Gerri. Yeh! John is the pilgrim who lent his international mobile phone to the pilgrims in the bus accident which occurred a few years ago; We and many others have such fond memories of him.

John tends to leave clothing and shoes behind; so many people here have benefited from their kindness and generosity; many people here have a roof over their heads because of the generosity of this family.

Our trip today takes us to Dragica and family. The father is diabetic, partially blind, heart problem, high blood pressure problem. Miko is glad to see us.

Dragica with 2 out of the 6 daughters. Such a deserving family; Antonija is not at home, she is helping with a sick elderly person. Oh, oh; Antonija is driving on the back roads without a license, without insurance. We offer assistance with the driver education and licensing procedure; it will cost about 900 KM ($650).

Antonija had started work in a Kafe (coffee) bar but quit after a few days when she found that she was expected to serve the customers much more than coffee. She tells her parents she will do any kind of work but please not that. They understand.

Jelka is nearby helping a neighbor with the pig slaughtering. She comes over and hesitatingly asks us for a loan to get the car moving again.

Then we go to the two sisters, Jelka and Anica. Mary gets a confidential report from Jelka; mostly each sister talks about the other and they each put in multiple requests of the needs they have. Wood is needed for the stove; we will line up some wood cutters.

One of the places the sisters were storing their cut wood is in this end of the house. The roof has collapsed more[ since we visited last and they can no longer push the door open. Can we put it back together as good as new?

This has been the most wonderful group; they are from Malaysia. We initially figured they were States or Canadian residents but no, they are from the country of Malaysia. Father assisted at Holy Mass and celebrated Holy Mass. Mary offered to try to get a special time in the chapel if they wanted to celebrate Holy Mass the way they do in their own country but no, this is the way they do it, in English and with the same guide lines!

A second group picture is called for.

Father Pat is the priest with the group.

Everyone wants ‘song sheets’; everyone of the group want to join in! What a delight!

The readings are taken care of!

The smiles are warming up!

Part of Steve Shaul’s group. Jeff is under the cap; daughter Sarah. Gerri is in the blue.

Joseph is back, ready to share his knowledge and his strength!!

And we draft Joseph for help with the Tuesday feeding; he knew just what to do because he helped us on his last visit to Medjugorje!

We tell Joseph about and introduce him to Sister Muriel’s charity, St. Joseph the Worker. Later we were so glad to hear that he is out there in the hills helping to deliver food to the poor. What a guy.

Mary gets to do a further examination of two of the day workers problems; one with the fingers, the other with a bad leg. Can we help?

Another celebrant of the Holy Mass this week. Father John gave us the most wonderful homily. So down to earth, so insightful, so reverent.

One thought that still is with me is that Father referred to the word “EGO” as really meaning “Edging God Out”!

Dec. 6: The trucks are rolling; the fellows are building the village of Bethlehem. We note that this year the stable will be at the top of the steps so that the pageant will be more visible.

Today we are off to Mostar; our stops will include the Holy Family Home; this is a Diocesan project ( a Caritas charity well run by the local Bishop).

We pack up Ivan’s trunk with some medical supplies, with clothes (including some especially for the two Down Syndrome 18 month old boys) and some office supplies. We included a box of Arts and Crafts supplies left over from our ‘local summer club’.

We unload the stuff, Mary gets a hug from the Head Nurse, Smilja; I get to take the picture. Nosy as we are, we find that the Head Nurse gets 900 KM ($650) a month, has worked there for 10 years, loves her job and loves being able to help the helpless.

It is Sunday the 12th and Holy Mass is still in the chapel.

Today Rosie and family are to be the special choir. They have been practicing and they really sounded good.

“Father, we adore you” was performed in harmony and in round robin. Beautiful!

Dominik is the youngest member of the family choir but he is catching up! Dominik is seven (7) today!!!

Rosie gets a lot of positive feedback! We thank you and your family so much.

Jane, a resident nurse who volunteers her service out of Mothers Village, offers her appreciation.

One of our favorite local doctors, Dr. Miletic, is in Mostar. We first met him when he was doing Sports Medicina visits to Citluk to help with some of Lucia’s (physical therapist) patients. He is now in Mostar, at the Hospital, at the H Poliklinika clinic and “head fellow” for certifying airplane pilots. We go to him in Mostar and it is just so pleasant; we learn so much and it is not unusual for him to spend an hour or more with each patient!

We do a pause at this pizza place in Citluk; we have ordered from this place before and we found the food delicious. Robert is the owner, cook and maybe delivery guy. Delivers to Medjugorje if the order is at least 20 KM.


St. James Church calls for food bags to be collected and then the church will deliver them to poorer parishes in Hercegovina.

Wednesday, Dec. 15th: 6:00 am Holy Mass. Wow. An emotional jolt for the soul! A 9 day Novena has started today to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

St. James church was standing room only! We were able to get seated on the side bench. The church is dark except for the normal candles on the altar and the Advent candles. Outside lighting comes through the choir loft windows.

The choir box is surrounded by red votive candles; the choir is the St. James young peoples choir; the singing, the music, the selections were so very beautiful. Mary grabbed my hand a couple of times!

If you are here ever during this period please do not miss attending this Holy Mass.

On the floor in front of the manger scene (in front of the altar) a pattern of candles are lit to represent the star of Bethlehem. Neat!

The Blessed Mother is surrounded by beautiful flowers.

St. James Church is really looking good!

And on the outside, next to the Old parish office, the baby Jesus has been placed.
Joseph has brought scrubbing brushes and bleach this morning and is out there cleaning up the ledge around this display.
What a guy.

Kim, daughter and husband are here from Alberta, Canada. Kim is a cantor back home so she is nominated to do some singing and some reading. A really good week.

Kim is doing a reading; Kathy will be stepping up next.


Well, we are in one of the local banks here and Mary is holding a framed picture of the Madonna in gold thread.

One of the tellers creates them as a hobby; we were able to choose the background color and choice of framing. Neat!

We just have to share this photo. Suzanne T. sends this picture to remind us each Christmas that family is everything.

We go with Joseph to visit (and Joseph is delivering food) a family in one of the neighboring villages. Father has a bum leg but is still able and eager to work when ever he can find it. 6 children help mom take care of a cow, pigs and chickens donated by pilgrims.

Joseph has promised the local village priest that he would help this family today with firewood. Joseph has arrived just in time; the family shows us their wood pile!
Later we stop by a store so that Mary can put in a request to Santa Claus.We put in a call to another local family referred by a priest. Sickness, so we will call back in a few days.
Kim along with Jim Brown are the readers today, Dec. 16th.
Marta has come to Medjugorje and will stay for a while.
Dec. 18: A couple of weeks ago it was hail! And now we get this ‘white stuff’! Maybe we can rent out our snow shovel!
A delightful family is here and has been here for a few weeks. The kids are so good in church.Mama does a reading today.
And Tata takes a turn at reading.
One of the girls is up next; her sister waits patiently for her turn.
I think that everyone really enjoyed the enthusiasm displayed by the girls.
Dec. 19: The O’Donovan family comes back for a repeat performance! Yeh!
And the girls too! No they have not grown taller overnight; we finally came up with a chair to stand on!
Everybody line up.
Mary has explained to the children that, in this country, Saint Nicholas visits the children with, maybe, gifts on Dec. 6th.Here the local kids celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th.

St. Nick has been chasing around looking for any kids he missed and he might have left a red sack up there near the altar.

They run!

Thrilled! Look mama! I got a stone!Our Blessed Mother and the church were painted on the stone so it was quite special.
A day or so later we are given a “thank you” drawing from the family to pass on to St. Nicholas!
Mary, Father Kevin & Father Adam admire the Tim Horton coffee!
Niki and Joseph share a holiday brewski along with the friendship.
The village of Bethlehem has taken shape. We admire it and wait for the performances.
Father Kevin (studying in Rome) is the principal celebrant today.

A group of 5 Seminarian pilgrims have arrived from their studies in Rome. Father Kevin and Father Jakov are interacting.
This will be a “working pilgrimage” and the five are all for it!
Ana, daughter of Katica (our neighbor), drops by to exchange gifts!Prettier every year (both of them).
Come for lunch Mary says.Oh yeah, but you gotta make it.
Full house. Wonderful!
Dec. 27: Father Kevin and Father Adam.
Dec. 29: Each year the Medjugorje Parish sends priests to bless the homes. This year Father from Mostar came to our unit.It is the local custom to donate a sum for the poor, a sum for the Franciscan Priests, a little bit for gas money for the visiting priest and a smaller bit for the accompanying young lad.

We put out the Holy water, a rosemary branch, candle and, a cross.

Now we can relax.

Joseph took this picture of the lighted star in front of St. James Church.
Well, a promise was made to the two sisters that we would be back to chop and stack the wood!Joseph and Mary organize it and hire a work crew.
We bring a lot of cabbage (at the ladies request), roasted chickens, baked lamb and potatoes from the Ljubuski rotisserie.
The sisters have not had anything to eat today so they are ready.
The ladies will “just straighten up a little”.
The work crew goes right to work; they want to build up an appetite!
Anica carries an arm load of kindling into the house.
Talk about blessings! A group of 17 pilgrims from China are here and have enthusiastically agreed to be our church choir!Here is pictured Michelle (from the right), Goretti and 2 friends.
Last day of the year; last day we shall see Father Adam for a while; Father returns to Rome for further studies.
St. James Church Statistics for 2010Baptisms = 64 = 28 boys, 36 girls
Deceased = 40
Weddings = 38
1st Holy Communion = 76
Confirmations = 78
Bogu Hvala!
Mary and I are going to head for the States on Jan 13th with our return scheduled for March 1st God willing. Happy New Year and may God grant you all many Blessings for 2011.